Showdown Between the Branches?

22:23 Thu 12 Jul 2007
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Is there a showdown between the Executive and Legislative branches looming? The White House is treating Congress rather contemptuously, telling ex-Counsel Harrier Miers not to even show up to her Congressional hearing after getting subpoenaed.

TPMMuckraker did a compilation of what happened at that hearing—everyone else showed up, even if Miers did not. Having their underlings or ex-underlings claim that executive privilege prohibits them from disclosing any discussions they had with the President is already quite ridiculous, but refusing to even show up is something else, and something new.

All of this is in reference to the ongoing scandal concerning the firing of US Attorneys, and regarding the politicization of the Department of Justice. The DoJ seems thoroughly compromised at this point. That’s not too surprising, as the politically-minded and very experienced Republicans would have recognized quite early on that they needed a pet DoJ if they were going to do what they planned.

In my opinion these two clips get across quite well what the atmosphere within the White House is regarding things like legality, responsibility to the American people and the Constitution, and accountability: “oath to the President” and Bush dismissing the question of the morality of Scooter Libby’s actions.

Talking Points Memo suggests that Bush’s instruction to Miers not to even show up could be a felony. Technically, that could well be true, because it sounds extremely dubious that executive privilege could be stretched that far, but I doubt it will matter, as the Bush DoJ could simply refuse to prosecute.

I could see it going that way; Congress might finally get its act together and hold Miers in contempt, and then instruct the DoJ to prosecute that Contempt of Congress case—and the DoJ could turn around and say “Congress, our interpretation of the law is different, so we’re not going to prosecute”.

That, incidentally, would be a complete travesty, and the mark of a very successful political end-run around one of the major checks on executive privilege. If Congress can’t even get Bush administration officials to testify about whether there’s any wrongdoing occurring (or if any has occurred), that renders Congress entirely toothless as a watchdog.

At that point, impeachment proceedings of some kind would be the only option I can see. Not necessarily of Bush, but possibly of DoJ officials, even theoretically Jeffrey Taylor, the current (temporary) US Attorney for Washington, D.C.

Whether Congress has the guts and/or the votes do this is another matter. Even if they do, after an impeachment vote in the House of Representatives, the Senate has to vote—and presiding over this part of the process is none other than the Vice President, who happens right now to be Dick Cheney.

If matters become deadlocked, it’ll likely go to the Judicial branch, and naturally all the way to the Supreme Court, which of course has a Republican-appointed majority. And is mostly composed of the same people who installed Bush in the White House in 2000.

It’s possible that the Democrats, looking ahead at the mess in front of them, might compromise in some way, although the White House doesn’t look too much like they want to compromise at all.

In any case, it should be quite apparent that by taking political control of the appropriate choke points, exerting political power ruthlessly, and being (as far as I can see) utterly devoid of shame, the Bush administration will be able to get away with more or less whatever it wants.

Another reason I believe this is that I think the major media outlets, not even including those that are essentially part of the GOP, will fall all over themselves telling America and the world that whatever happens is perfectly legal, normal, ethical, moral, and sensible. That everything is above board, no funny business is going on, no corruption has touched the shining edifice of Constitutional goodness that is the American system of government, and all the decision-makers involved made their decisions based on the purest of high-minded legal reasoning without any partisan considerations whatsoever. Because that’s what they did after the debacle of the 2000 election, with the complicity of the Democratic Party. Nobody wanted to arouse the masses, for if you let them realize that the whole thing has become a sham, who knows what they might do.

So, judging the appearance of propriety and legality more important than enforcing propriety and legality, the media and the various other parties involved will insist that everything is just fine, the system is still working (doubtless some will say that various problems “show that the system works”), and hey elections are just around the corner and voting for one of the approved candidates will fix everything anyway.

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