Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The elephant in the room.

Charles Pierce:
[T]he biggest problem I have with the ongoing presidential campaign is that it is a context in which the most serious issue arising from the last seven years can't be seriously debated -- namely, the egregiously anti-constitutional expansion of executive power based of legal theories that seem to be derived from whatever Prussia has for magic mushrooms. It hasn't even come up, as near as I can recall, in either debate, and it's manifestly more serious than, say, abortion. It is the central place from which all of the depredations of the Avignon Presidency have issued -- whether that be unlimited warmaking power, the misuse of signing statements, the politicization of the Department of Justice, Gitmo and Abu Ghraib, the old energy task force and on and on. Only by breaking that power, and by burying forever the legal philosophy on which it's based, can you begin to clean up the wreckage. The problem is that there's no way to run for president on a platform of weakening the office. All you can do is say that you'll handle the power better and more responsibly than this guy did -- which is exactly the same as saying your seamanship's better than Captain Joe Hazlewood's is.
Checks and balances. It's silly to expect a President to relinquish the executive branch's power, but when the executive branch is politically weak, one would expect the legislative branch to seize power back. That would require Congress to move beyond investigations to passing reforms. Perhaps this is in the cards. If not, we need to elect better legislators.

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