Jonathan Schell nails it in the latest edition of The Nation magazine (online edition):
The danger is not abstract or merely symbolic. Bush’s abuses of presidential power are the most extensive in American history. He has launched an aggressive war (“war of choice,” in today’s euphemism) on false grounds. He has presided over a system of torture and sought to legitimize it by specious definitions of the word. He has asserted a wholesale right to lock up American citizens and others indefinitely without any legal showing or the right to see a lawyer or anyone else. He has kidnapped people in foreign countries and sent them to other countries, where they were tortured. In rationalizing these and other acts, his officials have laid claim to the unlimited, uncheckable and unreviewable powers he has asserted in the wiretapping case. He has tried to drop a thick shroud of secrecy over these and other actions.
There is a name for a system of government that wages aggressive war, deceives its citizens, violates their rights, abuses power and breaks the law, rejects judicial and legislative checks on itself, claims power without limit, tortures prisoners and acts in secret. It is dictatorship.
The Administration of George W. Bush is not a dictatorship, but it does manifest the characteristics of one in embryonic form. Until recently, these were developing and growing in the twilight world of secrecy. Even within the executive branch itself, Bush seemed to govern outside the normally constituted channels of the Cabinet and to rely on what Secretary of State Colin Powell’s chief of staff has called a “cabal.” Former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill reported the same thing. Cabinet meetings were for show. Real decisions were made elsewhere, out of sight.
The question now is: what is Congress going to do about Bush’s moves towards dictatorship? Bush has THREE YEARS to go in his second term–and that’s far too long to leave the Presidency in the hands of a man who has proven himself so dangerous, so utterly contemptuous of the Constitution and its system of checks and balances.
Everything is coming to a head now. Bush has GOT to go, and Cheney, too, of course. Maybe Bush and Cheney can’t be impeached with a Republican-controlled House of Representatives, but that can change after 2006. But whether or not the Democrats take back the House, BUSH AND CHENEY HAVE GOT TO GO. We simply cannot risk leaving them with their hands on the levers of power for three more years–because at the end of those three years, they may decide that they don’t want to let go.
We are reminded that Bush once joked, “If this were a dictatorship, it’d be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I’m the dictator.”
Now we know he wasn’t joking.
(Source of “joke”: http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0012/18/nd.01.html)
Again, Schell sums up what has to be done:
With Bush’s defense of his wiretapping, the hidden state has stepped into the open. The deeper challenge Bush has thrown down, therefore, is whether the country wants to embrace the new form of government he is creating by executive fiat or to continue with the old constitutional form. He is now in effect saying, “Yes, I am above the law–I am the law, which is nothing more than what I and my hired lawyers say it is–and if you don’t like it, I dare you to do something about it.”
Members of Congress have no choice but to accept the challenge. They did so once before, when Richard Nixon, who said, “When the President does it, that means it’s not illegal,” posed a similar threat to the Constitution. The only possible answer is to inform Bush forthwith that if he continues in his defiance, he will be impeached.
If Congress accepts his usurpation of its legislative power, they will be no Congress and might as well stop meeting. Either the President must uphold the laws of the United States, which are Congress’s laws, or he must leave office.