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Monday, July 31, 2006

Far Too Close For Comfort

That George W. Bush knowingly imitates Richard Nixon is bad enough. That Congress lets him is worse.
by Rhonda Chriss Lokeman

There was a cancer growing on the presidency, and if the cancer was not removed, the president himself would be killed by it.

It is discouraging that more parallels haven't been drawn between the Richard Nixon and Bush II administrations. We've forgotten the perils of unchecked abuse of executive power.

We forgot Watergate.

The scandal was named for a third-rate burglary in Washington but was only a part of Richard Nixon's vast right-wing conspiracy.
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CONTINUED:

Nixon was at war in Southeast Asia and at home. His domestic agenda violated the Bill of Rights, including the Fourth Amendment's prohibition of unlawful searches and seizures without probable cause. His enemies list included businessmen (Howard Stein, Dreyfus Corp.), entertainers (Paul Newman), journalists (Daniel Schorr), congressmen, and labor and peace activists.

Presumably, President Bush also has an enemies list that includes Joseph Wilson, Valerie Plame, the New York Times, celebrities and civil libertarians.

That President Bush knowingly imitates Nixon is bad enough. That Congress lets him is unconscionable. Defending America is more important than defending the presidency. Lawmakers must exercise constitutional authority and investigate and punish for any unlawful acts or high crimes and misdemeanors.

First there was the weapons-of-mass-destruction hoax that has led to the deaths of more than 2,500 troops in Iraq. Then there was the vengeful outing of a CIA agent, the wife of a vocal critic. Now the White House willfully obstructs justice.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales told lawmakers that Bush personally impeded the inquiry into the president's authorization allowing the National Security Agency to intercept Americans' international calls and e-mails.

The secretive Bushvolk say they are protecting America from suspected enemies of America, such as terrorists. But what's to say that, like Nixon, they aren't also spying on individuals who personally offend them or vote against their issues?

If Bush's NSA directive sounds familiar, it should.

In several 1970 secret memos, Nixon's apparatchiks conceived a domestic scheme to:

# Have the NSA monitor "communications of U.S. citizens using international communications."

# Permit electronic surveillance "of individuals and groups in the United States who posed a major threat to the internal security."

# Intercept private mail.

# Engage in surreptitious and unlawful entry.

Nixon rationalized his actions with anti-communism. Bush uses the war on terror. Both men trampled the Bill of Rights, obstructed justice, and resisted judicial and legislative reviews.

Nixon was forced to resign. The gutsiest challenge to Bush-Cheney has been Sen. Russ Feingold's censure resolution. In March, Senate Resolution 398 proposed censure for: unlawful electronic surveillance of Americans, failure to inform congressional committees according to law, and deliberately misleading Americans, using dubious legal claims.

A Watergate ghost, John Dean III, reappeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee to testify for Bush's censure. Despite his Nixonian credentials -- or perhaps because of them -- Dean's words bear repeating:

"It has been the announced policy of the Bush-Cheney presidency ... to expand presidential power for its own sake, and it continually searched for avenues to do just that. ... I do fear the Bush-Cheney government, and the precedents they are creating, because this administration is caught up in the rectitude of its own self-righteousness, and for all practical purposes this presidency has remained largely unchecked by its constitutional co-equals."

We have nothing to fear but fear itself. Let us never again forget that.

© 2006 Star Tribune
SOURCE:
Far Too Close For Comfort

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