FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Absolut Bush

by CHRISTOPHER BRAUCHLI

Fear of serious injury cannot alone justify suppression of free speech and assembly. Men feared witches and burned women. It is the function of speech to free men from the bondage of irrational fears.

Louis Brandeis, Whitney v. California

It was another great week on the national scene. First it was George Bush showing his lack of scruples and then it was the New York Times belying its motto: “All the news that’s fit to print”. (The Times would probably explain that the question is what the meaning of “fit’ is.)

The New York Times’s contribution to the week was its acknowledgement that it learned before the 2004 election that George Bush was a law breaker yet chose to remain silent. The broken law was Mr. Bush’s habit of repeatedly approving a policy that permits the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on U.S. citizens without obtaining a court order. Historically the N.S.A. has only conducted spying operations abroad.

When the White House learned what the paper had learned, it urged the paper not to publish the information lest terrorists learn that they were being scrutinized by the Bush administration. The administration did not suggest disclosure would affect the 2004 election although it might have since a number of those who voted for Mr. Bush might have voted for his opponent had they known of Mr. Bush’s fondness for illegal spying. As Senator Chuck Hagel said: “If this is true, then it needs to stop. It’s very clear in the law that the National Security Agency is prohibited from domestic spying, from spying on citizens of the United States unless there are extenuating circumstances.” One way of stopping it would have been to vote for Senator Kerry. Had that happened Mr. Bush could have continued his spying as a private citizen, using one of the decoder rings he got as a child with a box top and $.25 instead of the N.S.A.

As offensive as news of the Times’ self-censorship was, the week still belonged to George Bush. When asked by Jim Lehrer of “The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer” about the eavesdropping he said: “We do not discuss ongoing intelligence operations to protect the country. And the reason why is that there’s an enemy that lurks, that would like to know exactly what we’re trying to do to stop them.” He went on to say it was being done to fulfill his obligation to “protect the civil liberties of the American people.” By spying on thousand of citizens he is making those on whom he is not spying safer. Leaders of many third world countries would find that a compelling argument.

By the following morning Mr. Bush had a new answer to the question asked by Jim Lehrer the preceding day. He said the practice was a “vital tool in our war against terrorists” and said he had authorized the spying more than 30 times since the events of 9/11. He did not mention that by acknowledging the existence of the program he was contradicting the previous day’s George Bush who said he did not want to help lurking terrorists by responding. When protecting his image competed with protecting the country, his image won out. Self interest also manifested itself in an interview with Fox News.

On July 9 Mr. Bush had been asked to comment on the investigation by special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, of his deputy chief of staff, Karl Rove. He said he would not prejudge the investigation based on media reports and would not comment until the investigation was complete. When press secretary Scott McClellan was asked at a press conference about the president’s opinion of Scooter Libby’s guilt or innocence Mr. McClellan said the president had a policy of not talking about an investigation while it was ongoing. When Mr. Bush was asked to comment about Tom DeLay’s indictment in an interview on Fox news, Mr. Bush assumed the comical pose of legal scholar and said without hesitation that he was sure Mr. DeLay was not guilty.

When Mr. McClellan was asked to contrast and explain this comment with the consistent refusal to comment about the Libby and Rove indictment and investigation while they were underway, Mr. McClellan explained that Mr. Bush’s expression of an opinion about the innocence of Mr. DeLay was an exercise of “presidential prerogative.”

Mr. Bush has a closet full of presidential prerogatives. Commenting or not commenting on ongoing investigations if he thinks he can influence their outcome is one. Spying on his subjects is another. Seeing what wonderful prerogatives a president has may awaken in some a wish to be president. In others it gives birth to the wish that we had a different one.

CHRISTOPHER BRAUCHLI is a lawyer in Boulder, Colorado. He can be reached at: Brauchli.56@post.harvard.edu or through his website: http://hraos.com/

 

More articles by:
January 18, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
The Destabilizer: Trump’s Escalating Threats Against Iran
John W. Whitehead
Silence Is Betrayal: Get Up, Stand Up, Speak Up for Your Rights
Andrew Day
Of “Shitholes” and Liberals
Dave Lindorff
Rep. Gabbard Speaks Truth to Power About the Real Reason Korea Has Nukes
Barbara G. Ellis
The Workplace War: Hatpins Might Be in Style Again for Women
Binoy Kampmark
Corporate Sickness in May’s Britain
Ralph Nader
Twitter Rock Star Obama’s Silence Must Delight Trump
John G. Russell
#Loose Lips (Should) Sink … Presidencies … But Even If They Could, What Comes Next?
David Macaray
The “Mongrelization” of the White Race
Ramzy Baroud
In Words and Deeds: The Genesis of Israeli Violence
January 17, 2018
Seiji Yamada
Prevention is the Only Solution: a Hiroshima Native’s View of Nuclear Weapons
Chris Welzenbach
Force of Evil: Abraham Polonsky and Anti-Capitalist Noir
Thomas Klikauer
The Business of Bullshit
Howard Lisnoff
The Atomized and Siloed U.S. Left
Martha Rosenberg
How Big Pharma Infiltrated the Boston Museum of Science
George Wuerthner
The Collaboration Trap
David Swanson
Removing Trump Will Require New Activists
Michael McKinley
Australia and the Wars of the Alliance: United States Strategy
Binoy Kampmark
Macron in China
Cesar Chelala
The Distractor-in-Chief
Ted Rall
Why Trump is Right About Newspaper Libel Laws
Mary Serumaga
Corruption in Uganda: Minister Sam Kutesa and Company May Yet Survive Their Latest Scandal
January 16, 2018
Mark Schuller
What is a “Shithole Country” and Why is Trump So Obsessed With Haiti?
Paul Street
Notes From a “Shithole” Superpower
Louisa Willcox
Keeper of the Flame for Wilderness: Stewart “Brandy” Brandborg
Mike Whitney
Trump’s Sinister Plan to Kill the Iranian “Nukes” Deal
Franklin Lamb
Kafkaesque Impediments to Challenging Iran’s Theocracy
Norman Solomon
Why Senator Cardin is a Fitting Opponent for Chelsea Manning
Fred Gardner
GI Coffeehouses Recalled: a Compliment From General Westmoreland
Brian Terrell
Solidarity from Central Cellblock to Guantanamo
Don Fitz
Bondage Scandal: Looking Beneath the Surface
Rob Seimetz
#Resist Co-opting “Shithole”
Ted Rall
Trump Isn’t Unique
January 15, 2018
Rob Urie
Democrats and the End(s) of Politics
Paul Tritschler
Killing Floor: the Business of Animal Slaughter
Mike Garrity
In Targeting the Lynx, the Trump Administration Defies Facts, Law, and Science Once Again
Thomas Hon Wing Polin
Hong Kong Politics: a Never-Ending Farce
Uri Avnery
Bibi’s Son (Or Three Men in a Car)
Dave Lindorff
Yesterday’s ‘Shithole Countries’ Can Become Classy Places Donald, and Vice Versa
Jeff Mackler
Lesser Evil Politics in Alabama
Jonah Raskin
Typewriters Still Smoking? An Interview with Underground Press Maven John McMillan
Jose-Antonio Orosco
Trump’s Comments Recall a Racist Past in Immigration Policy
David Macaray
Everything Seems to Be Going South
Kathy Kelly
41 Hearts Beating in Guantanamo
Weekend Edition
January 12, 2018
Friday - Sunday
George Burchett
Wormwood and a Shocking Secret of War: How Errol Morris Vindicated My Father, Wilfred Burchett
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail