Sunday, September 28, 2008

L.A. Times: Editorial
Bush the arrogant
September 28, 2008

As the Bush administration attempts to stabilize the nation's economy, we are witness to the final chapter of a period of perverse and dishonest leadership that has used its own crises to justify the expansion of its own power. This was a president who came to office on promises of modesty -- who championed a "humble nation," scorned nation building and promised a more limited role for government in the lives of its citizens. Then he presided over a six-year attempt to tear down and rebuild the nations of Afghanistan and Iraq, and now has embarked on the most profound expansion of the federal government's role in the private economy since the Depression.

In both cases, the pattern is the same. Ineptitude led to crisis; crisis then became the argument for the radical expansion of executive power. The administration insisted that it exercise its new authority with a minimum of scrutiny by Congress, the courts or the public.

In the so-called war on terror, that has meant the abdication of our most basic American principles. We have forfeited privacy and honor -- the administration has monitored phones and e-mails without warrants and has secreted prisoners in foreign lands, arguing that they deserved none of our protections even while in our custody. As a nation, we have stooped to torture (while debating the meaning of the word) and refused to recognize one of our most basic Anglo-American notions, the principle of habeas corpus (thankfully, the Supreme Court, seven of whose members are Republicans, drew the line at that abomination). We have held prisoners in detention without trial, without charge, without end. In so doing, we have antagonized the world and debased America's moral authority to lead.

The same administration responsible for these catastrophes has over the last month nationalized the largest source of funding for mortgages and the largest insurance company on the planet. And it proposed to intervene even more dramatically in the nation's economy by having the Treasury Department -- with no court, congressional or public oversight -- relieve financial institutions of the troubled mortgages and related securities that have locked up the lending system.

There is no doubt about the depth and range of the crisis that provokes these calls for government action. The gyrations of the stock market have been dismaying, and the threat to the country's financial institutions -- and everyone who borrows from or invests in them -- is real. Still, the audacity of this administration demanding expanded powers and curtailed accountability is a wonder to behold. The bitter irony is that this crisis warrants dramatic intervention, but President Bush's record makes him difficult to trust even when he's right.

These troubles are about more than a president who is unfaithful to his word. Bush has transformed the balance of power in our government. We are seeing the erection of an imperial presidency, immune from oversight when it fights terrorists and when it rescues banks....


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