Joseph Nye, one of the leading political scientists among those who specialize in international relations, has an excellent commentary at The Huffington Post, which I became aware of via PoliBlog. Nye describes the warrentless wiretaps as “an act [of] arrogance that the administration can ill afford when it needs the support of moderates in perilous times.”
My reactions is the same as Steven’s title at PoliBlog, and, further, his elaboration after a more lengthy excerpt from Nye: EXACTLY.
As Nye notes the domestic surveillance, bypassing legal procedures, is part of Cheney’s campaign to strengthen the executive, without the consent of political actors outside the inner circle of the executive branch. Of course, it is precisely in response to this process of executive usurpation that I undertook to post the excerpt from Madison’s “Political Reflections” on F&V‘s left sidebar (and a linked page that elaborates).
I also second Steven’s remark that is is astonishing (though perhaps it should not be) that so many Bush partisans don’t even find this usurpation of elementary checks and balances and civil liberties particularly bothersome.
This should not be read as an endorsement of any current policy, it isn’t. But there are those who lamented the end of the “Imperial Presidency” (especially during the Clinton administration) and it is the duty of the other branches of government to give the administration grief when they exceed bounds.
Most pertentant is the power of impeachment. When I read Locke’s Second Treatise, it becomes very clear that the prerogative power is quite limitless in what it can do and thus requires a strong legislative check. In matters of “security” a mere “public inquiry” isn’t enough. What needs happen is a private, and strong, inquiry followed if necessary by impeachment proceedings. I, for one, am tired of a legislature which fails to understand that the impeachment power is a political, and not a legal, tool which has been used far too infrequently. Imagine if we had, as Gouvernor Morris and Hamilton desired, a Presidency for life (in good behavior).
Sure, a more agressive legislature (or legislative minority) might lead to more frivolous impeachments, but any strong/popular/correct Executive could withstand such attacks. As I have stated in the past, Parliamentary systems have votes of no confidence, our legislature should look at the impeachment the same way. So long as they don’t, they will continue to pass the buck for their failures to Administrations. Clinton was blamed for a lot of “popular” legislative policy. I imagine when we look back on this Presidency we will find numerous times a diligent legislature could have stepped in.
C. Johnson is right that IMPEACHMENT OUGHT TO BE EMPLOYED MORE FREQUENTLY, not less. As I allude to here, had Madison’s Virginia Plan been accepted, it is quite possible that the US would have evolved into something like a parliamentary system in the decades that followed. (In the linked piece, scroll down to the part where “parliamentary-dependent cabinets” is in bold to see the idea developed, albeit only briefly).
Of course, to function like a vote of no confidence, we’d have to bypass the Senate trial portion of the process and have presidents step down when impeached by a majority of the House. That’s what the Gingrich House Republicans were counting on. Although I thought the legal part of their case was absurd, I share Christian’s views that impeachment should be seen more explicitly as a political process. In that light, I wish Clinton had resigned upon being impeached, thereby setting a precedent. He clearly had lost “confidence” at that time of not only the House, but probably also the population. He fought back brilliantly, but in a way that has only exacerbated the trend towards partisan polarization that we see today.