Those who liked the idea of a Unitary Presidency, and who are just fine with Signing Statements, will love the President’s latest maneuver: Issuing a directive that each agency must have a Political Officer to analyze new rules and make sure the agency carries out the President’s wishes. [NYT] Agencies the President is particularly interested in controlling: Environmental Protection Agency, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is gushing over this new exertion of presidential power.
There was another time, in another place, in which the appointment of political officers was used as a control strategy. Soviet Dictator Josef Stalin purged the Red Army in 1937, and required that no officer be moved without explicit instructions. Every unit had a political officer who monitored the soldiers for “loyalty.” [WWII database]
If this comparison appears “too strong,” consider what powers the Bush administration has already gathered to itself.
(1) The President has declared that under his powers as commander in chief he can unilaterally establish extra-legal military commissions which admit hearsay evidence, evidence derived under torture, and without the application of habeas corpus. [WHPR]
(2) The President has determined that if he believes national security or safety is at stake that he can ignore the FISA court, or at least seek blanket approval for domestic wiretapping and communication survelliance of American citizens. [UT]
(3) The President has argued that it doesn’t matter if members of Congress oppose his escalation of troops into Iraq because the money is in the pipeline and Congress has given him blanket authorization for its use. [CNN]
(4) The President has taken it upon himself to determine which parts of which enacted federal statutes he will or will not implement through the vehicle of signing statements — for which he holds the record. [BG] His signing statement attached to the Postal Accountability Act declared that his administration could read our mail. [CNN]
(5) The president’s Department of Justice has withheld the rationale for the replacement of U.S. attorneys and has utilized a provision of the Patriot Act to appoint interim attorneys without confirmation. [USAT] While President Clinton released most of the U.S. attorneys during his first term, his appointees were required to be confirmed; President Bush’s are not.
(6) The President has proposed cutting funding for department and agency inspector generals. [WaPo]
(7) The President has authorized the use of data mining technologies to collect information on the activities and private lives of American citizens. [USAT]
When do we say: Enough is enough?