After six years of Republican rule and what would generously be described as lax Congressional oversight of the executive, the Democrats are finally attempting to reign in the Bush Administration. Today, Democrats on the Judiciary Committee called for a special prosecutor to investigate the lies Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has been serving during his Senate hearings, and Congress is moving ahead with contempt charges against Josh Bolten and Harriet Miers. While it is disgraceful that Mr. Gonzales still occupies the top legal seat in the country, there is a deeper issue to the recent investigations into the Bush Administration: the very structure of our Government.
With little comment from the media or opposition voices, the Bush Administration has pushed the boundaries of Executive power in the name of a ‘unitary executive’ theory. In its simplest form, the theory places the president above all other branches of the government, especially in matters of security and foreign policy. When the Bush Administration asserts that executive privilege can block even the appearance of aides before oversight committees, it is placing itself above the law. The Bush Administration’s theory of the unitary executive turns Congress into a rubber stamp, and ignores the co-equal branches of government established by the Constitution.
The founders of our country created a governmental structure that separated power and responsibility so as to keep any one branch from rising above the others. The founders recognized the corrupting influence of absolute power: an influence that appears more and more pervasive as the inner-workings of the Bush Administration are brought to light.
The Bush Administration’s response to critics appears to be little more than “trust us.” The point is that our government is structued so that we don’t have to place faith in the vicisitudes and personality of any particular executive – if they had wanted a king, the founders were more than familiar with how to establish one. No executive, whether a Republican or a Democrat, in times of peace or war, should wield absolute power without oversight. A well-functioning democracy rests on principles of openness and accountability. Hopefully Congress can bring these fundamental principles back into our government.
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