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Sep 25, 2008

The Bush financial bailout plan was just its latest on-the-brink-of-disaster, my-way-or-the-highway assault on the separation of powers. Congress pushed back, but was it too little too late?

By James R. Gaines

On Dec. 13, 2000, the day after the Supreme Court’s 5–4 ruling in Bush v. Gore, the Vice President-elect, Dick Cheney, came to the Capitol for lunch with the five most liberal Republicans in the Senate. One of them was Rhode Island Sen. Lincoln Chafee, who assumed Cheney would surely cancel on this day of days for the victorious new Bush administration. 
That Cheney actually turned up for lunch meant to Chafee that the incoming administration knew it needed to court the moderates’ votes. 
He was wrong. In distinct contrast to Bush’s campaign promise to be “a uniter, not a divider” in the White House, Cheney laid out what Chafee would later call “a shockingly divisive political agenda…He said that the campaign was over and that [their] actions in office would not be dictated by what had to be said during the campaign.” 

“I’m thinking as I sat there, ‘Where do you get off? You’re not even the president.’” Watch a video interview with Lincoln Chafee.

One of the priorities on which Cheney was most outspoken—nine months before 9/11—was the need to expand the power of the executive branch. That this would come at the expense of Congressional initiatives went without saying.
Cheney was as good as his word. In the following eight years, the Bush-Cheney administration asserted an unprecedented expansion of presidential authority across a broad range of issues, claiming the unilateral right to make war, interpret treaty obligations (the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, the Geneva Conventions), and suspend civil liberties (the NSA’s warrantless surveillance program). 
Through the prolific use of “signing statements”—more than twice as many as all previous presidents combined—Bush has claimed the president’s right to ignore or enforce selectively more than 1,000 separate statutes. He has also reserved the right to interpret their constitutionality, a job that has belonged to the Supreme Court since the landmark Marbury v. Madison decision of 1803.
This Bush-Cheney initiative was so successful, and Congressional capitulation so complete, that the next president will inherit powers perilously close to what the American Revolution was waged to defeat, the peremptory authority of an absolute monarch.
Combine this with terrorists at large, a city lost to flood, two wars and an historic financial meltdown: Maybe the election of 2008 is one of those times when an unfolding series of disasters becomes what Thomas Jefferson once called “the fire bell in the night” that wakes a nation up to the peril of its onrushing fate. 
Or maybe not.

In our interactive timeline, we outline the Bush administration’s campaign for expanded power, and the few instances when the Court and Congress pushed back.

“Cheney and his allies abandoned the traditional conservative suspicion of concentrated government power.” Watch a video interview with Charlie Savage.

A Lesson from Kings
America may have represented “a shining city on a hill” to the early settlers, but the founders’ vision for a constitutional democracy began with a more hard-headed, even pessimistic, premise: Human beings being human, no one—not even George Washington—could be left alone with power. 
They had learned this from kings and other tyrants the hard way, which is why they wrote a Constitution that separated the powers of government and spread them among the executive, legislative and judicial branches, each of which was to check and balance the others.
The founding fathers expected Presidents to test these restraints, and they were right. Since Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman, Democratic and Republican presidents alike have pushed to expand presidential authority. There is no reason to believe the process will end when a new president takes office on January 20.
The erosion of checks and balances over the past eight years will be immensely useful to any president so inclined. Extreme legal positions taken by the White House Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), especially in the aftermath of 9/11, have made way for executive powers that were once unthinkable. 
Warrantless wiretapping, the indefinite imprisonment of U.S. citizens on the president’s sole authority, the torture of prisoners in U.S. custody, the emergency authorization of U.S. military troops to act as police on U.S. soil even over the objection of a state’s governor: all these have been authorized by President Bush.
Even some conservative Republicans have found such abuses of power abhorrent, however grave the threat to national security may be. 

Inside the White House’s Push for Power: Watch three video interviews with Charlie Savage.

The Other Elections
Though not much evidence for this fact exists on cable news or in the blogosphere, there are 470 elections to federal office taking place on November 4, not counting the one we hear about every minute of every day. Maybe the reason we do not hear more about them is that, at least until lately, they haven’t seemed to matter much. 
In his memoirs, Chafee wrote that he was less shocked by Cheney’s candor at that lunch in 2000 than by his colleagues’ passivity and tacit acceptance of what he said.
Nothing in the years that followed would change his mind about that. The White House could never have successfully wrangled so much new power without a lot of help from Congress.
In recent days, perhaps startled by the Treasury Secretary’s bracing demand for sole personal authority to dispense $700 billion to former colleagues on Wall Street, Congress began to make some unaccustomed noise.  At least this time, with the whole world watching and global markets faltering, they seemed to have forced the president to compromise.

