By The Progressive on May 25, 2008

Message to George W: Contact Earth if your spaceship ever comes near our planet.
We’ve known for quite a while that the President is way, way out there, circling around in his own happy little orbit far beyond the gravitational pull of reality. But, good grief, his recent declamation of “success” for his Iraq War took the meaning of delusional to new heights.

On the fifth anniversary of this debacle, Bush gave a speech hailing his invasion as a “remarkable display of military effectiveness,” while also asserting that his Iraq policy “has opened the door to a major strategic victory.”

Hmmm.

Four thousand Americans dead, many thousands more maimed (and de­prived of adequate veterans’ care), a dollar cost that will reach into the trillions, a devastated and broken society in Iraq, a gross stain on America’s reputation, an energized enemy that makes our country more vulnerable to terrorists, an exhausted U.S. military, an Iraqi army that can’t (or won’t) secure its own country, and an Iraqi government that is dysfunctional and perpetually dependent on American largesse.

Way to go, George.

Last month, I saw a bumper sticker in Colorado that offered this urgent plea: “Save America: Put Bush in a Straitjacket.” That is, of course, what Congress should do, at least politically, if not literally. But the legislative branch has failed us, cravenly acquiescing to (and even sanctioning) a Bush-Cheney regime that has been using its own war whoops as a cover for shredding our Constitution and imposing an imperial executive.

On issues of huge import—such as war funding, torture, domestic spying, and yes, impeachment—our Congress critters have been weaker than Canadian hot sauce. Not only have they been going along with obvious executive excess but they’ve also been merrily giving away their own constitutional powers.

Take “the Fence,” the wall being built along 700 miles of our border with Mexico. This thing is monstrous, but even more monstrous is the unprecedented dictatorial authority that Congress handed to the Homeland Security czar to erect it. In 2005, our legislators gave carte blanche to Czar Chertoff to overrule any of our laws that he thinks might interfere with building this border barrier. Environmental law, labor law, property law—you name it—all can be voided on the unilateral say-so of Chertoff. Even Cheney, who claims to be his own branch of government, can’t do that.

To make Chertoff’s power absolute, Congress also took the astonishing step of banning federal appeals courts from reviewing his decisions. And the czar has not been modest about asserting his autocratic rule, having already suspended more than thirty of our laws.

In one important case, the Democrats clearly had the White House cornered on its crass, illegal effort to turn nonpartisan U.S. attorney offices into GOP political attack machines. A House committee was investigating, but when it called Harriet Miers and Josh Bolten to testify about the politicization of justice, the White House curtly defied the perfectly proper Congressional demand.

The committee then voted to hold the two officials in contempt, but Democratic leaders were skittish about even asking Bush’s Attorney General to enforce the contempt citation. When they finally got up the nerve to do so, the Attorney General imperiously said no.

A little-known doctrine called the power of “inherent contempt” gives Congress the incontrovertible right to enforce its own contempt citations. By “enforce,” I mean that Congress can send its sergeant-at-arms to arrest the White House outlaws, imprison them in a Capitol jail, and put them on trial by the Congress itself.
Wouldn’t that make good TV?

Jim Hightower produces The Hightower Lowdown political newsletter and is the author of the new book “Swim Against the Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go with the Flow.”

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).


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