Sorry to interrupt what has been a very entertaining election season in Canada this holiday period, but I regret to inform you that your neighbour’s house is on fire.

As reported by Ron Hutcheson of the Knight Ridder new service on Tuesday: A defiant President Bush said he didn’t need explicit permission from Congress or the courts to establish a secret domestic surveillance program to eavesdrop on suspected terrorists.

“We’ve got to be fast on our feet, quick to detect and prevent,” said Bush. “Do I have the legal authority to do so? The answer is, absolutely.”

What this means, I’m afraid, is that a dictatorship is being born on your southern border.

Backing Bush up is his lapdog hireling, Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez who cites Article II of the Constitution as one rationale for Bush’s power grab:

Article II of the Constitution declares “The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States.”

The other rationale Bush claims Congress gave him authorizing the use of military force after the 9/11 attacks which authorized the President “to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks … ”

Respected Constitutional scholar and George Washington University Professor Jonathan Turley disagrees strenuously with any assertion Bush acted legally. On the O’Reilly Factor, Turley said the following:

“I think that this operation was based upon a federal crime. Under federal law, there’s only two ways in order for the President to engage in the surveillance of citizens in this way. They can get a Title 3 warrant, which is the traditional electronic surveillance warrant in criminal cases, or they can get a so-called FISA [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] warrant from the secret court. But it is a crime for someone, acting under the color of law, to order surveillance — or to conduct surveillance — unless you’ve gone to a judge under one of those two schemes.”

All right then, what we have is an impeachable offense, yes?

Well, yes, but in the new American governmental paradigm, there’s apparently little stomach in the Republican controlled Congress to do what must be done, according to Hutcheson’s story.

Apparently the best we’ll get is an assertion by Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Senator Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) that there will be hearings held sometime early next year. This from the man who formulated the “magic bullet” theory to explain the unexplainable in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Pardon me if allowing Specter to talk to death what is essentially treason by the President to the Constitution of the United States does not strike me as necessary action.

You may not realize it since it’s not been reported in the mainstream press but only Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Ca.) and Congressman John Lewis (D-Ga.) have called for impeachment inquiries.

Over on the right wing blogs, they’re celebrating the death of American democracy and the rise of a new fascism, which many in this country have always wanted, truth be told.

Like Bush they are angrier at the leak of the secret wiretaps than by the fact that, paraphrasing Benjamin Franklin, they’ve just lost their republic.

Further, Bush said:

“My personal opinion is, it was a shameful act for someone to disclose this very important program in a time of war. The fact that we’re discussing this program is helping the enemy.”


“I think I’ve got the authority to move forward,” he said, adding: “It’s legal to make the decisions I’m making … An open debate about law would say to the enemy, ‘Here’s what we’re going to do.’”

So let me get this straight. The President of the United States decides its okay to wiretap Americans within the United States without a warrant or any other oversight because of a “war” he created, attacking a country that did nothing to harm the United States and now claims he has Constitutional authority to commit a Federal crime?

And still a third of Americans see nothing wrong with this because they’ve been brainwashed into believing that if the President isn’t given the powers of a dictator the mullahs will be marching down Main Street?

And after committing what most reputable Constitutional scholars see as a slam dunk Federal crime and an impeachable offense, only two Democrats have the guts to ask for impeachment inquiries even after the President has all but admitted his crime and dared the public to do anything about it, tarring those who uncovered this crime as treasonous (pot, kettle, black)?

This is the land of the free and the home of the brave? This is a country under the rule of law, not of men?

This is the “democracy” we’re killing people to spread around the world?

Are we serious?

Bush is serious — about being the new American Caesar. Check this out from the Knight-Ridder article:

Bush bristled when a reporter asked whether a decades-long war against terrorism might lead to “a more or less permanent expansion of the unchecked power of the executive in American society?”

“First of all, I disagree with your assertion of ‘unchecked power,’” Bush snapped. “To say ‘unchecked power’ basically is ascribing some kind of dictatorial position to the president, which I strongly reject.”

My follow up question to Bush, if allowed to ask, would have been: “Then, Mr. President, could you delineate any particular action under what you see as your given authority during the duration of this war, that you would need any prior approval for by Congress or the courts?”

And watch him fume. For the truth behind whatever answer he might give is that he believes there is no check on his authority. All he has to do for any action he wishes to take is invoke 9/11, claim we’re at “war” (which will last however long he wishes it to), claim the Constitution gives him the power as Commander-in-Chief in a time of war, and he can rule by decree.

And too many Americans think this is fine. So this is how democracy dies.

Daniel Webster once wrote: “Hold on, my friends, to the Constitution and to the Republic for which it stands. Miracles do not cluster, and what has happened once in 6000 years, may not happen again. Hold on to the Constitution, for if the American Constitution should fail, there will be anarchy throughout the world.”

Keith Gottschalk

Keith Gottschalk

U.S. Keith Gottschalk has written for daily newspapers in Iowa, Illinois and Ohio. He also had a recent stint as a radio talk show host in Illinois. As a result of living in the high ground...