Bush: Who said that, again?

Washington Post: A Sound Bite So Good, the President Wishes He Had Said It. The Post catches Bush lifting from Al Gore, of all people, in his famous comment about not allowing the budget to go into deficit “except during war, recession, or national emergency”:

In this space last week, it was noted that President Bush often tells audiences that he promised during the 2000 presidential campaign that he would allow the federal budget to go into deficit in times of war, recession or national emergency, but he never imagined he would “have a trifecta.” Nobody inside or outside the White House, however, had been able to produce evidence that Bush actually said this during the campaign.

Now comes information that the three caveats were uttered before the 2000 campaign — by Bush’s Democratic opponent, Vice President Al Gore.


Score one for due process

New York Times: Case Against Seven Tied to Group Labeled Terrorist Is Dismissed. The judge ruled that the Justice Department’s case against seven people accused of sending charitable donations to an Iranian military group that the State Department labels “terrorist” is “unconstitutional on its face.” This is a major repudiation of a 1996 antiterrorism law that criminalizes providing “material support” to “any foreign organization that the State Department deems a threat to national security.” Judge Robert M. Takasugi cites erosion of due process as the reason for the ruling:

…the law gives these groups “no notice and no opportunity” to contest their designation as a terrorist organization, a violation of due process, Judge Takasugi ruled.

“I will not abdicate my responsibilities as a district judge and turn a blind eye to the constitutional infirmities” of the law, Judge Takasugi wrote.

Because the government made its list of terrorist organizations in secret, without giving foreign groups a chance to defend themselves, the defendants “are deprived of their liberty based on an unconstitutional designation that they could never challenge,” he said.


Bush 1, First Amendment 0

Glad to see that Bush can take the heat. At Ohio State, police escorted students who turned their backs on Bush from the auditorium and told them they would be charged with disturbing the peace (via Boing Boing).

Of course, we shouldn’t be surprised to see continued erosion of civil liberties from this presidency. What’s surprising is how shameless he and his handlers are about it (from Yahoo:

Bush was invited to speak at the Ohio State commencement by representatives of the graduating class. But immediately before class members filed into the giant football stadium, an announcer instructed the crowd that all the university’s speakers deserve to be treated with respect and that anyone demonstrating or heckling would be subject to expulsion and arrest. The announcer urged that Bush be greeted with a “thunderous” ovation.


More power, Mr. Ashcroft?

Washington Post: Government Will Ease Limits on Domestic Spying. Here’s a nice little erosion for your morning coffee: “Mr. Ashcroft and Robert S. Mueller III, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, plan to announce on Thursday a broad loosening of the guidelines that restrict the surveillance of religious and political organizations, the officials said.”

Thank God for that voice of sanity, the ACLU (and no, that’s not sarcastic):

Officials at the American Civil Liberties Union criticized the new guidelines, saying they represent another step by the Bush administration to roll back civil-liberties protections in the name of improving counterterrorism measures.

“These new guidelines say to the American people that you no longer have to be doing something wrong in order to get that F.B.I. knock at your door,” Laura W. Murphy, director of the national office of the A.C.L.U., said. “The government is rewarding failure. It seems when the F.B.I. fails, the response by the Bush administration is to give the bureau new powers, as opposed to seriously look at why the intelligence and law enforcement failures occurred.”

Seems to me that after the leaks about what the government knew before the September 11 attacks, giving the FBI more data to analyze is the last thing we need to do, regardless of whether it impinges on our personal freedoms or not (and it does, it does!).

How about this: the FBI gets ZERO new powers until it proves it can get useful data from the ones it already has.

The wheels of law grind slowly…

…but exceedingly fine. Washington Post: Judge Rejects Jailing of Material Witnesses: Ruling Imperils Tool in Sept. 11 Probe. Since September 11, Ashcroft’s Justice Department has been throwing people in jail who are not accused of any crime “to guarantee that [they] will testify before a grand jury.”

Thank goodness for those “unelected judges” who keep sticking their nose into the law and upholding niceties of American justice like “probable cause.”

