What the Bush offers with one hand he takes away with the other.
Remember not so long ago when Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley met with GOP Senators, Lindsay Graham, John McCain and John Warner to advise them how Bush planned to respond to the Supreme Court decision in Hamdan ? They told the Senators that the White House would incorporate most of the standards required by the Uniform Military Code of Justice (UMCJ) into the procedures to be used by the military tribunals designated to try detainees held at Guantanamo.
Well, the times, as they say, are changin. According to the Washington Post, Bush now plans to proceed with military tribunals with few, if any changes from the process that the Supreme Court found unconstitutional in Hamdan:
(cont. below the fold)
Top White House officials took a harder line yesterday on a new system to try terrorism suspects, telling Republican senators that President Bush will soon formally propose a tribunal structure with only minor changes from the military commissions that were ruled unconstitutional last month.
Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley met with Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John W. Warner (R-Va.) and Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), offering views on a new tribunal structure that they said could pass constitutional muster with a Supreme Court that rebuked the White House in June. The senators said Bush will give Congress a proposal soon.
But Senate Republican aides familiar with the discussion said that the White House position has hardened since a White House meeting earlier this month, when Hadley assured the same senators the White House could accept tribunals based largely on existing military law, known as the Uniform Code of Military Justice. That could place Bush on a collision course with the Senate, where a bipartisan group of lawmakers is preparing legislation that would hew closely to military law in outlining more rights for defendants than the administration wants to grant.
“They prefer starting with the commissions as currently structured, and adding a few changes,” said a senior Senate Republican aide who spoke on the condition of anonymity because no proposal has been formalized. “Clearly, some [senators] believe that we have to take more from the UCMJ than the administration, at this time, wants.”
So much for comity among the various branches of the Federal Government. This is the unitary executive on steroids, when the President essentially says he doesn’t have to comply with the Supreme Court’s decisions. Indeed the only thing he is complying with is the suggestion in Hamdan that he get approval for the military tribunals from the Senate. The rest of the language of the opinion regarding the the due process rights to be extended to the detainees is being ignored.
Form over substance, as per usual with this administration. When the bright camera lights were on, Gonzales and Hadley were all smiles, telling the Senators what the country expected: that Bush would comply with the Court’s Hamden decision. But later, in the dark and behind the scenes, a different story is told: “My way or the Highway, Senators!”
Sadly, I doubt this will do anything to harm Republicans in an election year. I’m sure Rove is counting on the terror threat to make people either ignore or cheer such a naked assertion of Presidential power in the face of a Supreme Court decision that went against him. As for the GOP Senators who allegedly claim to care about this issue, expect to see them cave after making a few rarified bleats about Constitutional protections, right to fair trial, blah, blah, blah. Certainly that has been their pattern, hasn’t it?
The net result when all is said and done will be show trials of Guantanamo detainees with a little more window dressing, but no real fairness involved. Another lawsuit will be filed, which will wind it’s way through the federal courts and in 2008 perhaps another Supreme Court decision will be issued. Considering the essential 5-4 split (the decision was 5-3 only because Roberts recused himself),we might have a completely new outcome next time, especially if Bush gets to appoint another Supreme Court Justice. Considering the age of Justice Stevens, that’s not entirely outside the realm of possibility.
A President deliberately disregarding the decision of the Supreme Court. Isn’t that one of the definitions of a Constitutional Crisis? Not that anyone in the media will say so, but yes, yes it is.