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Thursday, February 02, 2006

Freedom Is Not Free for the Taking



Eric Lichtblau is reporting in today's NYTimes that the Bush Administration is refusing to turn over requested documents, including pertinent legal memoranda, to the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding their illegal FISA/NSA end-run. Shorter Bushie: "Screw you. Now what are you going to do about it?"

Here's a thought for Arlen Specter and Republicans on the Committee: step up to the plate, find out whether you do or don't have the cojones to do your job, and subpoena the documents. If the WH refuses to comply with the subpoena, hold them in contempt of Congress and throw someone's butt in jail until you get what you have requested.

I mean, really, enough is enough. Being a rubber stamp only gets you so far in life -- if Republican members of Congress want to do more than just draw their paycheck, take bribes from lobbyists and raise campaign funds, then they should start acting like members of Congress.

Let's be honest: Republicans outnumber Democrats on the Committee, so if there is to be any meaningful oversight as the Constitution requires them to do, then Republicans are going to have to get off their kowtow-ing butts and actually do their jobs. No amount of Democrats asking for things to be done gets them any closer -- Republicans have to stop being afraid of this Administration and stand on their own feet for this to be anything other than a sham hearing.

And to be clear: there are a lot of Republicans upset about the Administration's illegal actions. Some very conservative Republicans, like Bob Barr, Grover Norquist, Bruce Fein, and many, many others have been quite vocal about this issue -- because it goes to the heart of privacy concerns and other civil liberties that the Founders of this nation fought so hard to establish when we had our first revolution against King George.

What is the Administration so afraid of, anyway? If what they are doing is so okey-dokey, why hide behind a "we're not showing you what we did" cloak of secrecy? The Preznit is afraid that Republicans, who dominate the Committee, will play politics with his actions -- come on! Or is it that the Administration has known all along that their actions were illegal and stretched the bounds of law, and are now trying to avoid any responsibility for them? (I can count the Administration's acceptance of responsibility for errors moments on a coupla fingers, if that tells you anything.)

And the Preznit's "white paper" is simply a bunch of hot air, and the Congress knows it -- citing actions taken by the Germans during WWII as historical precedent for the Preznit's actions isn't exactly confidence-inspiring on the legality front, now is it?

It's the "say one thing, do something illegal behind your back" Administration. Nixon had nothing on these Orwellian maestroes -- and it is about time the Republican-controlled Congress showed their hand: are you for the American people or for an out-of-control, unchecked power grab? (If you choose B, can the American public get a refund on all your publicly-funded paychecks, because you don't deserve them any longer.)

This is the moment where the rubber stamp meets the road. I'll say this: if Republicans in Congress hold liberty so cheaply that they are willing to give it away to the Preznit, then they ought not ever invoke patriotic symbolism again in the name of re-election.

Democracy and freedom must be fought for every day -- Old Glory demands no less of every single citizen in this nation. Our Founders understood this and were willing to pay with their lives to establish the liberties that we enjoy today. Are Republicans saying that which these patriots paid so dearly to purchase is now so cheaply sold in the name of an illusion of temporary security? If so, then Bin Laden and all the other enemies of liberty have won.

This is your chance, Arlen Specter and company: are you patriots or are you lemmings, willing to sacrifice our ideals on the altar of temporary power? You have subpoena power, use it. You are a separate branch of government, charged with oversight and having a solemn responsibility as a balancing mechanism against illegal actions and violations of existing law on the part of the Executive Branch. History will record whether you step up to the plate -- or whether you sat back and did nothing in the face of illegality.

The Constitution is more than a piece of paper, it is a living document that must be fought for every single day by those representatives whom we elect and entrust with the solemn duty to uphold our principles of democracy and liberty. Freedom is not free for the taking.

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