October 6, 2006

Statements of Cowardice and Contempt

On Wednesday, President Bush signed into law H.R. 5441, the Homeland Security appropriations bill for 2007. In so doing, Mr. Bush brought into force two provisions which placed what would appear to be very reasonable - and minor - limitations on certain actions he, or any of his successors to the Oval Office, might choose to take.

The first stipulation simply stated that no one other than the privacy officer for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) could change, delay or forbid the release of the mandatory annual report on that department's activities affecting privacy, including complaints. The second, clearly aimed at avoiding the cronyism that saw Michael "Heckuva Job Brownie" Brown appointed to head FEMA - only to implode under the weight of his inexperience and incompetence during the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina - requires that any future head of that agency have a minimum of 5 years of relevant experience.

And then the other shoe dropped.

As he has with more than 750 other laws to date, President Bush promptly - albeit stealthily - made it known that, unlike every other citizen of this country, he was not bound by the provisions of the very bill he had just signed into law. Perhaps more imporantly, he indicated that he would continue to oppose any restrictions on the office of the President of the United States, however minor, however sensible, and however justified by past events. To accomplish this, Mr. Bush did what he has done far more than any other chief executive this nation has ever had, attaching signing statements to H.R. 5441 declaring not only that he will ignore the minimum qualifications to lead FEMA if he feels it is necessary, but that he reserves the right to not only withhold, but also edit annual DHS reports.

What this means is that, unchastened by the utter meltdown that was Michael Brown's tenure at the wheel of FEMA, the President feels there is no need to improve the standards by which that position is filled. By ignoring the qualifications provision, he is saying that he demands the freedom to hire someone that the rest of the country would deem inept. It also means that the oversight provision of the Department of Homeland Security has been thoroughly gutted. Now, if citizens come forward with complaints about illegal violations of privacy by DHS and those complaints are included in the annual report, Mr. Bush has given himself the right to alter the language of that document to make it more favorable, or even to delete those complaints altogether.

There is a mechanism under the Constitution by which the President may reject acts of Congress with which he disagrees; it is called a veto. Exercising that power however, would expose the policies and aims of this administration to the scrutiny with which it is so clearly uncomfortable, and the oversight from the legislature and the citizenry for which it so obviously feels nothing but disdain. It is a measure of both the cowardice of the Bush White House and its contempt for the American people that George W. Bush has issued more than 110 signing statements, and only one veto.

As Keith Olbermann puts it in his most recent special commentary (see below), the Bush Adminstration, despite its best efforts at obfuscation, has shown itself to be constructed of lies on top of lies, on top of other lies. It is indeed form without substance, but it is also beginning to strangle on the public's increasing awareness of its utter lack of loyalty to anything but power and self-perpetuation. Unfortunately, the ineptitude and dishonesty of this president and his inner circle place us all in jeopardy; internationally because of their obvious deficiency, and domestically through the abridgement of our rights and their desecration of the Constitution.

Because of these threats, it is not enough that George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice and Republican control of Capitol Hill are removed as quickly as possible. Looking forward, we must make every effort to ensure that whomever is chosen to lead this country - no matter what political party they represent - is capable, competent, and possesses a basic understanding of - and allegiance to - our form of government.

In the meantime, the liars and cowards we currently suffer can't be gone soon enough.

[Click on image for video at Crooks and Liars]
Keith Olbermann's 10/05/2006 Special Commentary

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