Imperial Dreams, Democratic Nightmares: Watch three video interview with Andrew Bacevich.

Neither current presidential candidate is likely to work hard to undo the precedents that the Bush White House has left in place. “I’m a little bit skeptical about all the campaign rhetoric about changing the way Washington works,” says Boston University historian Andrew Bacevich. “Neither McCain nor Obama is interested in turning back the imperial presidency. They want to be the imperial president.”
Bacevich means that not as a slur but as a fact of political life. To fault the Bush-Cheney team for demanding greater executive authority is not to question their motives: The last eight years have brought some of the greatest security threats in our history, and every administration relies on the conviction that it acts in the national interest. 
Supporters for the expansion of executive authority argue that the world has changed since 1787, when our fledgling nation was peripheral to world events and free of existential threats like nuclear weapons and global terror. Superpower status brings challenges that could not have been foreseen, they say.
But history has not challenged the founders’ most important insight. Congress, the judiciary, checks and balances, the separation of powers—all stand as testament to a core belief in the fallibility of man when tempted by power. 
Whatever the composition of the 111th Congress, the people’s branch will ultimately decide whether that fundamental idea is still relevant or whether the world is indeed too complicated now.
What will they do? If the founders’ idea of government still works, the decider is in your mirror. 


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I am not so sure that Cheney/Bush haven’t done even more than what you discuss on this site. They may have established a way to govern behind the scenes so that not even the President, in the future, will necessarily be included in the hidden details unless he/she is in agreement with the Cheney/Bush policies. I feel it is possible that the power structure that has been created is intended to extend beyond the lifetimes of those who hold the power now.

Randee Head
Oct 6, 2008

Dear Joel Eeden, although I only grazed over your lengthy comment the parts that caught my eye make me think that you are, someone, very insightful. You seem to think about things much the way I do. In other words, ” I like the way you talk.” And you’re familiar with Tesla! May I suggest a book by David Brock? “The Republican Noise Machine” It’s frightening.

RICK DAY
Oct 5, 2008

I totally agree with the historian Andrew Bacevich. He is right about the fact that neither the Democrats nor the Republicans are to be trusted. They follow the philosophy of divide and conquer. If one party is not elected, the other will be. This way they remain in power and in control of the shadow reptilian matrix. He is also right about their imperial inclinations. All empires are evil for they stem from the ego, which is incapable of empathy towards the suffering of others. One has just to go back in history from the time of Alexander the Great to see how the ego just inflicts suffering upon humanity. But one can look closer to the second world war, and see the most evil of egos at play in the mind of Hitler.

