"When the President does it, that means it’s not illegal."
— Richard M. Nixon
President Bush’s penchant for authoritarianism — for executive power unchecked by either Congress or the courts — has been laid bare by his aggressive and unapologetic defense of the indefensible: the secret surveillance of Americans without warrants. Perhaps most troublingly, the system is set up in such a way that the intelligence could have been gathered legally had the president cared to follow the law.
If the smoke signals from Washington are correct, it looks as if Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito, a strong supporter of unchecked presidential prerogative, will win approval. If that’s the case, it’s unlikely that Bush’s reconfigured, Republican-friendly Supreme Court will curb an arrogant president determined to trample on safeguards against unreasonable search and seizure provided by the Fourth Amendment.
It’s up to Congress to cut this imperial presidency down to size. Bush should be investigated and, if not impeached, at least censured — something Democratic Congressman John Conyers of Michigan has already suggested.
Even without the latest outrage of warrantless domestic spying, the case against Bush is clear: he lied to the nation and to Congress about not having made up his mind about invading Iraq prior to the war, when in fact he had; made false statements to Congress about Iraq buying uranium; violated the War Powers Resolution and misused government funds intended for Afghanistan to jump-start his Iraq adventure; violated existing federal law and international treaties prohibiting torture; and retaliated against those who had the guts to blow the whistle on contract abuses committed in Iraq by Vice-President Dick Cheney’s old-firm, Halliburton.
The stench from Bush’s catalogue of slimy deceit has not been strong enough to weaken the resolve of conservatives who support him. But his contempt for the Constitution has unnerved some of the most ardent right-wingers, such as Senator John Sununu of New Hampshire, son of Ronald Reagan’s former chief of staff. One of Wall Street’s favorite publications, Barron’s, has expressed its outrage. And even columnist George Will, a Tory’s Tory, has arched a disapproving eyebrow.
Abuse of intelligence and illegal wiretapping were among the articles of impeachment that ultimately drove Richard Nixon from the White House. We won’t be so lucky with Bush. And if our fantasies were ever to become reality, the nation would be stuck with the even worse horror of Cheney, Bush’s partner in high crimes.
The most the nation can hope for, it seems, is that the expected Senate hearings on the illegal spying will result in a slap in the face for Bush. That’s a rather pathetic constitutional safeguard. And Bush, who literally believes that he is doing God’s bidding, will shrug it off with the sanctimonious piety one has come to expect from God’s elect.
Pity poor Mitt Romney. First the governor says that his ancestral home of Michigan would have provided a better launching pad for his political career, and then he moans that the local media are making him out to be more conservative than he really is.
It is true that Romney is not as right-wing as some Republicans are, but that hardly makes him any more appealing to us. It’s nonsense for him to deny that he is moving to the right as he plans to run for president. And it’s reasonable to assume that, since he now doesn’t have to worry about running for re-election here in Massachusetts, he will continue to become more right-wing. If Romney is anything, he is a creature of calculation and convenience.
His 1994 campaign for Senator Edward Kennedy’s seat in US Congress was not an act of selfless sacrifice. It was a credible political bet that paid off handsomely. So did his deceitful ploy on reproductive choice — that although he was personally opposed to abortion, he would not advocate restricting the right of women who choose to terminate pregnancy. And then there is the business of his elbowing aside the admittedly pathetic Republican incumbent governor Jane Swift when it suited his ambition.
His years as a successful, calculating venture capitalist readily revealed that ambition is what Romney is all about. He insults the nation’s intelligence when he pretends otherwise. But then again, it never hurt George W. Bush to insult the nation’s intelligence. Did it?
MENINO AND MURDER
Mayor Menino loves Boston. There is no doubt about that. Like any good mayor, he acts as if the city were his. But he does himself and the city a disservice by not facing up to the fact that his administration and his police force have not done enough to fight the street violence and murder that now plagues Boston. Note: we’re not saying the violence is the mayor’s fault. What we are saying is that his response has been inadequate. Given the fact that there have been 74 murders this year and that at least half of those killed were under 25 years of age, that simple observation, while stinging, should also be sobering.
It’s hard to believe that the mayor was as surprised as he says he was by the recently released survey results of Boston public-high-school students reporting that 90 percent of those questioned last year had witnessed acts of violence such as shootings, stabbings, or beatings. If it was news to Menino, then his administration was not doing its job.
It’s unclear when the 2004 survey was taken. Regardless, Boston in 2003 had a year that saw arrests for juveniles age 16 and under for violent crimes jump 14 percent over 2002. In addition, in 2003 six juveniles age 13 to 16 were murdered. That’s more than the four previous years combined. In 2004, the number of teenage homicide victims doubled. It went up again this year.
The problems we face now are part of a trend. They are not an aberration. The problem is attributable, at least in part, to what are called "crack bubble" children, born and raised disproportionately in households wrecked by drugs, violence, and incarceration. Our society — thanks to cutbacks in federal aid promoted by Bush and slashes in state aid supported by Romney — essentially abandoned them. No one should be surprised that some percentage of those are not well-adjusted — and that the maladjusted affect the others.
Menino has a grim and unenviable job to do. But by not facing up to the cold realities, he plays politics with death. He can, and must, do better.
Issue Date: December 30, 2005 - January 5, 2006
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