Friday, March 23, 2007

The attorney purge and unitary executive theory

I know this blog is in danger of becoming all purge, all the time but former Nixon counsel John Dean has a must read piece at Findlaw that explains why this scandal is important beyond the ordinary political machinations.
In truth, much more is at stake here for both the Congress and the White House than this bare description of the conflict would indicate. These issues strike at the heart of what post-Watergate conservative Republicans seek to create: an all-powerful presidency. Thus, for the same reason that Vice President Cheney went to extreme lengths to block Congress from getting information about the work of his National Energy Task Force, as I discussed in prior columns such as this one, I expect President Bush to take what will appear to be a similar irrational posture. For both Bush and Cheney, virtually any limit on presidential power is too great.
Dean outlines the history of the unitary executive theory, how it's come to form the lynchpin of the neo-conservative mindset and how they sold it based on invented history. It's longish but really succinct and I think his conclusion is right on target.
This time, it is my belief that Bush -- unlike Reagan before him -- will not blink. He will not let Fielding strike a deal, as Fielding did for Reagan. Rather, Bush feels that he has his manhood on the line. He knows what his conservative constituency wants: a strong president who protects his prerogatives. He believes in the unitary executive theory of protecting those prerogatives, and of strengthening the presidency by defying Congress.

In short, all those who have wanted to see Karl Rove in jail may get their wish, for he will not cave in, either -- and may well be prosecuted for contempt, as Gorsuch was not. Bush's greatest problem here, however, is Harriett Miers. It is dubious he can exert any privilege over a former White House Counsel; I doubt she is ready to go to prison for him; and all who know her say if she is under oath, she will not lie. That could be a problem.
I'm not much for schadenfreude but I'll admit I would love to see Rove finally pay some price for a lifetime of lies.

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