I’ve seen some strange things in my life, but I cannot describe the feeling I had, sitting on the House floor during Tuesday’s State of the Union speech, listening to the President assert that his executive power is, basically, absolute, and watching several members of Congress stand up and cheer him on. It was surreal and disrespectful to our system of government and to the oath that as elected officials we have all sworn to uphold. Cheering? Clapping? Applause? All for violating the law?
The President and his administration continue their spin and media blitz in attempts to defend the fact that they broke, and continue to break, the law. Their weak and shifting justifications for doing so continue. The latest from the President seems to be that basically the FISA law, passed in 1978, is out of date [ed. The president’s statement is about 3/4 down the page –jt]. His decision that he can apparently disregard “old law” fits the pattern with the President and his administration. He’s decided to disregard a statute (FISA) and the Constitution (the 4th Amendment) by continuing to wiretap Americans’ phone calls and emails without the required warrant, while at the same time claiming powers of the presidency that do not exist. (Perhaps he feels the Constitution is too “old,” as well.) This administration reacts to any questions about spying on American citizens by saying that those of us who stand up for our rights and freedoms are somehow living in a “pre-September 11th, 2001 world.”
In fact, the President is living in a pre-1776 world.
Our Founders lived in dangerous times, and they risked everything for freedom. Patrick Henry said, “Give me liberty or give me death.” The President’s pre-1776 mentality is hurting America and fracturing the foundation on which our country has stood for 230 years. The President can’t just bypass two branches of government, and obey only those laws he wants to obey. Deciding unilaterally which of our freedoms still apply in the fight against terrorism is unacceptable and needs to be stopped immediately.
Many of you saw this week’s story in the Washington Post on the exchange Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and I had during his confirmation hearing in January of last year. Mr. Gonzales misled me and the Senate Judiciary Committee under oath about whether the President could spy on Americans without a warrant. (Many of you blogged about it when the story first broke and I thank you for getting the word out.) That exchange is extremely telling about the depths to which this administration will go to grab power. I look forward to a little more honesty from the Attorney General when he testifies about the spying program before the Judiciary Committee on Monday.
I don’t have to tell you how important this issue is. It gets to the core of what we as a country are all about. We all agree that we must defeat the terrorists who threaten the safety and security of our families and loved ones. Why does this President feel we must sacrifice our freedoms to fight terrorism? This is a gut check moment for members of Congress. Do we sacrifice our liberty? Do we bow to those who try to use security issues for political gain? Do we stand and applaud when the President places himself above the law? Or, do we say enough?
Stop the power grab, stop the politics, stop breaking the law.
It’s time to stand up – not to cheer, but to fight back.