Cut Down Every Law

Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!

–A Man For All Seasons

Let us fast-forward six years into the future.

No, it’s not the dystopian future Democrats fear.  The world of 2013 is pretty much one would expect, really.  President Hillary Clinton is in the first year of her second term, after beating Tim Pawlenty in 2012; the Cubs are gunning for their third world championship in five years; and the third rounds of talks in Ankara aimed at ending the Iraqi civil war have stalled yet again over Sunni demands for reparations.  Meanwhile, the hit movie “That’s Not Bologna,” starring Adam Sandler and Paris Hilton, is in its third week at #1 despite tepid reviews.  All in all, the world is where one might expect it to be.

But in Washington, a scandal is brewing.

Republicans have found evidence that President Clinton’s staff took kickbacks when she awarded federal contracts for the new national health care program.  The GOP has retaken the Senate, and the newly-returned chair of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee (Sen. Joe Lieberman, R-Conn.) brings forth a surprise witness, a former employee of Blue Cross Blue Shield, who confirms that he paid Clinton’s chief of staff $10 million for favorable treatment in the bidding process. 

The committee erupts.  It’s scandal!  And yet minutes later, the president of Blue Cross Blue Shield testifies that nothing of the sort happened. 

Clearly, there’s something going on.  Perhaps graft, perhaps just an ex-employee with an ax to grind.  The committee issues subpoenas.

After wangling, missed hearings, angry recrimination, and frustration by Congress, the committee finally votes to hold the President’s chief of staff in contempt of Congress.  They forward their request to the U.S. Attorney for Washington, D.C.  And get back a one-paragraph letter.

“Dear Mr. Chairman,

“I regret to inform you that we cannot pursue this matter.  Unfortunately, the President has invoked executive privilege in this matter.  Under precedent established under the preceding administration, we are prohibited from enforcing a Congressional subpoena under these circumstances.  Have a nice day.

“Sincerely,

“Anders Folk, U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia”

With only he-said/he-said evidence, and without the testimony of the chief of staff, Congress is stymied.  Hillary Clinton and her supporters say that there’s no real evidence of wrongdoing, and point to Bush’s conduct in 2007 to prove that there’s bipartisan agreement on the need for a unitary executive.

Two years later, very quietly, a former executive from Blue Cross Blue Shield will be spirited away to a detention center in Guam. 

* * *

Now, none of this is to suggest that I believe Hillary Clinton is a likely candidate to commit graft while in office.  But if she (or President Obama, or President Edwards) does, how does the GOP expect to stop it?  The President yesterday essentially declared himself and his administration above the law.  That’s tragic for a variety of reasons, but dark suspicions aside, I don’t expect George W. Bush to be president past January 20, 2009. 

When the Democrats take the White House, all of the Calvinball rules set up by this administration transfer to them.  The secrecy, the ability to decide things unilaterally, signing statements — the whole kit and kaboodle, transferred into the hands of Hillary or Barack or John.

Is the GOP comfortable with this?  Do they expect that this cannot come back to bite them later?  Do they not understand that when Bush weakens the checks on the executive branch, he does so for all future presidents as well?

When Hillary Clinton overreaches as Bush has done, I suspect the GOP will gnash their teeth and wail, and lament that they didn’t do anything when they had the chance.  And I’ll want to accept that, and agree with them that we should roll back the abuses of the Bush administration.  But I’ll admit, I’ll have a hard time feeling particularly sorry for them when that day comes.  And more than a part of me will want to say that as you sow, so shall you reap.

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33 Comments

Filed under 10_jeff_fecke

33 responses to “Cut Down Every Law

  1. Is the GOP comfortable with this?

    I suspect that they’re not actually thinking that far in advance, since they typically can’t see too far past their own noses (unless they’re looking down at their wallets). Think of all the other messes and hypocritical situations Republicans have created for themselves by insisting that what they want is what they get… not thinking past the current moment into a time when they might not be in power (I think there’s still a little denial about that now).

    Sort of like common criminals, they never think that they’ll get caught.

  2. Susan

    Is the GOP comfortable with this?

    They do not believe they’ll lose the White House, ever again. That’s the only plausible explanation– because if they truly considered the future possibilities of what Bush has wrought, their heads would explode.

  3. nightshift66

    I think that the GOP believes it can always change the rules. After all, IOKIYAR has worked for years. They have no problem witchhunting Clinton for perjury and then commuting Libby’s sentence on the same charge, and that’s just the latest. They are now for deficits and big government intrusions into everything. I think their track record leads them to believe that they can just make up reasons why the Democratic president is different. I’m not sure they are wrong in that belief, either. It’s worked for them so often before, and now they’ll have the WSJ to bolster Faux News.

  4. L

    Exactly, Susan. The squatters are there to stay. After all, they make their own reality.

