It isn’t just about domestic wiretapping per se, troubling as that may be. It is that this administration conducts such surveillance without recourse to Congress or the courts. With no oversight of any kind the executive branch of government has positioned itself outside the system of checks and balances envisioned by the framers of the Constitution. And this is all the more troubling given the current inhabitants of The White House. President Bush, Vice President Cheney and the power brokers around them have repeatedly betrayed the trust of the American people. Considering their refusal to deal in a forthright manner about everything from how energy policy was developed, to the false premises that took us to Iraq, and the sheer incompetence that surfaced after that invasion and, more recently during Katrina, it would be hard to conjure up a less capable, less trustworthy group of individuals to manage, unchecked, the business of domestic intercepts.
There are still those who think President Bush is doing a great job. They remind one of the president’s own “heck of a job Brownie” remarks during FEMA’s indifferent and totally inadequate response to Katrina. That the public, having seen with its own eyes and heard with its own ears how things are going, is instructed to believe otherwise requires an almost pathological suspension of disbelief. But even many supporters of the president see the danger in the transfer of too much unchecked power to one branch of government.
And it is obvious from the presidential scurrying that the repercussions from the exposure of wiretapping undertaken without warrants approved by the FISA Court augur one more chink in the White House wall of secrecy. Attempts to justify the surveillance of U.S. citizens who may or may not have terrorist connections simply on the say-so of this president is causing considerable discomfort on both sides of the aisle. Citing executive powers inherent in The Constitution and Congress’ War Powers Act as foundations for unilateral action simply reinforce an impression of presidential desperation, so weak are those arguments. And the use of such phony legalisms is a further indication that the president accepts only those opinions that reinforce the position he has already chosen to take – – one of the problems with his decision to invade Iraq.
This tendency to increasingly assert executive privilege is an issue that should inform the hearings as The Senate considers Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito. Some of Alito’s past opinions regarding presidential powers must give pause to those deliberating his elevation to the highest court in the land. It simply isn’t prudent to grant rights to any president without some viable oversight – – especially not now in a political climate where the American people are expected to take on faith many of this president’s assertions. Building a Supreme Court willing to lend its unquestioning imprimatur to presidential initiatives would be a disastrous subversion of our democratic processes. And the overriding question in all of this is in what branch of government can ordinary Americans place their trust now and in the future?
How many times can the president maintain the correctness of questionable policies before the public finally loses patience and reasserts its claim of power to the people? As the middle class shrivels and thousands of jobs are lost, how long will those faced with the economic frailty of their daily lives buy into administration claims of a robust economy? And what kind of country have we become when military recruiters depend on promises of fun job placements and funds for education to entice young people of limited means to join the armed forces in the midst of a war? Have we begun to find it acceptable that we are feeding on the financial needs of disadvantaged segments of our population to provide troop strength? Or do we just refuse to see what is happening to our society and the future of our country? Most importantly is it possible to have faith in this presidency?
In the final analysis the current misappropriation of the public trust isn’t so much about the message as it is about the messenger. For those who have forgotten or didn’t experience the Nixon years during which the FBI and the IRS were used to monitor not just enemies of the state but political enemies as well, today’s events may serve as either a refresher course or a primer on the misuse of executive power.

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