Hey Congress, Who Do You Think You Are?

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Corlyss_D
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Hey Congress, Who Do You Think You Are?

Post by Corlyss_D » Wed May 31, 2006 9:02 pm

May 31, 2006
Hey Congress, Who Do You Think You Are?
By Tom Bevan

If only we could get the NSA to start spying on members of Congress. Tap their phones and read their email, no warrants necessary. We could call it a "Corruption Surveillance Program," and leak the details to the New York Times to make sure everyone in Congress is made aware they're being watched.

I'm being facetious, of course, in part to help elicit an image of the howls of righteous indignation such a program would prompt in Washington D.C. If Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert throws a "separation of powers" tantrum over the idea of letting the FBI perform a basic, carefully vetted search of the office of a Congressman who is by most accounts almost certainly guilty of taking a bribe, imagine the cacophony of teeth-gnashing that would ensue on the Hill at the mere suggestion that members' emails and phone calls be subject to scrutiny.

The point is that our humble public servants in Washington D.C. seem to be experiencing an identity crisis in that they're not acting very humble of late nor do they appear all that devoted to serving the public interest.

That may be a bit unfair to many, if not most of the 535 elected officials in the nation's capitol who are good people doing their honest best. As is so often the case in politics, however, perception is reality. And right now the perception is that members of Congress don't feel they have to live by the same rules the rest of us do.

The average American can't smack a police officer without getting arrested. He can't smash his car into a stationary barrier at three in the morning, get out stumbling and slurring, and then get a ride home and a pat on the back from the cops. And he certainly can't complain to any real effect about the FBI entering his co-worker's office with a warrant and just cause seeking evidence to support credible allegations of bribery.

Congress has been plagued for decades by the general perception that influence peddling and corruption is part of how the system works and that "everybody does it." These days, however, the public has at its fingertips a number of tangible and quite seedy examples that fit this perception to a tee; lavish skyboxes, hookers, poker games, $2,800 dinners, free golf trips and ringside seats, and wads of cash stuffed in freezers. That's not exactly what most Americans would consider "doing the people's business," if you know what I mean.

A good part of the brilliance and the success behind the 1994 Republican revolution is that it tapped into a deep vein of public disgust toward incumbent members of Congress who had grown arrogant and accustomed to a sense of entitlement. Newt Gingrich understood what a powerful political force this could be, and it's no coincidence the list of reforms contained in the Contract with America began with this: "FIRST, require all laws that apply to the rest of the country also apply equally to the Congress."

A short twelve years later we're back to a situation where Congress is displaying a sense of entitlement that borders on arrogance and an unwillingness to seriously reform itself. The American people are tolerant, but they aren't stupid and their tolerance has limits. If members of Congress continue to demonstrate the sort of poor judgment and sense of entitlement we've grown accustomed to seeing lately, don't be surprised to see the public avail themselves of the remedy provided to them by our constitutional republic this November and send a number of incumbents packing.
Tom Bevan is the co-founder and Executive Editor of RealClearPolitics. Email: tom@realclearpolitics.com

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Werner
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Post by Werner » Thu Jun 01, 2006 12:04 am

That would probably not be a bad idea. But there is another aspect to this issue. We're seeing a claim of members of Congress protecting other members - even of the other Party - against enforcement of generally accepted laws and conduct. There was, in the Nixon days - an equally noxious claim of "executive privilege." And no less an enforcer of moral standards than Tom Delay proposed to make sure the Judiciary lived up to standard - Tom DeLay's standard?

So who will make sure the three branches act morally or legally?
Werner Isler

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Post by Madame » Thu Jun 01, 2006 12:34 am

So who will make sure the three branches act morally or legally?

Aye, there's the rub. I fear the sneaky executive branch far more than Congress. Before anybody can say "no", they've already done it.



