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Wed

21

Mar

2007

Is There an Executive Privilege to Lie?
Wednesday, 21 March 2007 20:55
by Stephen P. Pizzo

One of my favorite lines in the movies is from Maltese Falcon. Humphrey Bogart slaps a thug around. When the thug protests Boggie slaps him again, this time adding, “When I slap you you'll take it and  like it.”

The Bush administration has the same attitude when it comes to the information they dole out to us. And when we protest their reply is, “When we lie to you you'll take it and like it.”

That was pretty much the message President Bush delivered yesterday in response to complaints from congress that the administration is being less than truthful or forthcoming about the firing of eight US Attorney's. How dare elected members of congress question the undocumented, unsworn and contradictory White House version of events!

Last night Chris Mathews, and other MSM commentators described Bush's demeanor after yesterday's news conference as “loaded for bear,” and “clearly itching for a fight with congress.” That's not what I saw. I saw a petulant little man throwing a hissy-fit because he wasn't getting his way.

I guess that should not come as a surprise. After all, Bush has gotten his way – his whole way – until now. Even the media rolled over for this guy. If you want to read the closest thing to criminal indictment of the mainstream media's coverage of the Bush presidency it's posted on Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting. (HERE)

And of course, for his first six years of the Bush administration, a Republican-controlled House and Senate meant no oversight, no hearings, no objections, no checks, no balances. Those six years were about as close to a monarchy as I ever want to see America come ever again.

I'm not naive. Of course, congress itself is a political entity. And, no matter which party controls congress at any given moment, they can't be entirely trusted to always tell the truth or do the right thing.

Finally, thanks to the six years of one-branch rule noted above, the judicial branch has been politicized to an extent not seen since Franklin Roosevelt tried to stack the Supreme Court. In fact, it's worse than that. While Roosevelt only tried to subvert the top court, the Bushites have seeded political/ideological moles deep in the bowels of the DOJ and federal judiciary -- a legacy that will linger for decades. 

At the end of the day only one thing trumps all that – information – accurate information. Or, as Dragnet's Sgt. Joe Friday (Jack Webb) used to put it;

“The facts, ma'am. Just the facts.”

Facts have been way too few and too far between during this administration. And on the rare occasions we finally get the facts, they turn out to be at odds with the original version served to us via the what has been a way too gullible, lazy and unquestioning media.

This administration, more than any other in memory, rules from atop a steaming mountain of lies -- venial and mortal. They lied about the environment. They lied to us about Iraq's WMD. They lied to us that al Qaida was in cahoots with Saddam. They lied to us about national energy policy – lies they've successfully hidden hidden behind the screen of “executive privilege.” Now they are fixing to use the claim of executive privilege to deny us the facts, and just the facts, the facts about the White House-engineered purge of US Attorneys. 

I will not dispute that executives have privileges. That's a fact of life, if not law. What we should question though is whether that extends to the privilege to lie with impunity? To lie without consequence to those the executive was elected and is being paid to serve? That's most important issue at hand.

If the chief executive of the Unite States of America has the privilege to excape exposure when he or she lies  then, simply put, kiss democracy goodbye. Because you can't have a functioning democracy without an informed electorate. Conversely, when you have a misinformed electorate, what you get is quite the opposite of democracy.

Which brings me back to Bush's reaction to congressional inquiries into his firing of eight US Attorneys. In response to threats from congress to subpoena White House aides Harriet Miers and Karl Rove, Bush offered to allow members an informal chat with Rove and Miers. But, during that chat, he refused to allow his closest aides to be put under oath or for any of their responses or comments to be recorded or even written down.

Translation: Rove and Miers could lie with impunity. And, if anything they said is later contradicted by evidence or others, they can deny they ever said it.

In other words what Bush offered was something even TV Detective Joe Friday would scoff at.

Instead  Bush once again told congress and the American people, “When I lie to you, you'll take it and like it.”

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