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Tilting at Windmills

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January 29, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

A KING OR A PRESIDENT?....Via TalkLeft, Newsweek has a fascinating inside account of the long-running battle between the executive power absolutists in the Bush Administration (Cheney, Addington, and Yoo) and those who believed in the rule of law (Comey, Goldsmith, and perhaps surprisingly Ashcroft). There's no simple takeaway, but it's worth reading.

Kevin Drum 1:49 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (51)

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Hold on a second.

Wasn't Ashcroft the Devil Incarnate just a year or so ago. Now he's a staunch defender of civil liberties.

No wonder nobody can take this anti-Bush crowd seriously.

Posted by: Portugal on January 29, 2006 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

As long as such a large percentage of the population is scared to the point of bed wetting by terrorists (and gays, and blacks, and non-subservient women, etc.), the country will slip deeper into a failed democracy. Thanks, Ralph (and Diebold)!

Posted by: Gore/Obama '08 on January 29, 2006 at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK

On the contrary Portugal -- when even someone as far out there as Ashcroft becomes one of the sole holdouts against Cheney in the administration, that's when you know you're in deep trouble.

Posted by: Chris O. on January 29, 2006 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

"a staunch defender of civil liberties"

Only by comparison.

Posted by: MJ Memphis on January 29, 2006 at 1:56 PM | PERMALINK

Now he's a staunch defender of civil liberties.

Don't know if we need to go that far. But a defender of the Constitution? Yes.

I think that Bush/Cheney probably have done things that violated Ashcroft's moral and ethical sensibilities. I wish he'd speak out.

Posted by: Wapiti on January 29, 2006 at 2:00 PM | PERMALINK

Now he's a staunch defender of civil liberties.

Yawn. Another thread, another strawman. And you wonder why we think you're a mental midget.

Posted by: Ringo on January 29, 2006 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin: how many suspected terrorists did we missing capturing, arresting, or killing because of Comey, Goldsmith, and Ashcroft's insubordination? Hundreds? Thousands? But you don't care about destroying the terrorists because all you care about is bashing Bush right?

Posted by: Al on January 29, 2006 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

Amazing how quickly things get subjective.

I strongly dislike Ashcroft. But whereas Cheney convinced me a long time ago that he was committed to tyranny, Ashcroft not so much so.

In the mid-90s Nightline did a special on the Gulf War. Cheney explained how he had advised the president that he didn't need the support of the UN -indeed it might be undesireable- and shouldn't go to Congress either. He also explained helpfully that, although the Patriot missiles failed to shoot down any Scuds (maybe 1) the program was nonetheless a success because the Israelis thought that it worked and the goal was to keep them out of the war - therefore success. I thought: "Thank God Bush kept a lid on that guy!"

I can see Ashcroft arguing that he needs more expansive tools, I can see him bungling case after case after case, I can see him differentiating between citizens and non-citizens in the persecution of law; I don't see him eager to abandon the Constitution wholesale.

Posted by: Anonymous on January 29, 2006 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

I meant "relative", not "subjective".

They started out subjective.

Posted by: Anonymous on January 29, 2006 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

Damnit. I meant "prosecution" not "persecution".

Next time I proof-read better.

Posted by: Anonymous on January 29, 2006 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK

"A King or a President?"

If the public wants a King or Emperor, who are you to deny them?

Posted by: Freedom Fighter on January 29, 2006 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

If Bush were a king, Harriett Miers would be on the Supreme Court, and John Bolton would be the actual, not acting, ambassador to the UN. Not to mention the whole Social Security thing.

Posted by: contentious on January 29, 2006 at 2:27 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin: Exactly how many real Al Qaeda terrorists are there? Tens? Hundreds? If I am to believe both Juan Cole AND Al, we could have captured/arrested/killed every one of them at least twice. Even worse, every time bin Laden calls, it's right in the middle of dinnertime.

Posted by: Not Al on January 29, 2006 at 2:27 PM | PERMALINK

Ashcroft is indeed a strange fellow - Following 9/11, two of his first priorities was going after assisted suicide in Oregon and medical "grass" in California.

Perhaps, he did leave when the Attorney General position was turned into one of a Consigliere.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on January 29, 2006 at 2:28 PM | PERMALINK

"As long as such a large percentage of the population is scared to the point of bed wetting by terrorists (and gays, and blacks, and non-subservient women, etc.), the country will slip deeper into a failed democracy."

That's right. Americans in general want to see gays stoned, blacks lynched and women beaten and raped by their husbands. Obama 08? Did you realize he's black?

Posted by: Freedom Fighter on January 29, 2006 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK

"A King or a President or a Capo Di Tutti Capi"

Posted by: stupid git on January 29, 2006 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK

My takeaway....

