There is something bracing about a Congress, or a congressional committee, that embraces its oversight and investigatory powers with a kind of constitutional “old testament” righteousness. Our constitutional founders created a divided government for very good reasons — and even though this model of shared governance amongst three co-equal branches is messy, inefficient, and at times politically distasteful — when the pendulum of “checks and balances” gains a particular civic rhythm, the insights and research unleashed are extremely satisfying.
Exhibit A in this democratic discourse is the House Judiciary Committee report: REINING IN THE IMPERIAL PRESIDENCY: Lessons and Recommendations Relating to
the Presidency of George W. Bush. This 487 page report details many of the long-standing objections about how President Bush chose to exercise his authority — often at the expense of the people and other branches of government. That is not to say, obviously, that the other branches were innocent bystanders in this constitutional encroachment. When the Congress was under the thumb of either republicans or democrats, our legislative leaders showed little constitutional backbone to push back against the presidents power grab. Only the supreme court demonstrated some sense of the limitations on Bush’s treatment of the war prisoners.
Of particular interest to this community is the report’s Section 5: Government in the Shadows: Executive Privilege, Secrecy, and the Manipulation of Intelligence and Section 4 – Misuse of Executive Branch Authority. As we enter a new political season that attempts to walk back the cat on many of these policies and programs, I can think of no better primer that enables any engaged citizen/librarian on what went wrong and how to get back to a more reasonable constitutional ecosystem.
See you on Day 8.
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