Water Man Spouts

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

The Revolutionary Presidency vs. the Bill of Rights

This paper will examine the dangers to constitutional democracy posed by the Bush Administration. It will review the concepts of separation of federal powers, the practice of the balancing of those powers, and scrutinize several areas where Bush/Cheney have corrupted this constitutional system that our democracy is based upon.

This paper will focus primarily on how the growing menace of an Imperial Presidency of the Nixon era has become the threatening reality of the Revolutionary Presidency today.

2) The Balance of Powers
A- The theories behind the constitutional democracy of the United States are the "distinctive American contribution(s) to the art of government." (The Imperial Presidency; Schlesinger; pg vii)

The idea of the 13 Colonies forming a confederate federal state came directly from meetings between Founding Fathers, primarily Ben Franklin, and the Grand Council of the Haudenosaunee, or Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy. Jefferson was influenced by the Iroquois' concepts of the freedoms of individuals; these, along with the contributions of progressive European thought (found primarily in France), led to the Bill of Rights.

However, in European history, governments had assumed a unified authority that allowed them to control, and deny, basic human rights to citizens of the state. Jefferson and Madison and others created the more perfect union, which allowed citizens to control the government through a series of checks and balances implied in the separation of powers on the federal level.

B- The three branches of the federal government are the executive, legislative, and judiciary. These three are intended to form a balanced triangle. The separation of powers is not intended to make all three to be locked into an equal status; rather, it offers checks and balances that creates an inertia that keeps any one branch from assuming unlimited powers. The goal, according to Justice Brandis (Myers v US 1926) is "not to promote efficiency, but to preclude the exercise of arbitrary power."

The executive, or the office of the president, has the implied power to provide leadership in emergency situations. In our early history, from the Revolutionary to the Civil War, this power was used only to respond to threats to the safety of citizens ( re: pirate attacks, which generally came from Tripoli, and which share important parallels with today's situation) and wars with foreign nations.

In these cases, these emergency powers were only intended for a brief period, before congressional controls took over. The Senate is the seat of the actual war powers. Further, according to Supreme Court Justice James Wilson, "The House of Representatives ... forms the grand inquest of the state. They will diligently inquire into grievances, arising both from men and things." (Grand Inquest; New York; 1961; pgs 22-30)

C- The history of democracy has been imperfect in the United States. The most basic rights have been denied to both groups and individuals, based upon their sex, age, race, and religion. Issues including gay marriage show that we still have a long way to go.

Yet, for all of its faults, our constitutional democracy has shown the greatest of promise. The efforts of each generation of Americans have brought us closer to providing the rights of free people to a larger, more inclusive population. This is a great nation.

From the Revolutionary to the Civil War was known as the "Golden Age" of the congress. Also, the sequence of presidents, and the series of federal courts moved the nation towards the promise of the Founding Fathers, found in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

The reasons were found not only in those great documents, but in that separation and balance of powers at the federal level. These insured the Bill of Rights was a living entity. In fact, while many today note that President Lincoln suspended habeas corpus during the Civil war, there "was no effective censorship, no Sedition Act, no Espionage Act." (Schlesinger; pg 335)

However, after the Civil War, changes in the economy which were a result of the change from an agrarian to industrial national base, led directly to unprecedented influence of business on the national politics. This new level of extreme corruption led Mark Twain to refer to the phenomenon as the "Gilded Age" of politics.

It is important to note that all of industry would be connected, either directly or indirectly, to the production of oil. By 1870, all of the economies of the industrialized nations were based on oil. The significance of this is explored in greater detail in the book, "Farewell America."

D- Business interest rapidly became central to the decision-making processes of (1) citizens electing officials to the legislative and executive branches; and (2) the domestic and foreign policies of those elected officials in both branches. While the federal courts are defined as the branch that is supposed to "do the least harm to democracy," the changes in the executive and legislative branches created changes in the judiciary, just as surely as the pulling of two sides of a triangular mobile suspended above the crib of democracy.

Thus: (1) the president begins to increasingly dominate the legislative process; (2) the congress increasingly delegates its authority to the president; and (3) the federal courts tend to become "activist" to offset congressional impotence. And despite the best of intentions, and while acknowledging the value of many progressive decisions, the federal courts should not be "activist," as the dangers posed by current federal courts demonstrate.

