Thursday, May 25, 2006

So Thats a Hypocrite

President Ronald Regan once said that politics was supposed to be the world’s second oldest profession but he quickly realized that it bore a very close resemblance to the first. Truer words have never been spoken. If you haven’t listened to the news or read the paper lately, you are probably unaware of the growing tension developing between the executive branch of government and Congress. Events over the weekend have prompted leaders from both sides of the isle to express their deep and growing concerns over the increasingly aggressive executive branch, breaching the constitutional separation of powers and further eroding its system of checks and balances.

If you read this blog regularly you know that I am very concerned about this President, our government and the overall direction of the country. You know that I am troubled by the Presidents unrelenting assault on the Constitution and the protections offered under the Bill of Rights. You know that I am also very critical of Congress because it either fails to recognize the dangerously growing abuses of the executive branch or it simply lacks the political will to oppose him. Lou Dobbs was right on the money when he stated in a recent editorial that, “never before in our country’s history have both the President and Congress been so out of touch with most Americans. Never before have so few elected officials and corporate leaders been less willing to commit to the national interest. And never before has our nation’s largest constituent group, some 200 million middle class Americans, been without representation in our nation’s capital.” That really kind of sums it up for me, our wonderfully apathetic, ineffective and self-serving government.

You can imagine my surprise when I heard the news about a growing and united front that was forming in Washington, as members of Congress finally sought to check the alarmingly fast growing and intrusive power of the executive branch. So what was the proverbial straw? What finally caused members of the congressional leadership to cry foul? Was it the information uncovered while investigating the NSA scandal or a certain queasiness that developed during General Hayden’s CIA testimony? Was it the Presidents daily disregard for the Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure and generalized warrants? Could it be the CIA torture camps operated without congressional oversight, or a developing guilt with regard to all the prisoners held in those camps whose human rights are ignored and whose legal rights are denied. Could it be that Members of Congress finally recognize the dangerous precedent that would be set by allowing our military to be deployed on domestic soil? Or could they just be plain tired of a President who feels he is empowered to break the law or circumvent the constitution whenever he sees fit? Nope. Then what did cause this newly united congressional leadership to so publicly express such grave concerns and outrage over the executive branch’s newest unprecedented intrusion?

It was the FBI and a Congressman named William Jefferson. Representative Jefferson, a Democrat from Louisiana, is under federal investigation for allegedly accepting bribes. It seems that the Justice Department has Mr. Jefferson on videotape accepting $100,000 in bribe money and a search of Jefferson’s home uncovered $90,000 of the cash hidden in Jefferson’s freezer. Earlier this month, a Kentucky businessman by the name of Vernon Jackson pled guilty in federal court, to giving Jefferson $400,000 in bribe money to help him promote a high-tech business venture in Africa. Last weekend the FBI took the unprecedented step of raiding Jefferson’s D.C. office, removing documents and other potentially incriminating evidence. Talk about circling the wagons! Congressional leaders immediately condemned the move as an unprecedented and unconstitutional abuse of executive power. In a joint statement released on Wednesday, Republican House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert and House Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called for an immediate return of all documents that were unconstitutionally seized in the raid. The sharply worded statement called last Saturdays FBI search a clear violation of the principal of separation of powers and of the speech and debate clause in Article 1 Section 6 of the Constitution. Speaker Hastert was vociferous in his comments expressing alarm at the raid, “these actions of the Justice Department in seeking and executing this warrant raise important Constitutional issues that go well beyond the specifics of this case. Insofar as I am aware, since the founding of our Republic 219 years ago, the Justice Department has never found it necessary to do what it did on Saturday night, crossing this Separation of Powers line, in order to successfully prosecute corruption by Members of Congress. Nothing I have learned in the last 48 hours leads me to believe that there was any necessity to change the precedent established over those 219 years.” House Minority Leader Pelosi said in a statement that “members of Congress must obey the law and fully cooperate with any criminal investigation but that Justice Department investigations must be conducted in accordance with Constitutional protections and historical precedent.” Here is one for you, even former House Speaker Newt Gingrich called Saturday nights raid, “the most blatant violation of the Constitutional Separation of Powers in his lifetime.” The issue for many revolves around the speech or debate clause I previously mentioned. This clause was intended to shield lawmakers from intimidation by the executive branch, though many legal experts feel that the FBI raid was an intimidating tactic never before used against the legislative branch.

Serious constitutional issues aside, do you recognize the hypocrisy of it all? It’s ok with Congress for the President to violate the Constitution when it only affects average American citizens. Congress is equally culpable when the President illegally wiretap us, eliminates our protections from unreasonable search and seizure and diminishes the governments need to demonstrate probable cause. It has enabled the administration to effectively dilute the power of the Judiciary and our right for judicial review. It passed laws making torture illegal, only to turn a blind eye as the President defiantly declared that he was not bound these laws. To date, Congress has taken a back seat in every instance permitting this President to break or circumvent the law and act with impunity. Maybe that’s why Congressional public approval rates are the only ones that are lower than the Presidents. The sad irony is that given all of these issues, all of these abuses, Congress was finally compelled to act, not in order to protect our rights, but in order to protect its own self serving interests. They are not interested in protecting our rights and liberties…they are interested in protecting their own. Congress had no problem allowing the President to circumvent the law and distort the constitution as long as it did not affect them. Is it a coincidence that immediately after the FBI fired this shot directly across the congressional bow, Congress has suddenly become so concerned about the Constitution, the protection of rights and the rule of law? That it is suddenly so concerned about protecting the provisions of Constitution that it is willing to ignore the fact that Congressman Jefferson is in all probability a criminal. They will have you believe that this issue is bigger than Representative Jefferson and his potential legal issues. They will cite many of the concerns I have just outlined in this entry. What they won’t do is address their hypocrisy. They won’t tell you why they are more interested in the rights of a criminal than protecting us from one. They won’t tell you why it was ok for dangerous precedents to be set limiting our personal rights and freedoms, while refusing to allow similar precedents to be established with regard to their own protections under the Constitution. They might not address these issues...but we can! Do not allow the actions of our elected officials to effect your rights to participate in the political process. No, they may not ever honestly address their hypocrisy, but come November we can address it for them. I encourage you to become informed, to become engaged and to vote your conscience. I firmly believe that every vote counts and that our vote represents the quintessential political capital. I encourage you to spend this currency wisely because there is a politician on every street corner gladly willing to accept it. Remember, politics is the world’s oldest profession.

Think about it.

1 comment:

Phillybits said...

Excellent, excellent, excellent post. I cited this post as I just started having time to start visiting those on the anti-torture blogroll and yours was the first one I hit tonight.

Really good job laying out the hypocrisy. Thanks so much.