Joel Eeden
Oct 2, 2008

Americans, the time to wake up from your slumber is now, before it is too late. The Bush Administration uses fear as a weapon to bring his plans of martial law into reality. Nine eleven was planned to bring fear into your hearts, and control you. In fact , you have the illusion of freedom but you live in a country that is a police state. The Patriot Act I and II are designed to bring this country under martial law. In effect, it is already under martial law. They plan to bring Canada and Mexico into an North American Alliance, so that they can exploit the natural resources of Canada and use the Mexicans as slave labor. This reptilian agenda may seem farfetched but open your minds Americans for you are living a surreal reality. Your reality surpasses fiction. Remember from the beginning how Bush won the elections. He did not win fair and square. Bush’s family stole the elections. Al Gore was supposed to be the President and was robbed of it. When nine eleven happened, remember how the World Trade Center fell on itself; like a carefully planned demolition. Remember how Bush after giving a speech honouring the firefigthers and calling them heros, negated any help these same heros had, after their health started to deteriorate. Many firefighters were denyied compensation, and their concerns ignored by the Bush Administration. These Heros contracted diseases such as cancer and respiratory ailments. Many had their lungs burned from the cocktail of harmful chemicals such as asbestos and radioactive dust. They were not told to use at all times their face masks. There were not safety measures in place to prevent these men from inhaling these poisons. Why? Because human lives are not important to the Bushes. And those three thousands lives lost with the collapse of the towers were not important too, for they had it all figured out from the beginning. They immediately launched an attack on Agfhanistan but the objective was Iraq’s petroleum. They hired mercenaries to fight in Iraq, and incompetent leaders to govern it while handing cushy contracts to their “crony corporations” such as Halliburton. Our forefathers tried to free us with the Constitution from the clutches of England’s corporations, but it was in vain for Exxon Mobil owns the US Government ; remember why it started ; remember “The Tea Party”. But the current government soon was revealing a more sinister side with the security surveillance by spy agencies on the lives of ordinary citizens. They did not stop here and even Greenpeace too had their files stolen. They wanted to know the names of the sponsors and the addresses of every individual that was a subscriber to their website. The muzzling of the voices of regular people in a supposedly “free” country should send you rallying into the streets and claim your rights, but you have to do it in a peaceful manner. The military corporation is at the service of the Bushes and it will try to crush you. Every security agency is their servant. You are slaves inside the Corporate feudal box that in turn is ruled by a parallel, supergovernment, called the Majestic Twelve. The Federal Reserve Corp. is owned by them, which according to our Constitution makes the IRS, Income Tax and Mortgages illegal. The recent banking scandals should not suprise you for they too are part of the same corporate matrix. They create artificial economic recessions to bring ordinary citizens into submission by instilling fear for their livelihoods. The bailout was approved by seventy four percent of Congress and only twenty five percent of againt it. Right here you see how corrupt the representatives of your interests are. This is why there is so much poverty inside the most rich country in the world. Divide seven hundred billion dollars by the number of US citizens and see how much you would be getting if the system was not corrupt. Every single American would be rich. The matrix is intrinsically woven into the fabric of the American life, for it desires absolute control over your lives,and over the planet’s resources. The movie industry bombards your homes with fear, violence, and pornography to corrupt your children and demolish the corner stone of society. Do not be surprised if you witness more school shootings for this is what they learn as acceptable, and glamourous by the Hollywood studio moguls. Furthermore, the entire school system does not teach students the truth, for science and technology only take things at face value, anything beyond that does not exist. Nikola Tesla is virtually unknown by school teachers, and yet he had the solution for the energy needs of the world. He had discovered a free , clean unlimited energy that could free us from this crude-oil bondage that is destroying our planet and causing and array of respiratory illnessess in our children and causing cancer and multyple sclerosis in adults, but the banker J.P.Morgan was not interested in financing a free energy for he was in cahoots with “Big Oil”. This petroleum prison, not only is causing the melting of the Ice-Caps but could create a conflict between Russia and China, for their economies, too, are totally dependent on “black , dirty oil”. The Russians already raced to the bottom of the Arctic Ocean and planted a Russian flag inside a titanium capsule, claiming that the Arctic was always Russian. China with its two and half billion people is not going to sit idle and be dependent on Russian oil, and will fight for a slice of the pie. This is why they have been amassing military power for decades. This conflict could escalate into a nuclear holocaust, for nuclear power is now proliferating around the globe. In addition, the mainstream news are owned by the “corporate reptilian box” and only let you know what they see fit. For the most part you are in the dark as to what goes on around the globe. They desire to keep you ignorant of the real truth, and flood your homes with just depressing news to keep you fearful and rob you of hope of anything better. They keep you encapsulated inside “Plato’s Cave” and what you see is not reality but just a shadow reality. This is why they are called “the shadow government”. Ignorance and fear is what allows evil to flourish. So do your research before voting Americans. Tune in to the intuition inside your heart. Your heart is full of wisdom, and tune out your ego mindset . Your heart is connected to your superior mind while the ego is the lower mind. Remember you are impossible to break, if you remain united and speak with one voice. One arrow is easy to break but twelve arrows are not that easy, and a hundred arrows… can bring the castle down. Remember our forefathers ideals for they were indeed sound ideals.

Joel Eeden
Oct 2, 2008

Fear is powerful. I am sadded. I am tired. President Jefferson predicted the United States will become corrupt if the people stop paying attention. If we let the marketplace work; then, credit will seize up and there will be consequences. We do not have to fear these consequences any more than we have to fear the fact if I eat a whole pizza with double cheese I might gain weight. Consequences, like pain, have purpose. Out of this economic crisis, a new economy will rise. A economy based on love, not greed. According to the White Stone Journal, love is the key virtue we need to conquer our greed. Imagine the good that could come out of reduced house prices. A generation ago, the average family only need half of one paycheck to pay for food, housing and health care. Today it takes one and a half salaries to meet these basic needs.

Laura Hedlund
Oct 1, 2008