Thursday, April 19, 2007

New Kid in Town

The Pulitzer Prize for national journalism this year went to a 31-year-old Boston Globe reporter, Charlie Savage, for his 2006 series of articles on presidential signing statements.

Savage's eight detailed articles investigate the extent, the comprehensive scope, and the constitutional meaning of these statements, and how the Bush administration has used them to attempt to erect a dictatorship on the ruins of what used to be a constitutionally-mandated system of checks and balances.

In an article entitled "Cheney Aide is Screening Legislation," Savage describes how "The office of Vice President Dick Cheney routinely reviews pieces of legislation before they reach the president's desk, searching for provisions that Cheney believes would infringe on presidential power..."

At the U.S. politics discussion board, a poster known as Stardove brought up Rep. Dennis Kucinich's intention, revealed in a letter to his House colleagues, to file articles of impeachment against Vice-President Cheney effective immediately.

Savage's Cheney article shows why a Cheney impeachment is neither desirable nor optional, but mandatory if the Constitution still has any meaning and if the government our founders bequeathed to us is still in effect. Cheney took an oath to "uphold, protect, and defend" the Constitution, but he has deliberately and systematically violated that oath by doing everything within his power to subvert and destroy the system of checks and balances the Constitution requires.

Savage describes how Cheney, and his chief of staff David Addington, spend their days poring over the Constitution, thinking up a thousand reasons why it doesn't say what it says, and plotting new ways to increase executive power and establish a military dictatorship so powerful that it can never again be challenged.

In perhaps the most far-reaching article in the series, entitled "Bush Challenges Hundreds of Laws", Savage quotes David Golove, a New York University law professor who has studied the Bush signing statements, and declares that "to the extent Bush is interpreting the Constitution in defiance of the Supreme Court's precedents, he threatens to 'overturn the existing structures of constitutional law.'"

Golove added later, "Bush has essentially said that 'We're the executive branch and we're going to carry this law out as we please, and if Congress wants to impeach us, go ahead and try it.'"

Cheney and Bush have thrown down the gauntlet. If Congress doesn't pick it up, we might as well carve the tombstone for our dear, departed republic.

Savage has done a thorough job of dissecting these high crimes, which are a matter of public record and are being committed out in the open, for the world to see.

I was glad to see the Pulitzer go to someone so young. Seymour Hersh turned 70 this year, and while he shows no signs of slowing down or retiring, I've been wondering where the new crop of young journalists who will fill the vacuum created by his eventual departure will come from. I'm sure this series of articles is just the beginning for Charlie Savage.

Thomas Jefferson wrote that "Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost." Thank God we still have press freedom in this country. As long as we do, and as long as reporters like Savage continue to appear, there's still hope.

It remains to be seen whether the Democratic Congress will now do what the law requires of them and move forward on the articles of impeachment against Cheney. Over the last 50 years the executive branch, especially when under control of Republicans, has usurped power in many areas the Constitution reserves to the legislature. It hasn't helped that Congress has repeatedly and spinelessly rolled over and handed this power to them. Getting it back won't be easy, but it's undebatably necessary if we're to have a chance of taking our country back.

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