Thursday, December 22, 2005

Watergate and the return of the Imperial Presidency

A couple of weeks ago, before I went on holiday, I watched the documentary "Watergate+30" on the Watergate scandal. The defining feature of Watergate was not the break-ins, the wiretaps and other gross abuses of power, but a President who thought he was above the law - best summed up in the quote from Nixon's lawyer in United States v. Nixon that

The President wants me to argue that he is as powerful a monarch as Louis XIV, only four years at a time, and is not subject to the processes of any court in the land except the court of impeachment.

The reason this is interesting is because it is happening again. On torture, and now on wiretapping, the Bush Administration is claiming that the law does not apply, that it can be rewritten on the whim of the President - in short, that "when the President does it, that means that it's not illegal".

This proposition was tested thirty years ago, in United States v. Nixon, and fifty years ago, in Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer, and in both cases the US Supreme Court rejected it. Instead, they stood up for one of the US's founding principles: that they are a nation of laws, not men. And when Bush's illegal wiretapping scheme eventually makes it to court, hopefully they will do the same.


It is funny that King Richard (Nixon) and King George (Bush) have wiretaps in common in their scandals. What is it with listening in on the phone?

Posted by Hans Versluys : 12/22/2005 09:37:00 AM

Newsflash: Clinton and Carter did exactly the same. There's precious little difference between the Democrats & Republicans.

Posted by Duncan Bayne : 12/23/2005 10:58:00 AM

Newsflash: No, they fucking didn't. Unlike Bush, they required that such spying not impact on US citizens. Unlike Bush, they complied with the law.

But hey, "slime and defend" has never really been about facts, has it?

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 12/23/2005 11:38:00 AM