Tuesday, August 02, 2005

The Murky Window of Executive Privilege

I don't think it's too hyperbolic to say George W. Bush acts more like King George than President Bush. This has to be close to the most secretic administration in history, regularly claiming executive privilege to stop inquiries into 9/11 and various presidential appointments. According to an excellent analysis from the Post's Peter Baker, Bush is trying to reassert the executive's privilege and power, which ironically eroded underneath the Clinton Administration due to a GOP witchhunt. (Apparently a blowjob in the oval office is worse than going to war under fictitious claims.)

Baker writes:
At the heart of battles over President Bush's nominations to the Supreme Court and United Nations is a broader -- and largely successful -- campaign to reassert executive prerogatives lost under his predecessor and limit public access to the internal workings of government.

In the case of both nominations, Democratic senators demanded certain documents from executive branch deliberations to help them evaluate Bush's choices, and he refused. The president got around Democratic opposition to John R. Bolton yesterday by giving him a 17-month recess appointment as ambassador to the United Nations. Now the two sides face a weeks-long stare-down over John G. Roberts Jr. heading into confirmation hearings after Labor Day.
The basic gist of a democracy is that the public can peer into the inner workings of government, since its legitimacy is derived "from the consent of the governed." George W. Bush believes that words are, well, just words to be manipulated to suit his prerogatives. We -- Republicans, Democrats, and Independents -- need to rise above our factionalism to reassert the public's right to know. Without it we are the blind being lead further into a forest full of wolves.

POSTSCRIPT: My favorite bit of hypocrisy within Baker's article is this:
The fights over the Roberts and Bolton papers have demonstrated that the merits of presidential privileges often hinge as much on political interest as legal principle. Some of those who argued most vociferously against the use of privilege to withhold documents during the Clinton administration now find themselves on the opposite side, and vice versa.

Starr, for instance, regularly rejected privilege claims during the Whitewater and Monica S. Lewinsky investigations. But in the Roberts case, the White House cites a letter signed by all living former solicitors general opposing disclosure of internal working papers from that office -- including Starr, who held that post under President George H.W. Bush and was Roberts's supervisor.
Kenny Starr, a shimmering light of due diligence and purity when Washington has become so rife with depravity and dishonesty.