Michael: Cheney Proclaims President is KingI was willing to suspend judgement on the NSA domestic spying scandal (the stakes are just too great to go off half-cocked on this), but the Administration's tack on defending it's action - not by showing conformance to the law, but by claiming that the law cannot bind the President - has me questioning whether the Administration has a legal defense.
Cheney said, "I believe in a strong, robust executive authority and I think that the world we live in demands it... I would argue that the actions that we've taken there are totally appropriate and consistent with the constitutional authority of the president. ... You know, it's not an accident that we haven't been hit in four years."
What a surprise: Cheney pulled the 9/11 card.
Cheney, Condi, the AG, and the President have now all claimed constitutional authority for the spying. What this does is assure a consitutional crisis.
Who gets to interpret the Constitution? According the the President, he does. According to 200+ years of American politics and jurisprudence? The courts do. Members of the judiciary may be upset that the FISA court may have been made into a Potempkin Court. that One FISA judge even recently resigned, saying that he was concerned that the President's actions had "tainted the FISA court's work". If the President is looking for a war with the judiciary, my guess is that the courts will be more than willing to bring their game face. And with the judiciary enjoying a much higher degree of confidence from the American people than either the Congress or the President, I dare say that Bush won't like the results.
One thing's for sure, the political strategy the President seems to have settled on gives no one any means to save face. He is essentially playing a game of constitutional chicken with the other two branches of government. It is a stupid and irresponsible thing for a President to do in the best of circumstances; but for a President accused of as much malfeasance as this one, sitting on a approval rate that would make Nixon cringe, it also political suicide.
I am both afraid and elated that Bush obstreperous "I am the law" defense strategy could well land him in an impeachment hearing, or even in a criminal dock. I don't think that his gambit will play well even with his base, and when elite opinion begins stacking up against him, he'll have no recourse. A desperate President is a dangerous President. And that's the last thing we need.