Free speech (if you say something I like)

Salon: Killing the Messenger. Consider William Harvey: arrested for peacefully carrying a sign and handing out leaflets in New York City. Okay, so his message was that the US brought 9/11 on itself with its handling of relations with Islamic countries, and he was bringing it within a few blocks of Ground Zero.

Naturally there was a crowd and it got ugly. Harvey was arrested for disorderly conduct, although his conduct was apparently pretty calm. Harvey filed a motion to dismiss, which was struck down in mid-February. The judge doing so, Judge Neil Ross of the Criminal Court of the City of New York, argued that disorderly conduct could be charged given “the reaction which speech engenders, not the content of the speech.”

Thanks, judge, for giving the crowd the power to criminalize my speech. I thought protection from that was what the First Amendment was about.

You can avoid Congress, but not the civil service

New York Times: Landscapes Under Siege. The administrative review board for the Interior Department has halted oil exploration in Utah’s Dome Plateau, and “suggested that the bureau had ‘capriciously’ ignored environmental reviews mandated by federal law.” The editorial concludes:

Nobody expects the administration to retreat from its basic theology that aggressive exploration of the public domain is necessary to achieve independence from the energy-producing nations of the Persian Gulf. Perhaps, though, as part of the larger debate over a national energy strategy, the Senate will force the administration to proceed with much greater care.

Yeah, somehow I doubt that the administration that doesn’t even invite the Democratic leadership of Congress to national security meetings will pay much heed to the Senate. I think that the best chance we have for protection against the strong-arm anti-environmental tactics of the Bush administration is the civil servants who have to carry out the policy. Based on this action, they have shown they can do the job.

Shadow government

The New York Times: 60 Feet Under. Maureen Dowd makes some good points here and gets some great zingers:

“Mr. Cheney is Lord of the Rings, ruling over his very own Moria, an underground kingdom of bureaucratic hobbits and orcs….

Without Democrats or journalists, the underground executive branch can operate the way the real executive branch would like to, and frequently does — without a lot of second-guessing, Freedom of Information Act requests, complaints from civil libertarians and attention to the rights of Marin County hot-tubbers.

Nothing will be transcribed. So there will be no reason to clean up the language in President Bush’s transcripts, as the White House has done routinely since 9/11.”

Interesting question. We’ve always assumed that we get full access to the running of our government, with the exception of stuff that we really don’t want to know about (national security). There’s the rub–this administration thinks everything it does is “national security.” And it doesn’t want to share anything with the people’s representatives in the Congress, either.

Maybe Tom Daschle should talk to Bill Clinton, who came back from being made almost irrelevant by Newt Gingrich. He might have some advice on how to restore checks and balances on a political power hellbent on eliminating them.

GAO vs. White House over Enron: Bets, folks?

My wife: “This should be very interesting. Someone’s career is probably over.”

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, was named Walker v. Cheney. Walker is David M. Walker, the U.S. Comptroller General and head of the General Accounting Office of Congress. Cheney is Richard B. Cheney, the vice president and head of the administration’s energy task force, the focus of the litigation.


A fuller context for that quotation

A more complete version and a citation for the quotation I just posted, courtesy the Bully Pulpit:

” The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly as necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else.”
“Lincoln and Free Speech” in The Great Adventure – vol. 19 of The Works of Theodore Roosevelt New York: Scribner’s, 1926 Chapter 7, p.289


That damned inconvenient history

Beautiful quotation from Theodore Roosevelt in today’s Doonesbury. It is perhaps noteworthy that Roosevelt said this in 1918, when he was an ordinary citizen. Are you listening, Mr. Ashcroft?:

“To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.”


“Aid and comfort” rears its ugly head

Free speech must be getting Ashcroft down:

“To those who pit Americans against immigrants, citizens against non-citizens, to those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve… They give ammunition to America’s enemies and pause to America’s friends. They encourage people of good will to remain silent in the face of evil.”


And no, I don’t mean blank checks

Ashcroft finds himself on the stand today before Congress. This is an interesting example of checks & balances in action. Good old Patrick Leahy: even after being an anthrax letter recipient, he can still say things like “I want to make sure after we’re all gone that the Constitution is still here…It’s not always popular upholding the Constitution, but it’s always the right thing to do.”