The American democracy that was once exemplary to the world is now under siege by a power-hungry president with an insatiable lust for global dominance. For more than five years, George W. Bush has continuously violated the law of the land by ignoring the Constitution, by rewriting laws passed by Congress with his signing statements, and by issuing more than 200 executive orders as new directives for fine-tuning the government to suit his policies. The United States is now facing a regime change -- from democracy to autocracy.
Incidentally, the last monarch of England to rule the American colonies was also named George. Known as the mad King George III, he suffered bouts of insanity until he was considered unfit to rule. The oppressive autocracy of King George III gave birth to democracy in the United States.
It is precisely abhorrence for dictatorship that our forefathers fought for independence and created a democratic government with separation of powers. In James Madison’s words written in The Federalist Papers, No. 47:
"he accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny."
To put it succinctly, Thomas Paine wrote in Common Sense:
"In America, the law is king. For as in absolute governments the King is law, so in free countries the law ought to be king; and there ought to be no other."
However, Bush believes he is above the law. Like a medieval Christian king, he claimed that God chose him to rule, as he once commented, "I believe that God wants me to be president."
Surrounded by conniving neoconservative courtiers, sycophantic Republican ministers, loyal military soldiers, and obedient press corps jesters, President Bush has taken surreptitious steps to anoint himself king in the White House where greedy corporate leaders stood in line, bearing donations in exchange for political favors. While the unaware public subjects have descended to serfdom, King Bush and his henchmen have amassed power and control over the land, tracking everything from Internet to telephone calls. While ordinary citizens have been worrying about rising gasoline prices, impending global warming disasters, or losing their jobs to outsourcing, King Bush's clan and heads of oil and military-related conglomerates have been reaping profits under the new kingdom of ill-gotten wealth at the expense of Americans, Afghanistanis and Iraqis. While the nation shows that every sector is suffering across the board, from homeland security to economics, the military has nevertheless gained grounds on war fundings and productions of deadly nuclear weapons to pursue King Bush's endless war on terror.
Dismantling the Constitution
Since he took office, Bush has been consistently disobeying the Constitution, racking up a long list of violations, some of which have been revealed recently, ranging from illegal war to prisoner torture to domestic warrantless spying. He has not only trampled on our Constitution but also made a concerted effort to remove checks and balances in our democratic system by making Congress irrelevant and the courts tilted in his favor with appointed judges advocating his policies.
Citing Unitary Executive
To justify his right being "king" in a democracy, Bush believes he has "unitary executive" authority stemming from his role as commander in chief, which grants him license to overrule and bypass Congress or the courts, and even violate long-established laws and treaties. Ironically, by claiming his authority of "unitary executive," Bush violates his own presidential oath of office, which explicitly states that the president’s role is to "take care that the laws be faithfully executed."
Citing "unitary executive" authority as commander in chief, Bush overruled or bypassed Congress with his signing statements at least four times:
--Overruled Congress to forbid U.S. troops from engaging in combat to assist the Colombian government in its fight against rebels. (Bush wrote that he didn’t have to obey Colombia restrictions.)
--Bypassed Congress twice to forbid the military using intelligence for "illegal searches" in violation of the Fourth Amendment (before and after the disclosure of warrantless domestic spying) in August 2004 and December 2005. (Bush declared that he is the Decider whether such intelligence can be used by the military.)
--Bypassed Congress' set of new 2004 rules for military prison regulation -- calling provisions for military lawyers to advise on torture, retrain military prison guards, perform background checks on civilian contractors in Iraq, and ban contractors from "security, intelligence, law enforcement, and criminal justice" duties. (Bush wrote that he could ignore them all.)
Making Congress Irrelevant
Since 2001, Bush has silently countered more than 750 laws passed by Congress with presidential signing statements, by far a record for any president. Bush believes he can ignore any law passed by Congress when it conflicts with his interpretation of the Constitution. The record shows that he has ignored many laws that are related to military regulations, affirmative-action provisions, Congress awareness of immigration services problems, whistle-blowing protections, and federally funded research.
In an attempt to keep Congress in the dark, Bush deliberately bypassed numerous laws that involved requirements to provide congressional oversight committees information about government activities. In 2003, Congress tried to keep track of his out-of-control signing statements by passing a Justice Department spending bill with a requirement that the department informs Congress whenever a legislative provision is ignored. In response, Bush signed that spending bill with a signing statement, nullifying the notification requirement.
According to Presidential Studies Quarterly, Phillip Cooper, who is the leading expert on signing statements, recounted Bush’s abuse of signing statements in his first term:
- 2001: 23 signing statements
- 2002: 34 signing statements, raising 168 constitutional objections
- 2003: 27 statements, raising 142 constitutional challenges
- 2004: 23 statements, raising 175 constitutional criticisms
In fact, Bush is the first president since Thomas Jefferson to remain in office without ever issuing a veto. He never once gave Congress a chance to override his judgments. Instead, he continues the quiet maneuver of penning his opinion in a signing statement to override a bill that Congress passed.
Challenging Court Decisions
Bush has also tried to weaken the judicial branch. Although the Supreme Court has repeatedly backed Congress to create positions for executive branch officials to act independent of the president, like special prosecutors free of Justice Department oversight and the board of the Federal Trade Commission free of political interference, Bush has declared in his signing statements that every executive official falls under his control.
Furthermore, the Supreme Court has always supported minorities in affirmative-action programs. At least nine times in the past, Bush has endorsed provisions that could be construed as representing reverse discrimination against whites.
By placing his handpicked Supreme Court judges, Samuel A. Alito (creator of signing statement) and John G. Roberts, both of which are conservative and supportive of his policies, Bush has evidently tipped the balance of the judicial branch in his favor.
It looks as though America will come full circle, from autocracy to democracy, back to autocracy. Unbelievably, on February 17, 2005, Congress delivered the Bill #HJ24IH, Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States to repeal the 22nd amendment to the Constitution, on a silver platter to Bush to continue serving as President beyond two terms.
(First published on UniOrb.com, June 1, 2006)