  5. I’m feeling pessimistic today, I guess, but if President Obama or Clinton did something like that, I don’t see us having such a complacent press or populace. Slap a (D) next to George Bush’s name, and he’s impeached, convicted, out of office and in prison years ago.

    People expect Republicans to be two-faced, hypocritical villians. They have an entire narrative already set up for it: “Oh, I’m a sinner! I’m a baaaad man! Dear Jesus, I’m a naughty boy, please forgive me!”

    But Democrats are held to a higher standard. That’s why John Edwards’ house and haircuts “matter,” while the disgusting excesses of the GOP rich don’t matter. In this country, if your guiding philosophy is “fuck you, I got mine,” then you can be held up as a paragon of Christian virtue. But if you ever try to help anyone other than yourself, you’re expected to be some unholy mix of Mother Theresa, the Dalai Lama and Dudley Fucking Do-right.

    Other than all that, yeah, good points in your post, Jeff.

  6. I had similar thoughts this morning, but without the scenario included. You’d think a party with people in it so given to flights of fancy that they can imagine a world only 6,000 years old would be able to imagine a not-Republican as President wielding these kids of powers and see the consequences, but apparently not.

  7. tomeck

    They have the Ultimate Calvinball rules to apply to Hillary or Obama or any other Democratic President. They have 4 sets of rules for various scenarios:

    Set 1 — Republican President, Republican Congress
    Set 2 — Republican President, Democratic Congress
    Set 3 — Democratic President, Democratic Congress
    Set 4 — Democratic President, Republican Congress.

    It’s not quite like the “living Constitution” they all abhor. Because obviously the Founders wanted Republican to rule.

  8. “I think that the GOP believes it can always change the rules”

    Calvinball today, Calvinball tomorrow, Calvinball forever!

    btw…this is the best metaphor for their lawlessness yet, in that it provides the sweet consolation of nostalgia.

  9. Peanutcat

    I think that just before the 2008 election, “something” will happen to cause the Bush administration to declare martial law and suspend the electons.

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  11. Egad, I’m still chuckling about the reference to Calvinball.

  12. anytime you lead off by quoting sir thomas more (through the muse of robert bolt) you pretty much have my ass at “hello”

  13. Tom in Iowa

    Peanutcat – I have a $1.00 bet with my father-in-law (die hard republican that he is) that just that thing will happen. “No way.” says he. “Read the stream of executive orders.” says I. “Well, but the President wouldn’t do such a thing, we have to trust him on that.” says he. “Um, huh.” says I.

    Love the Calvinball reference!

  14. Tom in Iowa

    Anyone recall the presidential order the Melissa wrote about several months ago where the executive branch assumes control of and “preserves” the legislative and judicial branches in the time of a national emergency? I can’t find it in the White House press release sight anymore.

    Thanks.

  15. merciless

    Tom in Iowa, your father-in-law said the President wouldn’t do that? That we should just trust him?

    Holy mother maybelle.

    Yeah, I really don’t know what to say about these new rules. I wish I could be sanguine about regaining the federal government next year, but I just can’t imagine what the republican gestapo will do next. It could be anything. I feel like we’ve gone down the rabbit hole, and I don’t know how we’re going to get back up.

    I need more coffee.

  16. “I think that the GOP believes it can always change the rules. After all, IOKIYAR has worked for years. They have no problem witchhunting Clinton for perjury and then commuting Libby’s sentence on the same charge, and that’s just the latest. They are now for deficits and big government intrusions into everything. I think their track record leads them to believe that they can just make up reasons why the Democratic president is different. I’m not sure they are wrong in that belief, either. It’s worked for them so often before, and now they’ll have the WSJ to bolster Faux News.”

    I couldn’t have said it better. And I’m afraid it won’t be only WSJ and Faux News; the rest of the MSM will join right in.

  17. Arkades

    I think that just before the 2008 election, “something” will happen to cause the Bush administration to declare martial law and suspend the electons.

    If that happens, nothing short of revolution will fix things.

  18. the Cubs are gunning for their third world championship in five years

    YOu had me fully drawn in until this….:-)

    The gamble the Republicans took…remember Karl Rove’s “permanent Republcian majority” trope?…was that they could pervert the Constitution with little resistance because they’d be the ones running the show for the foreseeable future and they’d have political cover.

    But for the very human frailty of greed, they might have.

    It really doesn’t matter who the next President is, hell, it could be Jimmy Carter again for all the good it will do. The djinni is out of the bottle, and there’s not putting it back. America is screwed, totally.

  19. choco chip kooky

    Peanutcat is right. Between Chertoff’s gut feelings and Rick Santorum saying on Hugh Hewitt that “between now and November, a lot of things are going to happen, and I believe that by this time next year, the American public’s (sic) going to have a very different view of this war,” I do believe there’s no way they are going to let things proceed on their current course. But they won’t do it with policy or diplomacy or other such quaint reality-based tools, becaase we all know they don’t work that way. They are going to roll out a new marketing campaign for their favorite product – FEAR: new, improved, and super-sized.