They hired lawyers

Posted by: justmy2 on January 29, 2006 at 2:41 PM | PERMALINK

There is a simple takeaway -- the inmates are running the asylum. Even the "moderate" ones are somewhat nuts, and they lost out to the real loons.

Posted by: dp on January 29, 2006 at 2:44 PM | PERMALINK

"Obama 08? Did you realize he's black?"

I can hope. I don't expect it, though. Just like I can hope that you, FF, see there is more to good governance than killing brown people, stuffing your crotch, and talking tough.

But I don't expect it.

Posted by: Gore/Obama '08 on January 29, 2006 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

So, in other words, there were two factions in the Bush White House at one time, the actual Americans, and everyone else.

And now the actual Americans (Ashcroft, Comey, Goldsmith) are gone, or neutralized.

How encouraging...

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on January 29, 2006 at 2:59 PM | PERMALINK

The public is a lot smarter than it is given credit for. This campaign by the GOP and the media to convince the public to give up its civil liberties for security is going to be as successful in the longterm as the the Democrats campaigns against the NRA. It aint happening. The public, nurtured for years on media stories of out of control government bureaucrats will not trust this or any administration, giving itself the right to spy on citizens with no supervision or oversight by the Courts. With the OJ trial and all those Court TV shows, Joe Sixpack began to learn of legal rights he had never heard of and Joe Sixpack has no intention of giving them away. The public has refused to embrace Patriot Act 2, regrets Patriot Act 1, and will insist in the end that FISA be upheld.

Posted by: aline on January 29, 2006 at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK

Comey and Goldsmith?? Not only has one never heard of them, but they don't have a chance in hell against big Dick & Co.

Posted by: Hedley Lamarr on January 29, 2006 at 3:25 PM | PERMALINK

But you don't care about destroying the terrorists because all you care about is bashing Bush right?

Wasn't Ashcroft the Devil Incarnate just a year or so ago. Now he's a staunch defender of civil liberties.

With us or against us

The Binary Buplicans. The On and Offians. The Dueling Dual-lights.

I am a Conservative to preserve all that is good in our constitution, a Radical to remove all that is bad. I seek to preserve property and to respect order, and I equally decry the appeal to the passions of the many or the prejudices of the few. -- Benjamin Disraeli (1804 - 1881)

Posted by: fracas_futile on January 29, 2006 at 3:38 PM | PERMALINK

OT but some one mentioned Obama above.

Obama is disappointing. His equivocal mutterings on the last two weeks of Sunday talk shows may qualify him as the next great Dem Centrist, i.e. Lieberman lite all over again. Centrists don't understand that if the voters want Republicans they will vote for GOP and not for some imperfect approximation to a Republican.

Posted by: lib on January 29, 2006 at 3:39 PM | PERMALINK

Wasn't Ashcroft the Devil Incarnate just a year or so ago. Now he's a staunch defender of civil liberties.

What do they, teach nothing but straw man arguments in wingnut troll school?

No wonder nobody can take the Bush sycophant crowd seriously.

Posted by: Gregory on January 29, 2006 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK

Not a king: a county sheriff. The "war" on "terror" has been conducted throughout by the methods and standards of a county sheriff. Drop the royal frame. No one knows what a king is, except from fairy tales; but everyone knows about the sheriff.

Posted by: Frank Wilhoit on January 29, 2006 at 3:58 PM | PERMALINK

Did Goldsmith, et al, get righteous before or after it became clear that the torture news was about to break?

Posted by: ferd on January 29, 2006 at 3:58 PM | PERMALINK

Not a king: a county sheriff. The "war" on "terror" has been conducted throughout by the methods and standards of a county sheriff. Drop the royal frame. No one knows what a king is, except from fairy tales; but everyone knows about the sheriff.

Posted by: Frank Wilhoit on January 29, 2006 at 4:00 PM | PERMALINK

"If a person doesnt have the capacity that we all want that person to have, I suspect hope is in the far distant future, if at all."

George W. Bush, May 22, 2001

Posted by: cld on January 29, 2006 at 4:02 PM | PERMALINK

Larry Johnson at TPM Cafe last week, wrote of the Sheriff of "Silverado" being so serious about going after Osama, that he has had Seven different individuals in charge during the past 5 years - Really committed to continuity. Oh well, "Silverado" ended well.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on January 29, 2006 at 4:26 PM | PERMALINK


"Kevin: how many suspected terrorists did we missing capturing, arresting, or killing because of Comey, Goldsmith, and Ashcroft's insubordination? Hundreds? Thousands? But you don't care about destroying the terrorists because all you care about is bashing Bush right?"

Al, dear:

Imagine this movie: a mass murderer kills thousands, and The Sheriff KNOWS the killer is hiding out in a basement in the next block over.

But instead of heading to the next block over, The Sheriff heads to Anchorage to catch/kill the perp and avenge the crime.

