Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Presidential Power Grab

PBS’s Frontline just aired “Cheney’s Law” that examined the VP’s rise to power and his efforts through to enhance the power of the executive branch. Chapter 1 of the program shows the reasons why Cheney became a “fanatic about executive power.” When he became vice president, Cheney's philosophy of the executive branch, as boiled down by former presidential adviser David Gergen, was “the Congress, in effect, works for us, not with us. That we’re the lead branch, not a co-equal branch.” In Chapter 2, Cheney is reported as saying on the morning of 9/11, “We will probably have to be a country ruled by men, rather than laws in this period.” The other chapters show how Cheney and his office acted on their own through the Justice Department to build presidential power without regard for Congress and the American people.

In his Sunday Op-Ed piece, Frank Rich talks about “This perfect storm of democratic failure [which] began at the top,” that led to the Iraq war. But his piece focuses specifically on the public’s apathy regarding to Iraq: “As the war has dragged on, it is hard to give Americans en masse a pass. We are too slow to notice, let alone protest, the calamities that have followed the original sin.” A weak Congress, a media that gave a free pass in the run-up to the war, and a fearful public that isn’t informed or willing to participate: It’s not only a perfect storm that led to the Iraq war, but a perfect storm that led to a presidential power grab.

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