Democrats and Republicans in Congress are fuming over the revelation that President George W. Bush secretly authorized domestic eavesdropping without court approval. Senators Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) and Arlen Specter (R-Penn.) said they intend to hold hearings on the matter.
For the record, we owe Senator Feingold a debt of appreciation for how he single-handedly (at first) stood up against a broadside assault against our Bill of Rights in the form of the USA Patriot Act which was passed by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and was (and still is) intensely lobbied for by the White House. Feingold's stubborn resistance to the Patriot Act was rewarded last week when senators from both parties rallied in sufficient numbers to support his filibuster, thus stopping the Patriot Act (for the moment) dead in its tracks. Thank you, Senator Feingold!
In commenting on President Bush's decision to unilaterally issue domestic eavesdropping orders, Feingold said, "The president has, I think, made up a law that we never passed." Senator Specter said, "They talk about constitutional authority. There are limits as to what the president can do."
Other senators weighed in on the subject, as well. Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) said, "President Bush needs to explain why he chose to ignore the law that requires approval of a special court for domestic wiretaps."
Senator Harry Reid (D-Nevada) has also called for an investigation. He said, "The president can't pass the buck on this one. He's commander in chief. But commander in chief does not trump the Bill of Rights."
Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich.) was even more direct. He said, "Where does he [President Bush] find in the Constitution the authority to tap the wires and the phones of American citizens without any court oversight?"
Feingold added, "He [Bush] is the president, not a king."
While it is true that many of the senators quoted in this column have heretofore often been negligent in their adherence to the Constitution (the McCain/Feingold Campaign Finance Reform bill being a prime example), in this case, they are right on target! President Bush has no authority to order domestic spying without court oversight. None.
It appears painfully true that, in the name of "fighting terrorism," the Bush administration is intent on dismantling America's Bill of Rights. What is worse is there appears to be a sizeable segment of our country that seems fine with it.
Several readers have recently written me saying (paraphrase), "I would gladly surrender my constitutional liberties contained in the Bill of Rights in order for my government to keep me safe." The folly and naïveté of such thinking is staggering!
Virtually every dictator and despot of history assumed control over their respective peoples by promising peace and security. No tyrant tells his people, "I'm going to enslave you and subject you to acts of terror." They all ascended to power with assurances of prosperity and protection.
The American people, especially Christian conservatives, need to face reality: it appears that the Bush administration has assumed king-like powers, has trampled the Constitution and Bill of Rights, and has broken the law! And unless the American people want to trash the Constitution and turn our country over to some kind of monarchal or oligarchic form of government, no leader, not even the President of the United States is above the law!
Please remember that President Bush took an oath to support, protect, and defend the U.S. Constitution. The deliberate violation of that oath, even if done with good intentions, must never be tolerated by the American people.
Therefore, every American should insist that both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives conduct bipartisan investigations into the conduct of President Bush. Only Congress has the authority to hold the Executive Branch of government accountable to the American people and to the Constitution. After all, without the checks and balances of the Constitution, without allegiance to the enumerated powers of the Constitution, without fidelity to the Bill of Rights, America would become no better than the terrorist nations our president says he is trying to protect us from!
© Chuck Baldwin
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