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A Constitutional Crisis in the Making?

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This article from the Boston Globe "Bush challenges hundreds of laws" raises several issues. Not the least of which concerns the next presidential election.

As recounted in the article, George W. Bush is accruing power to the Presidency at an unprecedented rate. Why? The obvious answer is he want the power for himself and for a group of individuals as yet not fully disclosed. It seems apparent that he would not want the powers he has accrued to the executive to pass to a Democrat. This raises the question of the succession. Looking ahead to the 2008 presidential election: if a Democrat looks to be the front runner, what will GWB do? He may feel that the Republican party can control the results through manipulation of the vote count and assure that a Republican will win. In that case he might not do anything. But if the results cannot be assured, he might look for a way to either retain power for himself or in some manner for the Republican party. What might these methods be? Suspension of the election is a real possibility albeit fraught with risk. However, by manipulating events (creating a crises outside or inside the US), he could claim that a postponement is required due to the events that this manipulation cause. Once postponed, would the election ever take place?

If the election goes ahead, manipulation of the results is a very likely event. We have already seen election results that raise the question of manipulation, Ohio and Florida in the last cycle and Florida in 2000. The lessons learned from these could provide a way to make manipulation virtually undetectable.

If manipulation of the results does not result in the election of GWB's chosen successor, would GWB claim, as he has regarding other laws of the land, that he is not bound by any laws and has the power to set aside the results. What would be the response of the Congress and the rest of the government? How would the election of a new, non Bush choice, be enforced? The law enforcement agencies of the country reside inside the executive branch. The Congress has no enforcement power. To force GWB out of office and install the duly elected President, would require at least one agency to disobey GWB and, perhaps forcibly, remove him from office. Can we count on agencies that are stacked with GWB's people to do this? Are there other mechanisms to enforce the will of the people? Would the military step up to do this? Would we really want this? It would require a revolt among the officer corp that would be unprecedented in this country. Would Congress ask the military or some other law enforcement agency to do this? If the 2006 elections result in the Republicans retaining both houses would they do this? If the Democrats win one or both houses would they/could they do this? Under what authority would they operate if this scenario comes to pass. Since the Constitution does not provide for Congress to have any enforcement powers, this would create a Constitutional crises of truly historic proportions. How would the Supreme Court react to this? How would the issue be brought before them? Would the conservatives on the Court stand with the principles of the Constitution or would they take the partisan side as they appear to have done in the past. With an issue of this magnitude would they set aside partisan concerns in support of the Constitution? One can only hope. As raised below, how would such a decision be enforced?

The 2006 elections raise some questions, too. What will GWB do if the Democrats win one or both of the houses? Given that investigation and impeachment are much more possible if the Democrats win, he will want the Republicans to retain both houses. Again, manipulation of the election results would seem his first/best choice. However, if that doesn't work, what other alternatives might he have? Since GWB's claim to executive powers asserts he is not bound by any law passed by Congress, he might try to set aside the results. He might claim that with a Democratic win, the security of the country is in jeopardy, contending the Democrats will interfere with the war on terror and compromise the security of the country. He might not even bother with any rational. What other means might he use to retain a Republican majority? Would Republicans support this obvious power grab and violation of the Constitution? A great many Republicans do support the Constitution and might not go along with this power grab even though it means losing power. The Constitution could be more important to them than retaining power. However, there is a fairly large number of Republicans that might support GWB in this. What countering mechanisms might be available if this scenario comes to pass? How would the Constitutional elected members be put in office? With no enforcement power other than the Sergeant-at-Arms of the Congress, how would would the losers be removed if GWB sends an executive branch controlled law enforcement agency to protect these defeated members. What other avenues of redress are available? The courts would seem a possible way to approach this. The big question is would GWB appointed Justices support the Constitution or GWB? As seen in the 2000 election, the Supreme Court is not as independent as we might like. With the appointment of two Justices and considering the existing members, how likely is it that they would rule against GWB. And if they do, what mechanism would there be for enforcement? The Supreme Court may have the US Marshals at their command (however, the Marshals, while serving the Court, are part of the Department of Justice). Might we find them in a stand off with the FBI and/or the Secret Service?


The Constitutional system of the United States operates on the good faith of the people involved in government. That is, those in government will obey the Law. As I understand it, if the President refused to leave office after defeat or impeachment, the Congress and the Courts have no command over any enforcement mechanism (other than perhaps the Court's US Marshals). As the constitution is written, all enforcement powers are in the executive branch. If either of these scenarios occurs, the Congress and the people would be dependent on the enforcement agencies, such as the FBI and/or the military, to disobey the President and forcibly remove him from office. Would they do this? It only took a very few years for Hitler to usurp and concentrate all power in the Chancellor's office. Bush looks to be moving in that direction albeit in a different manner and at a slower pace. The US is headed to a Constitutional crises of epic proportions if either or both these scenarios come to pass.

 

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John Rogue is a concerned citizen. He is a lifelong Democrat.

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