So how long would YOU sit through such inanity?

Never mind.

Posted by: garrett on January 29, 2006 at 4:27 PM | PERMALINK

I thought the Newsweek article was refreshing. I sent it to someone who still wants to give Bush the benefit of the doubt -- and can't stand it that Democrats say terrible things about him. Not that he'd vote for him again, but he thinks Bush deserves our respect -- just because he is President. My friend still thinks that our disdain for Bush is all about power.

I know I should respect Bush because he is the President, but I just can't.

Posted by: pol on January 29, 2006 at 5:01 PM | PERMALINK

One of the strange things about this point in history is how American conservatives have so completely shut their minds to alternative perspectives and become so single-minded, mean-spirited and aggressive in their defense of the indefensible. After every new outrage by Bushco, liberals stand on the sidelines marveling at how conservatives can continue to defend Bushco and rationalize away all incompetence and wrong-doing.

Given that the liberals have been shut out of the conversation, it seems the case against GWB will be made by conservatives. So bravo to those who stood up to the imperial presidency! I am relieved to know that at least a few conservatives understand the law.

Posted by: PTate in MN on January 29, 2006 at 5:02 PM | PERMALINK

Ah, yes, the good Tim Flanigan, Esq. The guy who withdrew his name from Dep. AG consideration after his TYCO role vis-a-vis the notorious Jack Abramoff surfaced...a right-wing hack who went from being Al Gonzales' gofer in the WH to covering for Dennis Kozlowski...just another POS going through the revolving door.

Posted by: barrisj on January 29, 2006 at 5:10 PM | PERMALINK

A frightening tale once again full of misleading and apparent fictions that pass unnoticed among the supposedly nuanced.

The profile in courage is of a political appointee federal lawyer near the top of the food chain who resigns to a job as a AHarvard Law Professor.

Watch out! Its the Spanish Inquisition! Those who won't go as far as others in selling out their country to their party's zealots may be forced to undergo exile at the Harvard Law School, where they will undergo the injustice of some ugly mutation known as a liberal, and those liberals knee jerk rudeness to those who sell out their country. Let's sneer at the those liberals from that point of superior knowledge of the insider. Those liberals are so fucking stupid they don't know what the Party loyalist kept secret (even though the public needed to know it because freedom in the long term is at stake) - the sell out could have been worse! Like the samarui who killed himself out of shame at belittling the loyal retainers, the liberals should be mortified by shame.

And of cousre, the palace revolt involves the President's office standing up to the vice president's. Which would seem a defense of the palce by the loyal guard rather than a palace revolt. But, Orwell is always relevant, isn't he? And Newsweek doesn't want to bit or slap the hand that caresses it. Ahhhh, to be close to power.

And on the adversaries blog, here, elsewhere, as usual, the democrats prove to have the spine of a sack of shit. Opening up to swallow whatever is jammed in. Let freedom ring.

Posted by: razor= on January 29, 2006 at 6:26 PM | PERMALINK

Let's recognize Garrett's clarification of the sheriff's target acquisition capaities.

Posted by: opit on January 29, 2006 at 6:27 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin: how many suspected terrorists did we missing [sic] capturing, arresting, or killing because of Comey, Goldsmith, and Ashcroft's insubordination? Hundreds? Thousands?

Fifty-seven million three hundred twenty-nine thousand four hundred and twelve.

57,329,412.

That represents four degrees of separation between American citizens and the couple thousand actual terrorists in the world. Because of resistance to a citizen surveillance program that lacked restraint, oversight and quite possibly sanity, 57,329,412 Americans connected to terrorists by four degrees of separation have been allowed to roam free.

Think your next door neighbor is an OK guy? What about his doctor's cousin's Turkish acquaintance's Iranian calligrapher/trained suicide bomber friend who dreams day and night about sowing chaos in America?

With such a nefarious connection like that, should your neighbor be allowed to go free?

Of course not! But he is -- thanks to traitors like those pansy-ass shyster trial lawyers in the White House.

So the next time you see your sweaty, overweight neighbor chugging along on his riding mower eating a sandwich, just remember that sandwich could just as easily be a falafel, that mower could be packed with plastic explosives, and that neighbor a trained radical militant who could explode off his mower with lightning speed and take the whole neighborhood hostage with the automatic weapon he reassembled from the steering mechanism.

Posted by: trex on January 29, 2006 at 6:58 PM | PERMALINK

A KING OR A PRESIDENT?

Strike A and replace with AN IDIOT...

Posted by: Apollo 13 on January 29, 2006 at 7:23 PM | PERMALINK

It was Ashcroft who liked to say "We have no King but Jesus."

Guess he didn't get the winger memo that says, "Oh, yes we do."

In other words, Bush-Cheney went too far even for Ashcroft. And that doesn't tell you anything?

