Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Guided by Voices

In case you didn't know, I'm in Minnesota. On Vacation. In December. And it's great--snow on the ground and cold. It gives me incentive to stay inside, watch the news, and do what I enjoy: pick things apart.

One of the news channels had on a few people this morning talking about Bush's admission that he had authorized the NSA to tap phones within the U.S. The only two I heard speak were the LA Times Washington correspondant Mark Mazzetti, and some guy who used to be assoc. deputy Attorney General.

The former Assoc. AG made an interesting statement that needs to be clarified and laid bare quickly, before people allow it to become part of "common knowledge." He said he agreed with the Vice President that in times of War, the President has wider lattitudes in his use of power.

I recognize that this is inevitable and at times even desirable. There's a problem here though; the Constitution doesn't delegate to the president the discression to determine when he needs greater powers. Remarkably, in a system that provides a division of power, and "checks and balances", there is another branch, and only one other branch, that has the authority to grant the president greater powers. It also happens to be the only branch of the government with the power to declare war.

Almost equally remarkable, it requires an ACT of congress, not just its recent tactic of rolling over and playing dead, to declare war or to grant the President extraordinary powers.

Neither of these has happened in the U.S. since...hmmm... 1941. Believe it or not, ladies and gentlemen, the last time the United States Congress authorized a president to use extraordinary powers was World War Two. A war that ended nearly 10 months before our sitting president was born.

The assertion that the United States is at war is false. I'm sure there are those of you out there who will argue that I'm being disloyal to the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan who are there fighting in conditions that look remarkably like....a war.

I mean no disrespect to those who go where the political leadership demand, to fight battles over places most would never have otherwise seen. But that doesn't mean that I believe the president has the authority to declare he needs more powers, and then, when he doesn't get them fast enough, usurp them.

Quite to the contrary, I believe it was our current President, who, after having piloted a fighter onto an aircraft carrier, declared victory from the deck, and then flew John Wayne-like, "off into the sunset"--while most of our troops remain bogged down in Iraq fighting and dieing, spending yet another Christmas half-way around the world.

What amazes me most is that this president still has any support. It's not a question of party or politics. It is a question of honesty. It is a question of integrity. It is a question of faithfully upholding and protecting the constitution of the United States. There is serious doubt he has actually maintained the high standards his office should and does require of its incumbant.

He has recently announced that some of the intelligence that led him to Iraq was faulty--but that he would have gone anyway. This means he didn't care WHAT the intelligence said, he knew what he was going to do, and let the facts (or what some like to call "reality") be damned.

This is the president who continues to claim that Iraq and Saddam Hussein posed a direct threat to the United States because of links to terrorism. This is completely untrue. Hussein's only ties to terrorism were in Palestine--whose only target is Israel. The idea that there were links and connections between Hussein and Al Qaeda has been completely disproven--yet it is repeated by administration officials as high as the President and Vice President on a regular basis.

He is a president who insists on fighting wars in two countries, with minimal assistance from our allies and former friends, but at the same insists that the United States cannot continue to a free country unless we give the wealthiest 1% of our citizens tax-cuts of more than 1 trillion dollars. (If you're reading this blog, you're not getting any of the tax-cut, by the way.)

He is a president who appointed people to positions of vital importance to hundreds of thousands--and made sure that the only qualification these people had was loyalty to himself. Rather than find people qualified in disaster management, planning or preparedness, he selected a life-long friend, and followed him with a man who ran horse-shows.

He is a president who has systematically discreditted the U.S. before our allies and the rest of the world. He has reduced our ability to bring others to support our positions, and he was pushed away allies and friends when simple things could have been done to hold them close.

He is a president who himmed, hawwed, hedged and dodged for over a year on banning the use of torture by agents of the U.S. anywhere in the world. And it was only because of a passionate crusade by one of the last remaining principaled politicians that he did so--thank you John McCain.

He is a president who may have lost the U.S. the support even of Poland through use of morally questionable and international-law-faux-pas "secret prisons" in other countries. Now when Poland is willing to say to a country, "We might be better off with other allies," you know you've crossed a line.

Rounding up to the nearest whole integer, I can find zero measures by which the United States is stronger or more secure than it was when, nearly 5 years ago, we innaugurated this president. China holds nearly 1 Trillion dollars of U.S. debt, and the amount skyrockets with each quarter. The U.S. is bogged down in conflicts around the world, while real challenges and threats exist elsewhere. Americans from coast to coast are working longer and earning less than they have in decades. Funding for public schools, college education, and the programs that make America a land of opportunity and an example to the world have been heavily hit by caterwaul ideas brought straight from the Texas state-house into your house.

I know there are smart people out there who disagree with me; please tell me 2 things: 1. In what way is the U.S. better off now than it was January 20th, 2001 at 11:59 p.m., and 2. How does this president still have the support of anyone other than his wife?

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