Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Standing Up For the Constitution

Al Gore's MLK Day speech yesterday on the Bush administration's power grab turned out to be the stemwinder that it was predicted to be here last week.

The former vice president repeatedly attacked the administration for its expansion of executive power and compared the wiretapping of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to the broad surveillance now imposed on Americans by Bush and called on Congress to resume its oversight responsibilities.

Some excerpts:

The most serious damage has been done to the legislative branch. The sharp decline of congressional power and autonomy in recent years has been almost as shocking as the efforts by the Executive Branch to attain a massive expansion of its power.

. . . There have now been two or three generations of congressmen who don't really know what an oversight hearing is. In the 70's and 80's, the oversight hearings in which my colleagues and I participated held the feet of the Executive Branch to the fire — no matter which party was in power. Yet oversight is almost unknown in the Congress today.

. . . Look for example at the Congressional role in "overseeing" this massive four year eavesdropping campaign that on its face seemed so clearly to violate the Bill of Rights. The President says he informed Congress, but what he really means is that he talked with the chairman and ranking member of the House and Senate intelligence committees and the top leaders of the House and Senate. This small group, in turn, claimed that they were not given the full facts, though at least one of the intelligence committee leaders handwrote a letter of concern to VP Cheney and placed a copy in his own safe.

Though I sympathize with the awkward position in which these men and women were placed, I cannot disagree with the Liberty Coalition when it says that Democrats as well as Republicans in the Congress must share the blame for not taking action to protest and seek to prevent what they consider a grossly unconstitutional program.

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