Sunday, January 18, 2009

Why We Have to Look Back: John Conyers

Why We Have to Look Back

By John Conyers Jr.
Friday, January 16


This week, I released "Reining in the Imperial
Presidency," a 486-page report detailing the abuses and
excesses of the Bush administration and recommending
steps to address them. Arthur Schlesinger Jr.
popularized the term "imperial presidency" in the 1970s
to describe an executive who had assumed more power
than the Constitution allows and circumvented the
checks and balances fundamental to our three-branch
system of government. Until recently, the Nixon
administration seemed to represent a singular
embodiment of the idea. Unfortunately, it is clear that
the threat of the imperial presidency lives on and,
indeed, reached new heights under George W. Bush.

As this report documents, there was the
administration's contrived drive to a needless war of
aggression with Iraq, based on manipulated intelligence
and facts that were "fixed around the policy." There
was its politicization of the Justice Department;
unconscionable and possibly illegal policies on
detention, interrogation and extraordinary rendition;
warrantless wiretaps of American citizens; the ravaging
of our regulatory system and the use of signing
statements to override the laws of the land; and the
intimidation and silencing of critics and whistle-
blowers who dared to tell fellow citizens what was
being done in their name. And all of this was hidden
behind an unprecedented veil of secrecy and outlandish
claims of privilege.

I understand that many feel we should just move on.
They worry that addressing these actions by the Bush
administration will divert precious energy from the
serious challenges facing our nation. I understand the
power of that impulse. Indeed, I want to move on as
well -- there are so many things that I would rather
work on than further review of Bush's presidency. But
in my view it would not be responsible to start our
journey forward without first knowing exactly where we
are.


Some day, there is bound to be another national
security crisis in America. A future president will
face the same fear and uncertainty that we did after
Sept. 11, 2001, and will feel the same temptation to
believe that the ends justify the means -- temptation
that drew our nation over to the "dark side" under the
leadership of President Bush and Vice President Cheney.
If those temptations are to be resisted -- if we are to
face new threats in a manner that keeps faith with our
values and strengthens rather than diminishes our
authority around the world -- we must fully learn the
lessons of our recent past.
Read the entire piece by clicking on the title.

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The writer, a Democrat, represents Michigan's 14th
District in the U.S. House and is chairman of the
Judiciary Committee.
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