<dodging Contessa's spit balls>

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Post by Corlyss_D » Thu Jun 01, 2006 12:56 pm

Werner wrote:There was, in the Nixon days - an equally noxious claim of "executive privilege."
:roll: The difference is that "executive privilege" is widely and judicially recognized political doctrine, not a shield against criminal activity. The ranting of the legislative princes posits a novel and untested doctrine whose sole purpose is to obstruct justice, I don't care how much they repeat their claims to the contrary. That's why they and their arguments have to get off the front pages. The longer they keep talking about it, the more disgusted the public becomes. I think Blankley was being too kind to Hastert - he's a dullard.
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Post by Corlyss_D » Thu Jun 01, 2006 1:00 pm

Madame wrote:So who will make sure the three branches act morally or legally?

Aye, there's the rub. I fear the sneaky executive branch far more than Congress. Before anybody can say "no", they've already done it.



<dodging Contessa's spit balls>
We have been in an era of the Imperial Congress now for over 30 years. The fact that so many of them run for president reveals much of what is going on here. The Congress has the capacity to grind government to a complete standstill. That can be amusing in peacetime, but in wartime, that's dangerous. Someone needs to act rather than talk. And the Congress ain't it. Somebody has to be in charge. And Congress ain't it.
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Post by Corlyss_D » Thu Jun 01, 2006 7:16 pm

Red Tape, Yellow Tape

House Speaker Denny Hastert had half a valid Constitutional point when he teamed up with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to protest the sudden FBI raid on the Capitol Hill office of Rep. William Jefferson, a Louisiana Democrat who was found to have kept $90,000 in alleged bribery cash in his freezer.

But the nuances of that argument have been lost in the general public ridicule of what average voters view as an attempt to put members of Congress above the law. Mr. Hastert took some heat during a closed-door session with Republican members last Thursday over his siding with opponents of the FBI raid. Meanwhile, Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, a Florida Republican, has gone so far as to announce she will introduce a resolution criticizing the Hastert-Pelosi effort to shield congressional offices from law enforcement actions. "I am extremely disappointed that some in this body -- including the Speaker and the Minority Leader -- feel that somehow our actions are sacrosanct and above public scrutiny," Ms. Brown-Waite said. "We are sending the wrong message to our constituents when we say that Congress is off limits to federal inspection."

Dick Morris, the political consultant who used to counsel Bill Clinton on how to get out of jams, says Mr. Hastert would do best to cut his losses and stop complaining now that President Bush has agreed to work out a compromise on the disposition of Mr. Jefferson's congressional papers. "It is absolutely incredible that a Congress that regularly ransacks the files and offices of the Executive Branch finds it so reprehensible when the FBI does to one of its members what it does to any other American citizen -- make a lawful search to gather evidence of a crime following probable cause," he says.

-- John Fund
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Post by Ralph » Thu Jun 01, 2006 9:13 pm

Corlyss_D wrote:
Werner wrote:There was, in the Nixon days - an equally noxious claim of "executive privilege."
:roll: The difference is that "executive privilege" is widely and judicially recognized political doctrine, not a shield against criminal activity. The ranting of the legislative princes posits a novel and untested doctrine whose sole purpose is to obstruct justice, I don't care how much they repeat their claims to the contrary. That's why they and their arguments have to get off the front pages. The longer they keep talking about it, the more disgusted the public becomes. I think Blankley was being too kind to Hastert - he's a dullard.
*****

Executive Privilege is a constitutional doctrine. See Marbury v. Madison. WHAT constitutes lawful use of that doctrine is another matter.
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Corlyss_D
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Post by Corlyss_D » Fri Jun 02, 2006 3:16 pm

Ralph wrote:Executive Privilege is a constitutional doctrine. See Marbury v. Madison. WHAT constitutes lawful use of that doctrine is another matter.
It's only leverage is as a political doctrine, to keep Congress from running barefoot thru the decisional papers of Executives from the other party. The Executive gets to keep only that which Congress either doesn't really want to know about or that which Congress will continue funding despite the Executive's refusal to disgorge material. In other words, the Executive gets to keep only that which the public will let it keep, which is why an aggressive public information campaign is crucial to any and every White House. And why this administration is so bolloxed up: it don't court Congress, it don't court the public, so it dances alone. Marshall gave the Executive cover, but it's up to the Executive, not the Courts, to make the doctrine effective.
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