L'Etat c'est moi
SLevinson at law.utexas.edu
Fri Jan 27 10:51:02 PST 2006
>From Dana Milbank's column in today's Washington Post:
In all, Bush uttered nearly 7,000 words in his 45-minute Q&A. But his
message could be summed up with a brief phrase in his least-favorite
language: L'Etat c'est moi (I am the state).
His approval of a program to eavesdrop without warrants: "As I stand
here right now, I can tell the American people the program is legal," he
His view on congressional anti-torture legislation: "Conducting war is a
responsibility in the executive branch, not the legislative branch."
His refusal to provide Congress with testimony about the federal
response to Hurricane Katrina: "That's just the way it works."
Midway through this Bourbonic performance, the Los Angeles Times's James
Gerstenzang offered an observation on Bush's surveillance policy: "This
seems to sound like something President Nixon once said, which was:
'When the president does it, then that means that it's not illegal.' "
Whispered "oohs" could be heard in the room....
"Most presidents believe that during a time of war that we can use our
authorities under the Constitution to make decisions necessary to
protect us," he answered, then offered his reading of legislation passed
after the 2001 terrorist attacks: "Go ahead and conduct the war. We're
not going to tell you how to do it."
.... When CBS's John Roberts steered questioning toward the National
Security Agency's surveillance, Bush dismissed the notion of a law that
legitimized it. "My concern has always been that, in an attempt to try
to pass a law on something that's already legal, we'll show the enemy
what we're doing," he said. "If the attempt to write a law is likely to
expose the nature of the program, I'll resist it."
Even the Washington Times pressed Bush to answer charges that he has
abused his power. But the president declined to be drawn into
constitutional nuance. "I'm going to leave that to the lawyers," he
said. "I believe I've been hired by the people to do my job, and that's
to protect the people."
Another questioner wondered what it was about the 1978 law governing
domestic wiretapping "that you feel you have to circumvent it."
The president's lip curled upward. He held up his hand, then leaned on
the lectern and pointed his finger. "It's like saying, 'You know, you're
breaking the law.' I'm not," he protested. Still, Bush explained why he
disregarded the 1978 law. "I said, 'Look, is it possible to conduct this
program under the old law?' And people said, 'It doesn't work.' "
A constitutional moment (or crisis)?
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