3) Threats to our Constitutional Democracy

The deteriorative influences of business interests on the separation of federal powers accelerated during WW2. If we examine the relationship of the competition of the world economy on American political life, we can note a progression in the executive branch (including FDR, Truman, Ike, JFK, & LBJ) moving towards the Imperial Presidency of the Nixon Era. The two areas where this threat to our constitutional democracy were concentrated were (a) the war powers, and (b) secrecy. (Schlesinger)
The history of the war powers in terms of the president responding to a threat to the nation's security evolved significantly after WW2. This was due to the influence of the military industrial complex. All American foreign policy, with the exception of some initial attempts by JFK which ended on 11-22-1963, equated the access to foreign resources with national security, and domestic security with bureaucratic secrecy.
This was in opposition to the 64th Federalist Paper, in which John Jay interpreted the Constitution to recognize but two needs for federal secrecy: (1) diplomatic negotiations, and (2) intelligence.

Democracy by its very nature demands the disclosure of information by all three branches of government. Even among the widely varying opinions of the Founding Fathers, there was complete agreement that the free diffusion of information was vital to insure a stable federal government.

Yet as the executive branch created an elastic definition of "national security," the presidents began a more undemocratic relationship with the bureaucracies of the military industrial complex. And the instinct of bureaucracy is "to increase the superiority of the professionally informed by keeping their knowledge and intentions secret." (Max Weber: Essays in Sociology; Grath & Mills; New York; 1946)

4) External Threats to our Constitutional Democracy

The external threats to the USA from WW2 to the present tend to fit into three groups: the Nazi/ Axis powers; the communist menace; and the Islamic terrorist/"axis of evil" group of today. With the exceptions of Pearl Harbor and 9-11, all defined threats to our national interest tended to be defined as occurring in other countries, either to American business interests, or to trading partners. The cultural implications of Pearl Harbor and 9-11 are obvious.

Another external threat to our national security has become known to a large segment of our population through a cultural phenomenon, Michael Moore's movie "F 9-11." The threat is posed by foreign investments going beyond a few acres of land, or shares in a corporate stock. F 9-11 demonstrates clearly that a significant segment of our economy is controlled by foreign governments. One, for example, is Saudi Arabia. The Saudi royal family shows no appreciation for constitutional democracy.

Moore's movie demonstrates that the Saudi royal family is able to compromise the balance of powers in our federal government. Their influence with the Bush administration has stopped a serious investigation into what role they played in the 9-11 attack on the USA; allows them to manipulate what information becomes known to the American public; and interferes with the legal system, when James Baker represents the Saudis in a court action filed by the families of 9-11 victims.

5) The Revolutionary Presidency

The danger to our constitutional democracy could be measured in 2003 by the following: (a) the Bush administration was comprised almost exclusively by people with ties to business that define "conflicts of interest;" (b) both houses of congress, if not impotent, had at least agreed to a legislative abstinence of duty; the only elected representatives who attempted to stand up to the executive were from "minority" populations; and (c) the US Supreme Court had disgraced the judicial institution with its 2000 selection of Bush for president, based entirely upon political and economic interests.

The dangers of an imperial presidency pales in comparison to the current threat posed by the revolutionary presidency. Consider that: (a) George Bush has become the most absolute monarch of any world power in today's world. Add to that the fact that VP Cheney has more concentrated power than any dictator in world history, including Mao Tse-tung; (b) the congress is divided and weakened. The Senate has lost any control over the White House urge for increased war-making, and the House of Representatives no longer enquires into grievances, unless they concern issues such as oral sex rather than Enron, 9-11, the Plame exposure, or the disenfranchisement of tens of thousands of black citizens in Florida; and (c) the idea of 13 Colonies demanding freedom of speech is disgraced by 13 states having "libel" laws making it illegal to express concerns about food farms, or the safety of related "agro-business" food products. (Crimes Against Nature; Robert Kennedy, Jr.)

6) You Reap What You Sow

The Bush administration rules through fear, the "threats" to national security that they define, through manipulating the 9-11 national emergency, and through secrecy. Their policies pose a threat to individual liberties in order to benefit business interests, and they are the greatest threat to constitutional democracy today. The extent of this threat is exposed by a series of books associated with John Dean, Richard Clarke, Paul O'Neill, Robert Kennedy, Jr., and many others. It is also exposed to grass-roots America by the movie "F 9-11."

The reaction of the administration is to attempt to discredit the individuals involved in exposing the political corruption of this administration. This is not a new tactic. Before the FBI focused on Martin Luther King's sex life, before the COINTELPRO operations of the 1960s and '70s, we remember the efforts of two congressional leaders in the mid-50s. Senator Thomas Hennings, Jr. and Rep. John Moss questioned the bureaucratic secrecy that threatened the democratic system, by discussing why the government labeled a Pentagon study of the bow & arrow ("Silent Flashless Weapons") as "top secret." They were accused of threatening national security.

