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"Dedicated to exposing the lies and impeachable offenses of George W. Bush"


Deceit over spying -- prelude to long-term lame-duck president
San Francisco Chronicle
Pete McCloskey, Lewis H. Butler
December 23, 2005

It is always a sad thing for the nation when a president is caught telling less than the full truth.

In the late 1950s, a CIA U-2 spy plane piloted by Gary Powers at 50,000 feet was shot down over the Soviet Union. President Eisenhower, believing that Powers could not have survived, advised the world that it was a "routine weather flight which had strayed by mistake." The Russians then produced a live and penitent Powers. We were embarrassed before the world, but worse, we had to come to grips with the reality that our president had lied to us.

The resulting loss of faith in our leadership has continued to the present day. Faith in our own government and its truthfulness is a key ingredient in our strength as a nation.

So it was when the New York Times disclosed last week President Bush's deliberate evasion of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The president's half-truths in defense of his actions will have perhaps a greater long-range impact on public faith and the national security than his deliberate violation of the act, which had been carefully crafted by Congress to create a special secret court where the administration could go to obtain secret warrants for wiretaps against persons deemed national-security threats. In an emergency, the act allowed the president to perform the wiretaps without a warrant so long as he advised the court within three days thereafter. Thousands of warrants have been duly issued by the court, and few requests were denied.

When called to account, the president said in a nationally televised press conference that he had evaded the act because of the need to act speedily in an emergency against the type of individual who had been communicating by cell phone prior to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. This was not wholly truthful. As noted above, the act allowed him to perform a wiretap without a warrant in an emergency. Under long-standing American law, omission of a material fact is as much a fraud as a deliberate lie.

In taking this position, President Bush was also claiming an authority that has been denied to presidents since the earliest days of our republic.

At a time of bitter rivalry on the high seas with Britain and France following our War for Independence, Congress had given the president the power to seize ships carrying contraband into foreign ports. Congress had not, however, given him the authority to seize ships coming out of foreign ports. Under remarkably similar circumstances to those of today, President John Adams in 1802 ordered our naval commanders to seize ships coming from, as well as going to, foreign ports. Capt. George Little, commanding the frigate Boston, seized a ship, the Flying Fish, coming out of a port in the Caribbean. In 1804, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall ruled in the landmark case of Little vs. Bareme that while the president could, as commander in chief, do whatever he wished to defend the country, once the Congress acted, his powers would be limited by that act of Congress. Marshall ruled that the president had therefore exceeded his powers and ordered the ship returned to its owners. That constitutional ruling has been the law of the land for 201 years.

When President Harry Truman ordered seizure of the nation's steel mills during the Korean War, the Supreme Court ruled that he had violated the Taft-Hartley Act and ordered the mills returned to their owners. Recently, the Supreme Court ruled that in the case of detainees held in the so-called war on terror, the president was bound by congressionally enacted restrictions.

The president's evasion of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was bad enough, but in his statement to the public, his blatant omission of the fact that the act gave him the emergency power for wiretaps may have done incalculable damage to the dwindling faith of Americans in their government, a loss of faith that could be seriously detrimental to the president's goals during the remaining three years of his term of office.

The attempted cover-up of illegal conduct has had terrible consequences for previous occupants of the White House. In 1974, impeachment proceedings were initiated against President Nixon, in part because publication of the Pentagon Papers by the New York Times in June 1971, had caused the White House to propose the infamous "Huston Plan" to authorize secret wiretaps and burglaries. The refusal of FBI Chief J. Edgar Hoover to exercise this authority led, in turn, to the creation of John Ehrlichman's famous Plumbers (to plug leaks). The cover-up of the Plumbers' burglaries, finally confirmed in the White House tapes, led ultimately to the House of Representatives voting for articles of impeachment and the subsequent resignation of President Richard Nixon in August 1974.

So also, it was President Bill Clinton's obfuscation of the truth, not his sexual peccadilloes, that led to impeachment proceedings against him.

There is little danger of impeachment in today's Republican-controlled Congress, but the president's angry and mistaken defense of his actions may yet hinder achievement of his goal of continuation of many provisions of the Patriot Act, and even his goal of achieving a permanent democracy in Iraq.

If the price of freedom is eternal vigilance, so also do we pay a price for presidential deceit.

Pete McCloskey represented the Peninsula as a Republican Congressman from 1967 to 1982. Lewis H. Butler was formerly secretary for policy in the Department of Health, Education and Welfare in the Nixon administration. They are co-chairmen of the Revolt of the Elders Coalition, which examines and publishes the actions and views of the Republican leadership in Congress.

Commentary:
Isn't is odd that few newspapers talk of removing Bush from office or even suggesting republicans can or should rise above partisan politics and do what's good for the country? The media should be talking about shaming republicans into doing their jobs which means removing him from office as soon as possible. But it appears the media thinks republicans (at least republicans in congress) are too corrupt to even consider impeaching a criminal because he's in their party.