Honestly, I wonder how the wingers here can get dressed in the morning without Bush personally telling them what to wear.

Posted by: CaseyL on January 29, 2006 at 7:37 PM | PERMALINK
If the public wants a King or Emperor, who are you to deny them? Posted by: Freedom Fighter
There is the constitution to stop them, but with 58% of the population against Bush, the remark that the public wants a king is incorrect. Posted by: Mike on January 29, 2006 at 9:20 PM | PERMALINK

I agree, I can't wait for King George to be de-throned and a good Democrat in the FDR mold to be put into power so we can just lock up EVERY person of Arab or Muslim persuasion. The Republicans are mere amateurs as compared to Democrats at crushing civil rights and liberties. Or better yet, lets get a really good Democrat like in the George Wallace mindset. Hell lick this AQ problem in a heart-beat. Yep come on Republicans do us a favor and just step down and let the professionals at crushing the Constitution, but protecting the rights of decent white folk, in power for a change.

Brought to you by concerned Democrats for a Change

Vote Dems in 06/08

Posted by: DemUnderworld on January 29, 2006 at 9:46 PM | PERMALINK

al, as a supporter of American terrorism, please commit suicide and lessen the terrorist count by one.

Posted by: murmeister on January 29, 2006 at 11:17 PM | PERMALINK

No matter how much lipstick you put on warrantless wiretaps,

Its still a pig, er, cooked goose.

I believe the oven timer is about to go off.

Posted by: Sideline on January 29, 2006 at 11:21 PM | PERMALINK

[...]

There's no simple takeaway, but it's worth reading.

Huh? An investigative piece detailing how a relatively unknown WH apparatchik is wielding enormous power in the name of Dick Cheney is just..."worth reading"?

This is a significant and important development. Hopefully HEADLINE SHOCK hasn't so dulled peoples' sense of concern that it gets lost in the noise.

Posted by: phooey on January 30, 2006 at 12:23 AM | PERMALINK

DemUnderworld:>"I agree, I can't wait for King George to be de-throned and a good Democrat in the FDR mold to be put into power so we can just lock up EVERY person of Arab or Muslim persuasion"

tee-hee! best fake troll ever.

Crude but recondite.

Posted by: Joey Giraud on January 30, 2006 at 12:40 AM | PERMALINK

Bob Barr was one of the sleaziest racists in Congress only recently. Then he lost the elections because of apparent corruption. Now Bob Barr is one of the staunchest defenders of privacy protections. Why would it be so surprising that Ashcroft was opposed to imperial presidency? Does that make him any less of a bastard?

Posted by: buck turgidson on January 30, 2006 at 1:00 AM | PERMALINK

One of the interesting subtexts to this article is the way in which this battle between the "imperial presidency" crowd (Cheney et al) and the advocates of a more circumscrubed political authority for the executive happened completely outside the interagency process which the National Security Council is supposed to manage. A big backstory of the first Bush term, in other words, is of the essential weakness and bureaucratic ineffectiveness of Condi Rice, who spent her time writing position papers (like the academic she is), rather than adjudicating disputes like this one and making sure that these decisions would happen in her office, as the NSA of 1947 explicitly envisioned.

All of this is one reason I find it mindboggling that anyone considers Condi a serious contender for a Republican nomination in 2008. I actually think that the idea that Condi could ever get nominated by the Republican is actually a weird liberal fantasy -- despite appearances, she's excluded from the innermost circles of actual decisionmaking authority, which is both a result and syptom of the absence of any political constituency of her own.

Posted by: Nils on January 30, 2006 at 8:17 AM | PERMALINK

Not surprised. I had Jack Goldsmith for several classes in law school (not telling which one, but he's taught at Virginia, Yale, Chicago and Harvard over the past 15 years or so), and knew him reasonably well on a semi-social basis. Very, very smart. Very conservative (but in a non-libertarian, non-partisan sense). Very nice guy.

Posted by: Joe on January 30, 2006 at 10:15 AM | PERMALINK

I was also intriqued by Ashcroft's role, as described in this article. Yet further evidence of just how much of a nightmare working with the administration has been for anyone of principle, even those with very conservative priniples.

I would also highlight the Wall St Journal's interview with Cheney published in last Sat's paper. Seem to make it clear that he actually believes FISA to be unconstitutional. Also includes a rather chilling statement of his vision of an "unfettered executive".

Posted by: Aidan on January 30, 2006 at 10:40 AM | PERMALINK

"If the public wants a King or Emperor, who are you to deny them?"~ff

A patriotic American.

Posted by: Ace Franze on January 30, 2006 at 12:04 PM | PERMALINK

I'm secretly ploting to take over the world , but in the mean time shouldn't everyone make a terroristic phone call?

Posted by: ickey on January 30, 2006 at 4:08 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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