This administration and its corporate sponsors, including the news media, are involved in a similar campaign to discredit critics. This campaign includes Ambassador Joseph Wilson. (see Plame Indictment Threads #1-12)

An unintended consequence of the high level of bureaucratic secrecy is that it leads to no respect for individual secrecy. This is evident from a reading of the Patriot Act: things like medical and library records, which should be protected by the US Constitution, are no longer private.

Further, the exposure of Valerie Plame as a CIA operative stands as the most stark example of the administration's contempt for the rights to privacy implied by the Constitution. 7) ConclusionAt the time of the American Revolution, the "founding fathers" met in secret. They were almost exclusively from the "upper class," and needed to keep their actions secret from King George. While they may have spoken more openly as individuals, their group efforts were not known to the upper class, including the newspapers of the day.
However, the middle class and the poor spread the word. They were aware of King George's spies, so they spread the word on a democratic underground. It took root -- and grass roots democracy has been the most important part of the foundation for this country ever since. The grass roots are more powerful than those three branches of the federal government.
We're in similar circumstances today. Our president is no more in favor of democracy than old King George was. We have two chances of kicking him out of power. The most obvious is the election in November. But there's also the Plame Indictments.
If there is any life breath in the balance of powers, the legislative and judiciary must do their jobs. This is a criminal outfit. There are now numerous "upper class" people organizing to hold this administration liable for their crimes. It's not just democrats hoping to reclaim the presidency in 2004. It's a wide range of citizens who know that Bush and Cheney intend to fully destroy the constitutional democracy we should enjoy.
You and I aren't meeting in their secret get-togethers. We're that grass-roots democratic power. Our primary job is to continue to educate the public, register voters, and increase participation in those treasures defined by the Bill of Rights. Please work to spread the message about the Plame Indictments. We've seen a preview of the administration's late summer counter-offensive.
Let's expose them as totally offensive.
Thank you,H2O Man2004 Delegate of the Mississippi Freedom PartyDemocratic Underground Grass Roots Convention


At January 5, 2005 at 6:13 PM, Blogger Patrick O'Waterman said...

This, like the Waterman Paper, is one of the essays that I posted on the Democratic Underground last year. It also found its way to some other web sites and blogs. I used to think that rather than having republicans invade DU, and DUers invade the conservative sites, it would be more beneficial to have some forum where people could actually compare ideas. I have numerous conservative friends, and even some republican friends. We actually have a number of things in common: we appreciate living in the United States; we respect the U.S. Constitution; we don't want industry to dump PCBs and TCE in our drinking water; we worry about the safety of our relatives serving in the military. At some point, both people on the left and right are going to have to realize that when they yell nasty slogans and spew hatred, they scare the majority of Americans, who reside somewhere in the middle. "Stop it," I say, politely. "We should only be afraid of those who threaten the U.S. Constitution."

At January 5, 2005 at 7:30 PM, Blogger TexasChick said...

What a great essay! This part I totally agree with:

"Moore's movie demonstrates that the Saudi royal family is able to compromise the balance of powers in our federal government. Their influence with the Bush administration has stopped a serious investigation into what role they played in the 9-11 attack on the USA; allows them to manipulate what information becomes known to the American public; and interferes with the legal system, when James Baker represents the Saudis in a court action filed by the families of 9-11 victims."

One DUer asked on a thread the other day about why we haven't invaded Saudi Arabia since 15 of the 19 hijackers were Sauds. Of course, we had to explain to him why while using almost the exact words above used in this essay. I often wonder how that lawsuit is progressing? Is it the one that Stanley Hilton filed, or the one that Philip Berg filed?

I cannot tell you how much I dislike the Saudis. They are totally cruel to their people.

One question, can you hint to me, H20 Man, who are these numerous "upper class" people organizing to hold this administration liable for their crimes? In fact, I would think they are trying to keep them in power because I thought the Chimp administration gives these people financial "rewards" of some sorts. However, I do find threads in the LBN forum that sort of suggests to me that the Repuketard party is starting to fight among themselves. I do find that amusing.

Thanks again!

At January 5, 2005 at 8:16 PM, Blogger Patrick O'Waterman said...

Read the books "Crimes Against Nature," by Robert Kennedy, Jr; "The Politics of Truth," by Ambassador Joseph Wilson; and "Worse Than Watergate," by John Dean. There are a dozen more that have come out in the past 18 months, that detail the efforts of -- for lack of better words -- the upper class effort to stop this administration from destroying America. We are not in a class war; it's far more than that. I'm glad you are reading this "blog." I hope you invite more DUers to stop by and visit!

At October 4, 2005 at 7:07 AM, Blogger Nosey said...

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At November 4, 2005 at 8:32 AM, Blogger Roberto Iza Valdes said...

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