For the record: We’re a dictatorship

A door slammed shut in Washington, D.C. yesterday. That few Americans heard it will not diminish the deafening echoes to come. Future historians will note 2007 as the year the United States completed its transition from democratic republic to dictatorship. Like rising gasoline prices, the changes crept up on most Americans. The Bush Regime began its march to dictatorship as soon as it came to power in 2001, issuing more signing statements than any previous administration. What’s a signing statement?

The usual course of legislation at the Federal level, is for a bill to be jointly approved by the House and Senate. These two bodies comprise the Legislative Branch, the voice of the people. It then goes to the president, the Executive Branch. The president may choose to sign the bill into law, or veto it. If he vetoes the bill, the Legislative Branch, if it can summon enough votes, may overrule the veto, forcing the bill into law despite the president’s veto. Signing statements are how Bush has circumvented the Legislative Branch; in other words, circumvented We the People.

Bush has signed more than 750 bills into law, while at the same time attaching signing statements detailing the parts of the laws with which he will or will not comply. Because he signed the bill into law, Congress cannot vote to overturn the signing statement. Signing statements may have their place, but it’s hard to imagine they were needed more than 750 times in only one administration.

Another example (there are several, so like the administration, I’m cherry-picking the data) of our decline into dictatorship was the White House’s stonewalling on the outing of CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson. While publicly stating he would fire anyone who contributed to the leak, his staff did all they could to thwart the Special Prosecutor. Two administration officials, Richard Armitage and Karl Rove, have been identified as leakers. Armitage, formerly at the State Department, has left the building, but Karl Rove is still very present in the White House.

To add insult to injury, Bush then went over the head of the Scooter Libby trial judge (whom Bush appointed!) and commuted Libby’s prison sentence. Paris Hilton has done more jail time than Libby. Note that Libby has never apologized, never shown one tear of remorse for committing perjury. And why should he? Where did Libby get the $250,400 to pay his fine in the case? He was paid off by wealthy supporters of the regime to go away quietly.

Last Fall, Americans returned control of congress to the Democratic Party. At the time this was seen as public repudiation of the Iraq War. Polls show more than 70 per cent of Americans feel we should be removing our combat forces from Iraq. These are not empty numbers floating in cyberspace, they represent the will of the American people. But Bush has more than once stated that he will not be influenced by polls.

Speaking to conservative writers last week, Bush said, “It’s more of a theological perspective. I do believe there is an Almighty, and I believe a gift of that Almighty to all is freedom. And I will tell you that is a principle that no one can convince me that doesn’t exist.” That statement begs the question: Whose freedom?

Because now Bush has made one more giant step toward dictatorship. It is generally accepted that the White House pressured the Department of Justice (part of the Judicial Branch, the other increasingly irrelevant branch of government) to fire U.S. District Attorneys who weren’t willing to pursue investigations of alleged election fraud against Democratic Party officials in their districts. Congress has justifiably subpoenaed present and former employees of the White House and Justice Department. Once again, the Executive Branch has thwarted this congressional investigation by claiming “executive privilege.” Yesterday was the last straw, the one that broke our republic and moved us into dictatorship.

Congress wants to charge the witnesses with contempt for refusing to testify. A congressional contempt citation is normally passed to the Justice Department for prosecution. Yesterday, the White House announced that Justice will never be allowed to pursue contempt charges initiated by Congress against White House officials once the president has invoked executive privilege. The linked article quotes California Democrat Henry Waxman as saying, “I suppose the next step would be just disbanding the Justice Department.” He might well have added both houses of congress to the list.

Our government was created in three branches, Executive, Legislative and Judicial, so that no one group could gain ascendancy over the others. Including the Executive. With signing statements and compulsive assertions of executive privilege, the president has rendered the other branches of our government irrelevant. The United States government now serves at the will of George W. Bush, not the will of the American people. The Justice Department has been perverted to the purpose of destroying Bush’s political opponents. The Legislative Branch is on notice that it can do anything it wants, but only what Bush wants will come to pass.

The American people no longer have a voice in their own government. American citizens have been arrested and detained without recourse even to legal counsel. (Attorney General Gonzales himself committed perjury when he told congress that the FBI had never violated civil rights while pursuing investigations under the PATRIOT Acts.) The Executive Branch has turned the Judicial Branch into an arm of political enforcement; and the powers of the Legislative Branch have been nullified. We are, therefore, American citizens no more, as we have no guaranteed rights or privileges.

Aside: I relished the re-election of George Bush in 2004 because I felt sure he would take us deeper into darkness. There are serious shortcomings in our Constitution. None of its authors believed the Constitution would endure as long as it has. It was considered a good first draft, to be revisited and revised by later generations. That men of Bush’s and Cheney’s treachery have only recently come to power was only our good fortune, not the result of an ironclad Constitution.

Some readers will hold their breath until 2008, hoping that Hillary Clinton, or whoever becomes our next president, will undo the damage. But numerous precendents have been set. The American people supported this increasingly repressive regime, to the point of re-electing it only a few years ago. Had the Iraq War not turned into a bloody nightmare, they would still be blessing Bush as the Second Coming. As was the case post-9/11, Americans have seen the evidence of their ignorance, but have failed to learn the lessons.

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