Tuesday, January 30, 2007The 2006 elections were not a victory. They were an opportunity. While we may breathe more easily knowing that we are no longer subject to reactionary one-party rule, all we have truly gained is the potential to prevent further harm to the country. It will take political will on the part of our new Democratic majority if matters are to improve. And more, it will require a recognition that any meaningful opposition to the Bush administration's reckless policies is likely to lead to a constititutional crisis.
Not to say we are not in such a crisis already. We have been, and for years. The difference is that now rather than an creeping crisis - the kind easy to ignore - we will have a dramatic one.
Yesterday's executive order is a good example. The Bush administration has issued an executive order requiring federal agencies to rout all public statements through a political appointee. These party hacks closely resemble the "Deputy on Mission" during the French Revolution and the Party Officers under the Soviets. Their mandate is to enforce ideological purity on their charges, to make sure that nothing contradicting His Master's Voice will ever reach the public.
Bush's latest maneuver represents a number of dangers. The most obvious is that by muzzling federal agencies and distorting their reports, he will be able to further his agenda of selling government policy to the highest (corporate) bidder, gutting environmental laws and perverting scientific research.
This is also a part of an effort to convert the federal service into an arm of the Republican party. For years they have worked to gut civil service protections, suborning federal agencies where they could not pack them. Their radical policy is to return to the corruption and incompetence of the spoils system.
But the most serious consequence of this action is to further concentrate power in the hands of the executive. No President - not even Nixon - has done more to undermine the constitutional balance of powers than Bush. Signing statements, warrantless spying, the attack on the Courts, the smothering of dissent, the gross expansion of the role of "commander in chief," and now the annexation of independent federal agencies - all of these are of a piece: unconstrained executive power. It would be redundant to explain how antithetical these imperial ambitions are to the principle of free government.
Every President has attempted to control the bureaucracy, and every Congress has resisted such encroachments. Every Congress but the last one. It is now up to the Democratic Congress to right the balance. It is inevitable that Bush will oppose every effort to constrain his power, but the Democratic majority can take confidence in the fact that the American people have long since abandoned this President. He is alone, and must be reduced to the discredited triviality that the will of the people and the defense of the Constitution requires.