George W. Bush has thumbed his nose at congress once again by claiming executive privilege to prevent his aides from complying with a congressional subpoena.
Never mind that there is no provision in the U. S. Constitution for executive privilege.
Limited executive privilege has been recognized by the U. S. supreme court to extend only to actual conversations the president has had with aides and the advice those aides offered the president.
That's a far cry from Bush's sense of an executive privilege that covers any and all aspects of the aides' jobs-even those aides' conversations with officials of the Department of Justice.
The supreme court's ruling defined executive privilege in 1973 when congress took the matter to court in a quarrel with Richard Nixon during the Watergate scandal. It was that court ruling that eventually led to Nixon's resignation as president.
There is no reason now for congress to take Bush to court over the same matter. Both congress and the president know the limits the supreme court placed in executive privilege-that's settled law.
The Constitution provides for three co-equal branches of government: legislative (congress), executive (president) and judicial (courts).
John Marshall, the nation's fourth-and probably greatest- chief justice, had to prove the judicial branch was equal to the other two branches in the case of Marbury v. Madison (1803), in which the supreme court invalidated a provision of the Judiciary Act of 1789. Thus, the judicial branch staked out it's power of judicial review of laws enacted and signed.
Now, 200 years after Marshall's move to prove the judicial branch is an equal branch of government, congress needs to offer its proof- simply act. It's truly past time for the impeachment process to proceed against Bush and his vice president.
Congress needn't go to the supreme court whimpering that the president is exceeding his authority and asking the court to do something.
Such a move could take months and months before the supremes decide, longer in fact than the impeachment process could unfold.
That Bush flashed the middle-finger salute at congress is no surprise. But it does amount to another count of abuse of authority and distain for the Constitution he has sworn to "preserve and protect."
Members of congress also swear or affirm to preserve and protect the Constitution (as do federal judges and supreme court justices). They need to prove that by taking the initiative.
Here are grounds for impeachment of the president and/or vice president:
Ordering the attack of a sovereign state (Iraq) when that state posed no significant threat to the United States-an international war crime (Bush)
Lying to congress (and the American people) about the presence of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear capabilities, in Iraq in order to gain support for an invasion of that country-a felony and an insult to America (Bush and Cheney)