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Sunday, October 24, 2004

Conservative columnist: Why I Can't Vote For Bush

"'[T]he Bush administration's free-spending fiscal record only hints at its larger rejection of conservative principles. The more fundamental betrayal arises from the administration's central focus: an ill-defined 'war on terror' that has no determinable endpoint and that is used to justify an unprecedented expansion of executive power. To make matters worse, this administration shows little inclination to demand accountability from those who serve within it. In turn, the Republican Congress--ignoring its 1994 vow to 'restore the bonds of trust between the people and their elected representatives'--appears disinclined to check the powers of the executive. Together, these factors endanger the long-term health of the republic..

The dangers of this new, unlimited power were plain to see at a tough congressional hearing in June. Attorney General John Ashcroft squared off against the Senate Judiciary Committee as it looked into whether Ashcroft's office provided legal cover to the Department of Defense on issues involving torture. The Wall Street Journal and other papers ran stories based on a heavily redacted 100-page memo, dated March 6, 2003. Written by a Defense Department working group, the memo seemed to outline ways to justify the use of aggressive interrogation techniques on detainees at Guantanamo without running afoul of international treaties forbidding torture...

In essence, the authors of the Defense Department memo were arguing that, in wartime, getting around inconvenient laws is 'inherent in the president.' The memo's existence raised the possibility that the abuses at Abu Ghraib were, in fact, an extension of official policy.

At the hearing, Ashcroft denied that President Bush approved of torture. But, in refusing Democratic senators' demands to turn either the full memo or similar ones written by the Justice Department over to the Judiciary Committee, he said, 'We are at war. And for us to begin to discuss all the legal ramifications of the war is not in our best interest and it has never been in times of war.' Ashcroft was essentially asserting that Congress--whose oversight powers give it authority to demand accountability from the executive--should not be allowed to inquire about the quality of legal advice being given to the president. This, even though the apparent result of that advice "trickled down" to the abuse of prisoners in Guantanamo, Iraq, and Afghanistan. 

If the answer to every legitimate congressional inquiry concerning presidential powers is that 'we are at war' and that legislative questions concerning executive behavior are inappropriate, it becomes impossible for Congress to fulfill its constitutional mandate as a co-equal branch of government. At what point do the American people ask the obvious: What sort of war is this and exactly how long should a president have virtually indeterminate powers to wage it?"

-New York Post columnist Robert George, "Why I Can't Vote For Bush"

Full story here.


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