Wednesday, April 4, 2007

William Fisher: The Right Seeks To Rein In Presidential Power

William Fisher has managed economic development programs for the US State Department and the US Agency for International Development in the Middle East, Latin America and elsewhere for the past 25 years. He served in the administration of President John F. Kennedy.

The Right Seeks to Rein In Presidential Power

By William Fisher
t r u t h o u t | Interview
Wednesday 04 April 2007

Leading voices in the conservative movement are demanding that the Democrat-controlled Congress restore checks and balances within the government and rein in the power of President George W. Bush.

But their point of view is consistently being drowned out by the "Anne Coulter wing" of the Republican Party, fed by the "ignorance of members of Congress about the principles of a constitutional democracy."

This is the view expressed by Bruce Fein in an exclusive Truthout interview. Fein served as associate deputy attorney general under President Ronald Reagan and is a founder of a conservative movement known as the Liberty Coalition. The Coalition has launched a new initiative, known as the American Freedom Agenda. The AFA's ten-point action program calls on Congress to:
* End the use of military commissions to prosecute crimes.
* Prohibit the use of secret evidence or evidence obtained by torture.
* Prohibit the detention of American citizens as enemy combatants without proof.
* Restore habeas corpus for alleged alien combatants.
* End National Security Agency warrantless wiretapping.
* Challenge presidential signing statements.
* Bar executive use of the state-secret privilege to deny justice.
* Prohibit the president from collaborating with foreign governments to kidnap, detain or torture persons abroad.
* Amend the Espionage Act to permit journalists to report on classified national security matters without threat of persecution.
* Prohibit of the labeling of groups or individuals in the US as global terrorists based on secret evidence.
The AFA plans to draft legislation to achieve these goals and to lobby Congress to put the proposed measures on the House and Senate calendars.
The Coalition has also rebuffed the recent testimony of Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Robert Mueller regarding the illegal use of National Security Letters (NSLs). Appearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Mueller acknowledged that FBI personnel had violated laws and regulations and that the bureau had failed to create effective internal oversight controls.

Truthout asked about the enthusiastic applause that followed the intemperate remarks of right-wing author Anne Coulter at the recent annual meeting of CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference, in Washington, DC. Coulter implied that Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards was a homosexual.

Fein told Truthout, "Imbeciles like Anne Coulter play to the basest instincts of the conservative movement to give the president a blank check to grab whatever power he wishes."

He said the CPAC audience was composed largely of younger conservatives. Without excusing her rhetoric, Fein said that Coulter was "simply giving them a pep talk."

He expressed disappointment with the lack of any real pushback against presidential power by Congressional Democrats. "The Democrats in Congress have done absolutely nothing to tell the president he is not a king and we do not live in a monarchy. They are allowing him to trash the Constitution because most of them know nothing about the Constitution and are concerned only with making headlines about minor issues and getting themselves reelected."

Fein acknowledged that things were probably worse when Congress was under Republican control, "but only marginally."

"Neither party has shown the courage to assert the power of Congress as a coequal branch of government. Congress should be telling the president it's not OK to detain people without trials, to grab people off the streets and 'render' them to other countries to be tortured, to listen in to our telephone conversations, and to issue signing statements that nullify laws he doesn't like."

He added, "We elect members of Congress to lead, not to follow. If they are going to lead, they need to understand the Constitution and the vision of its framers, and then have the backbone to insist that the executive branch stop usurping the responsibilities assigned to the legislative and judicial branches of our government."
Read all of William Fisher's article at truthout.

William Fisher has managed economic development programs in the Middle East and in many other parts of the world for the US State Department and USAID for the past thirty years. He began his work life as a journalist for newspapers and for the Associated Press in Florida. Go to The World According to Bill Fisher for more.

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