  20. Anyone recall the presidential order the Melissa wrote about several months ago…

    You mean this one?

  21. And, by the way, this is what popped into my mind when I read that presidential order (the above referenced, not the newest one).

  22. nightshift66

    Actor212,
    I’ve worried for over a year now about that very thing. Even IF our worst fears are wrong, and the Dems take the White House and strengthen their control of Congress, will the next occupant have the strength of character to try to stuff this poison back into the bottle? Power is intoxicating. I’m sure I’ll come off as a geek for referring to Lord of the Rings, but the theme that no one can be trusted with the power of the One Ring rings true for that very reason. Acton was right: power corrupts, and it corrupts anyone who has it.

    So, if there is any chance, it would come in the first few months of a new Democratic administration. That would be when these actions could be repudiated, and new legislation enacted to give Congress more tools to reign in the executive. (Since Congress consists of 535 individuals, I don’t fear a tyranny from that quarter.) But if I’m laying odds, I say the most likely outcome is that the Dems do win in 2008, but then proceed to use all that power ‘for good.’ 2nd most likely outcome is GOP wins the White House and the trend toward dictatorship continues, with many of the same supporting cast still there. Cheney & Bush continuing in office is least likely, because in brings the greatest risk of rebellion.

  23. I think that just before the 2008 election, “something” will happen to cause the Bush administration to declare martial law and suspend the elections.

    I’ve been worried for years that the Administration wouldn’t have concentrated so much power in the office of the President unless they were prepared to prevent any Democrat from holding that office, and that power, by any means necessary. Paranoid, I know, but it’s a lingering fear that I can’t seem to shake. My greatest hope is that they’re too incompetent (as they have shown to be at damn near everything else) to pull this off successfully. In the meantime, why don’t you pass the time with a game of solitaire?

  24. I think that just before the 2008 election, “something” will happen to cause the Bush administration to declare martial law and suspend the elections.

    Well, really, if that happens, it’ll be the shortest-lived dictatorship in history. People hate the holy living hell out of George and his cronies. His soldiers will be pinned down in the Middle East, his wingnut allies don’t have the personal courage to leave their Cheeto hideouts to defend him, and the voltage on Cheney’s pacemaker can’t be wired high enough to take out all the people who’d march on Washington.

    I almost wish he’d try it, because we’d get Bush in a prison cell for life and the Republican Party out of all elected offices for at least a couple decades.

  25. Adam

    Describing the GOP’s proclivity for making the rules up as it goes (Constitution? What Constitution?) as Calvinball is genius.

    Long story short, there is really only one crucial difference between Democrats and Republicans today: Democrats, for the most part, respect the Constitution and the American system of government; Republicans, for the most part, don’t.* That, at the end of the day, is why the Republicans, IMO, are willing to stretch the power of the Executive branch so far beyond reason. They know that the Dems, when they inevitably retake the White House, will not abuse that power to the extent that Bush has.

    * – And don’t think it doesn’t irritate me that there is essentially no viable progressive party in America today. We have a conservative party and a radical violently regressive party.

  26. Well, really, if that happens, it’ll be the shortest-lived dictatorship in history.

    You obviously haven’t heard of Blackwater. The largest private army in the world. Owned and run by a Fundi Bastard that believes the Neo-Cons should and will rule the world.

  27. In the dictatorship scenario, one is also assuming that it gets accurately presented to the public. The lack of media attention – let alone outrage – regarding this erosion of the Constitution is a large part of why we’re in this situation, and I don’t see it changing anytime soon.

    I suspect more that there will be a continuation of this sort of creeping tyranny, until there’s a point where, even if the general public becomes aware of it, there is literally nothing we can do, short of violent action – and I rather suspect that the average American will not engage in such. Either they’re used to the system shitting on them, so it’s not noticeably worse; or enough stays comfortable that fighting seems too risky and not worth attempting.

    They’ve been cultivating complacency, apathy, irresponsibility and cynicism in the population for years now – this is a nightmare decades in the making, and it’s not going to be easy to undo – if it ever is.

  28. Susan

    Owned and run by a Fundi Bastard that believes the Neo-Cons should and will rule the world.
    But paid for by us. No one person has enough money to pay a big enough army to intimidate 350 million people in a country this large, so the government would have to pay that army– and we won’t.

  29. Oh, man. What a beautiful scenario. /*dreams delightful dream*/

  30. nightshift66

    Rana hits at the real issue. Americans will not rebel so long as the dictatorship doesn’t interfere with their creature comforts. In a sense, it has ever been thus. About 1/3 of Americans didn’t take sides in the Revolution, just wanting to live their lives in relative peace and comfort, and not caring whether it be under King or in a Republic. About another 1/3 actively supported the monarchy.

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