Sunday, December 16, 2007

Bush and Cheney had many willing Republican accomplices in Congress

Republican Politics, American Style
Published on August 23rd 2007 in Metro Eireann By Charles Laffiteau

While I believe that Vice President Cheney was the primary architect behind the scenes designing many of the Bush administration’s disastrous and short-sighted foreign and domestic policies, both he and the President needed many willing accomplices in order to carry out these policies.
Unlike many other countries, political power in the United States is first divided between the states’ governments and the national (federal) government and then between three branches within each of these levels of government. Over the past 200 years the US federal government has also gradually acquired more power at the expense of state governments thru a variety of judicial, legislative and bureaucratic means. Within the federal government, the executive branch, headed by the elected US President, has also gradually acquired more power at the expense of the legislative branch, which is the US Congress of elected state representatives and state senators.
The role of the judicial branch at both levels of government is to uphold and enforce state or federal laws and constitutions as well as to decide any disputes between the state or federal government’s respective executive and legislative branches, based on state or federal constitutions. The US Supreme Court is the ultimate authority which determines when state laws are invalid because they conflict with federal laws or the US Constitution, the constitutionality of laws passed by the US Congress and any disputes between Congress and the President over the President’s powers in any given situation. While state judges may be either appointed or elected officials depending on the state, all federal judges are appointed by the President but must first be approved by a majority in Congress.
The framers of the US and most states’ constitutions were very sensitive to the potential for abuse of power within government. That is why they wisely only gave each branch of government powers that they believed would allow them to fulfil the needs of citizens but that also could be checked by the respective powers of one or more of the other branches in order to protect the citizens from abuse by their state or federal governments. In this way both federal and state governments are meant to function as a system of checks and balances that prevents abuse of political power. By and large US government does in fact work this way, but not always.
When one political party holds a significant majority of legislative seats in addition to the elected offices of governor or President, either or both branches of government find themselves in a position of great power, with only the judicial branch acting as a possible obstacle to the unfettered use and abuse of their powers. But if the judiciary is also composed of judges elected as members of that same party or are party members appointed and confirmed by members of that same party, then there is really no effective limit on the exercise and or abuse of their political power.
When Bush was first elected in 2000, he took office in 2001 with solid majorities in both houses of Congress and with a US Supreme Court divided between conservative and moderate justices, but all but two of whom had been appointed by previous Republican Presidents. The last time that either political party had held such power was during the 8 years from 1961 thru 1968 when the Democratic Party held sway and the United States became mired in the Vietnam War.
President Bush further consolidated Republican power within the US Supreme Court by effectively using the Republican majority in Congress to confirm the nominations of two more conservative Supreme Court justices in place of more moderate judges who had died and retired during the first year of his second term. These two judges also overcame the opposition of some Democrats who were trying to act in a bi-partisan manner in the Senate confirmation hearings, by claiming to have the utmost respect for the rulings of previous Supreme Courts and the precedents set by these rulings. However, both judges in their written opinions have since shown a disregard for precedent and an eagerness to overturn or reverse previous court rulings.

While I was supportive of Bush and the Republican Party’s tax cuts at the beginning of his first term in office, I felt the US could afford these tax cuts since we had just experienced four consecutive years of tax surpluses during Democratic President Bill Clinton’s last term in office. But when the events of 9/11 resulted in a need to boost government spending to pay for increased military and security needs, I felt those tax cuts should be rescinded rather than returning to the days of ballooning federal budget deficits adding trillions of dollars to the National Debt.
I and other Republicans as well as fiscally conservative Democrats view deficit spending as a slow growing cancer for our nation’s economy. It is like a credit card which paying the interest alone on will eventually bankrupt the nation’s economy and lower our or our children’s standard of living. If you are a US citizen, your share of the National Debt today is almost $30,000. You pay interest on this debt, through your taxes, every year. Then future generations too young to vote will also pay interest on this debt, even though they never borrowed the money.
I can excuse many of the Republican and Democrats in Congress for being stampeded by manipulated intelligence reports into supporting Bush’s invasion of Iraq and his so called war on terror, but not for their decision to avoid paying for it. Deficit spending is simply bad economic policy and it was my Republican Party legislators who acted as willing accomplices and rubberstamped the use of a credit card by Bush to finance his misguided invasion of Iraq.
But the Republicans in Congress also compounded this fiscal mistake by supporting Bush on another politically attractive domestic spending bill which also helped get Bush re-elected. I’ll discuss this and other betrayals of Republican Party principles next week.

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