We all know about Watergate and the scandal that brought down Richard Nixon that was brought to light by the media, most notably The Washington Post. We all remember that William Jefferson Clinton was also involved in a scandal with a young White House intern by the name of Monica Lewinsky. In both of these scandals that plagued the Presidencies of these two men, it was the media and the oversight of the Congress that looked into the allegations and eventually found the truth behind the rumors.
It doesn’t matter if you believed that the incidents that caused the media and Congress to investigate and that eventually led to the resignation of Nixon and the Impeachment vote in the House of Bill Clinton were the correct thing to do. What matters is that these scandals along with the laws that were broken were addressed, and action was taken. The very idea that the office the chief executive gives the holder of that office immunity from prosecution if laws were broken was clearly shown to be untrue. The laws that govern the people of this nation also pertain to the individuals that hold the office of President.
Just over seven years later, we find another President that believes his office is immune from prosecution for violations of the law. The difference between Nixon, Clinton and Bush, is that the media put Congress under great pressure to act after the facts of their complicity were uncovered. Almost everyday the media would expose another detail of their complicity in the scandals that they uncovered. There were hundreds of editorials and hundreds of opinions by people in the media demanding that they be prosecuted without regard to their position in the government. Things have changed significantly in the last seven years.
We now have a President that when confronted with allegations that laws have been broken, refuses to comment. When faced with corruption in his administration and allegations that he had deliberately side stepped certain laws that were put in place to safeguard the privacy of American citizens, he refuses to release information to the Congressional Committees that are in place to conduct Congressional oversight of the Executive branch. I am referring to Bush’s decision to ignore the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act)court and conduct surveillance of American citizens by the National Security Agency (NSA).
Most people are aware that this administration bypassed certain “procedures” in order to conduct electronic surveillance on American citizens. In this respect, the media did a fair job of reporting the details, but only after months of sitting on the story. In the case of The New York Times, it took them almost two years to break the story after they had possession of the facts in the case. The NYT claimed that it didn’t want to jeopardize an ongoing Federal investigation. You can read about the entire sordid affair that was published on “Counterpunch”; http://www.counterpunch.org/cockburn12172005.html. In this article, Risen and Lichtblau's (Times reporters) story comes the shameful disclosure:
“The White House asked the New York Times not to publish this article, arguing that it could jeopardize continuing investigations and alert would-be terrorists that they might be under scrutiny. After meeting with senior administration officials, the newspaper delayed publication for a year to conduct additional reporting. Some information that administration officials argued could be useful to terrorists has been omitted.”
It is absolutely amazing that this has still not been resolved even though the story first appeared in December 2005. In fact, the President has been “stonewalling” Congress ever since. Senator Patrick Leahy issued a subpoena to President Bush, Vice-President Cheney and Harriet Miers (Consul to the President). This subpoena was issued in June with a date of July 18th for the compliance date. The date was extended to August 20th, but as of this time, the Executive branch has still not responded to the subpoenas. You can read Senator Leahy’s statement about the non-compliance here:
Think about this, thousands of Americans have been put under electronic surveillance by an executive branch that has decided to circumvent the law that was in effect at the time they chose to do this. The media reported on it but certainly it did not take precedence over stories about celebrities and other stories that did not have the kind of implications that this story had.
The President, the Vice President and the White House consul all ignored a Federal Senate subpoena, the same kind of subpoena that forced President Clinton to testify under oath to Congress and which later led to his impeachment for lying under oath about the relations he had with Monica Lewinsky. The threat of subpoenas also led to Richard Nixon’s resignation rather than to testify in front of Congress. Meanwhile, this President openly defies Congress about illegal spying on American citizens and it gets about fifteen minutes in the Mainstream Media. Is there something wrong here?
Yesterday the Democrat-led Congress introduced new legislation regarding the FISA Court. Instead of ordering this President to respond to Senator Leahy’s subpoena, they have done nothing but propose that the Executive branch follow the pervious FISA requirements for electronic surveillance and if he agrees, they will hold him harmless for all the acts that he committed by not following the law in the first place, as long as he admits to what he has done. You can see a synopsis of the legislation here; http://thinkprogress.org/2007/10/09/house-introduces-new-fisa-legislation.
Is this a joke? It seems as if the Congress has said lets forget about everything, follow the law and tell us what you did and we’ll forget about it. Where is the media on this? What would they have said if Nixon had a chance for a do-over? Could you imagine? Could you see Congress telling Nixon that if he admits to the break-in at Watergate and promises he won’t do it again, then they will not hold him accountable? Could you imagine the media’s reaction if they told Clinton to leave the girls alone, admit you copped some sex and we won’t prosecute you and stop the impeachment proceedings? The media would be screaming its lungs out! Where is the media now?
In fact where are the all of the Democrats that believe in Congressional oversight? It seems that for all their talk about the Constitution and the rule of law, they are doing nothing. This President has gone completely overboard when it comes to violating the rights of the American citizens and Congress does nothing except propose legislation that lets him off the hook. Meanwhile the Democrats proudly display their Presidential candidates around and tell the American people that we need a change in Washington. That is so true. The biggest and the best change we could possibly see in Washington is for the Congress to do its job. Even today, Congress with a Democratic majority seems to be worse than the Republican Congress that preceded it.
That’s the way I see it.