Yesterday Cass Sunstein, an advisor to Barack Obama and fellow U. Chicago constitutional law teacher, was interviewed (by Amy Goodman) about Obama’s and his view of Bush abuses of executive power, and a few important points surfaced.
First, democrats are not opposed to strong executive power. Think FDR, LBJ, and potentially Obama. Seldom in american history has a president voluntarily relinquished powers of the office, however these powers might have been usurped or borrowed. Lesson: Abuses of executive power have to be revealed, investigated, publicized and then offenders must be held accountable. (message to netroots: Sirota is right! keep pushing impeachment and accountability. hold feet to fire!!!)
As a general rule in american political history, executive powers have been enhanced, usually unilaterally and with the acquiescence of congress, during wartime, tragedy and crisis. These powers have remained quivers in the president’s arsenal unless aggressively removed by the courts or congress (Lincoln during civil war, FDR during depression and WWII serve as grand examples).
It has always been my belief that Hillary Clinton voted for war in the fall of 2002, not so much because she wanted war, but because, having been Bill’s spouse, she knew the allure of power and wanted to reserve Bush’s warmaking authority potentially for herself. in other worders it would be wrong to have viewed clinton’s vote in terms of hawk/dove; or republican /democrat. rather her vote should have been viewed through the lens of institutional self interest. Power for power’s sake for the president. pure and simple.
whcih brings us to Obama. Obama is already thinking like a chief executive, not as a senator, which is understandable but worthy of close scrutiny.
According to Sunstein, Obama will not be inclined to support accountability for the abuses of power during the Bush Administration, unless such broaches of the criminal law were “egregious” This is the wrong standard, as Glenn Frennwald pointd out during the same Amy Goodman interview. Lesson: unless the people and the courts demand accountability, Obama will enter office with an awful lot of concealed executive powers; and he probably won’t give them back.
If nothing else, the American people deserve and the constitution requires accountability for Bush abuses of power, perhaps even a Truth and Reconciliation Commission brearing of the truth.
Problem is, Obama’s vote against telecom immunity and his and Sunstein’s suggestion that only egregious criminal violations will be investigated, leaves buried beneath the shit of the lasdt 8 years an awful lot of abuses as well as secret powers Bush usurped for hs office, and Obama will probably not voluntarily choose to give back.
The people must demand it. The courts must be allowed to run their course.
Democracy demands accountability. how bout it, senator?