Well, at least he didn’t have the arrogance to do it on the 4th of July. Just two days shy of the day on which Americans celebrate their independence from a government in which one man must answer to nobody, Pres. Bush pissed on not only the Constitution, but the very idea of America. If you are among the minority who still labor under the delusion that America as you knew it on the morning of January 20, 2001 still exists then what happened on the afternoon of July 2, 2007 is probably the final wake-up call you will get until that fateful day when a President that you don’t like makes a decision that you consider to be criminal simply because…he or she can.
America, it is said, changed forever on September 11, 2001. That is not true. America changed the day that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney were sworn into office and began the systematic dismantling of democracy. The last six years have witnessed what in any other country in the world could be described as a coup. America was built by people who feared that too much power in too few hands resulted in the oppression of too many. The framers of the American government worked long and hard to come up with a system that automatically and legally put the breaks on anyone who wanted more power than they were they Constitutionally allowed. And for over 200 years it worked. But the framers of this government never reckoned that someone like Dick Cheney and George Bush would come to power. They never reckoned on the evil of a Cheney or the stupidity of a Bush. It was beyond their comprehension that anyone as lacking in intelligence could ever get elected President and that anyone as Machiavellian as Cheney could find ways to turn the office of Vice President into a meaningful position.
Dick Cheney was put in charge of finding a running mate for George W. Bush when it was clear Bush would be the GOP nominee. The fact that the man put in charge of finding the most qualified white male Republican in the country to be Bush’s running mate ultimately chose himself should have been enough to send a signal to anyone who was still undecided in 2000. Dick Cheney never for a moment considered anyone else; the plan all along had been to get Dick into the Vice President’s office. The plan extended far beyond re-invading Iraq to finish the job that Bush’s father failed to do. (The overriding irony here is that the only instance where George Bush, Sr. showed incisive leadership during his Presidency was seeing that taking down Saddam Hussein was a recipe for disaster.) The plan all along had been a wholesale refashioning of the structure of the American government.
Dick Cheney, you see, traces his political career from scandalous GOP President to scandalous GOP President. Interesting, isn’t it, that Dick Cheney’s name pops up when discussing Presidents who exceeded the limitations on their power. From Richard Nixon and Watergate through Ronald Reagan and Iran/Contra to George W. Bush and everything, Dick Cheney was there. Cheney just could not abide watching the Democratic Congress tell Richard Nixon that he had limits to executive privilege. During the entire Watergate scandal, every time the Congress found out some new damning evidence and requested documents from the White House the President countered with executive privilege. Sound familiar? Dick Cheney was still a young man during those days, though well on his way to being the fat slug he is now. He was young and he was convinced that the office of President was more powerful than Congress or the Judicial system. Any high school kid taking a civics class can tell you this isn’t the case, of course, that the Constitution provides a balance of powers so that no one branch has more power than the other. Any high school kid knows this, but Dick Cheney never learned it. Dick Cheney saw Richard Nixon being held accountable for his crimes and cried like a little baby girl. It wasn’t fair. He cried with each piece of legislation passed in the post-Watergate years that made it more difficult for a President to get away with the fuzzy legal areas. Dick Cheney vowed revenge and made it his duty to restore to the office of the President all the powers it had lost as a result of the misuse and abuse by Richard Nixon.
Dick Cheney was sworn in as Vice President with an agenda already in place. Under the Bush administration there has been a wholesale consolidation of power within the executive branch. The oversight of spying activities have been moved from the CIA to the Defense Department where it is far easier to protect illegal activities from prying eyes claims of executive privilege. Pres. Bush has utilized what used to be a rather obscure Presidential power known as signing statements so often and to such an extent that they have been become as well known as the veto power. That is because Bush has used them like a drunken sailor in ways that no previous President ever dreamed of using them. Under George W. Bush the office of President has become the most powerful it has ever been. It is a statement of fact that no President in history has been considered as powerful at George W. Bush.
That’s a scary thought by anyone’s reasoning.
The plan upon coming into office had been to accomplish this. The plan was to return to the office of President the full extent of its power that had been taken away from it during Watergate. So successful has this plan been implemented-the only success this administration has had-that despite having approval ratings lower than any other President in history and despite the fact the overwhelming majority of Americans didn’t want him to take any action and despite the fact that in doing so he gained absolutely nothing other than pleasing his Vice President, George W. Bush felt so insulated and secure from being held accountable that he allowed a felon to go free.
Yes, truly, when you celebrate this July 4th and you watch those fireworks go off and you take a moment to reflect on what all these celebrations mean, be sure to take a moment of silence as well and mourn the death of the America that used to be. Take a few moments to shed a tear, if you must, as you remember what it was like to live in an America where the President of the United States wasn’t above the law. Take a moment between the fireworks to realize that the war for independence was fought and won just so that we could go back to consolidating all the power in this country within the hands of one man. And if you happen to a Republican or a conservative who is not bothered by the fact that Bush and Cheney accomplished this, I might suggest that you also take a moment to reflect on something else.
The precedent has been set. And the next person to occupy the office isn’t likely to be too quick to hand over all the power that Bush and Cheney have given to the position of President. Even if that person’s name is Hillary Clinton.