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View Diary: Open thread for night owls: Summoning the godfather of investibators (134 comments)

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  •  Guilt is a contrary emotion. (0+ / 0-)

    We assume it leads people to reform their lives and make necessary changes. It doesn't.  As often as not it leads people to do the same thing over and over again, as if to prove it wasn't wrong in the first place. Combine that with being habit-prone and the result is stupidity multiplied.

    The problem with Watergate is that in resigning, Richard Nixon validated that the President is not above the law; that his first assessment that "when the President does it, it's not a crime" was wrong. Nixon agreed that the passage of the Federal Tort Claims Act, which stripped public officials of the sovereign immunity they had clung to since colonial days, was a sea change. If the President could no longer act or order actions with impunity, then all subordinate office holders are similarly individually liable to being subordinate to the law, as the prosecution and imprisonment of William J. Jefferson proved again just a few years ago. In that case, though it was trotted out by the leadership in the House, the claim to immunity from prosecution for what public officials say and do in carrying out their duties was found not to apply to what they store in their freezers, if the loot was ill-gotten to begin with.

    The issue is the autonomy of public officials, whether they are, to put it succinctly, rulers or servants. Apparently, a goodly number of the people who run for Congress do so in the expectation that they will be giving orders, not doing what they are told or fulfilling the obligations of a job. The "unitary executive" was sort of their last best hope for a position upon which all blame/praise could be heaped without repercussions. In other words, the purpose of the President as front man was to relieve the Congress of responsibilities, rather than invest the presidency with new powers. In the binary mind, powers and obligations are antagonistic forces, so, to enhance power, obligations must be shed.
    What Bush/Cheney have managed to demonstrate, so far, is that the executive is immune from being prosecuted for negligence. This is significant because most of the prosecutions under the Federal Tort Claims Act have been civil actions against public officials who failed to carry out their duties--i.e. to protect and provide for welfare.
    Given this context, what I'd argue is that the intent of the William Jefferson Clinton impeachment and trial was to prove, in a sense, that the President is above the law and a safe sacrificial lamb upon whom all opprobrium can be heaped without consequence. The impeachers planned to fail, as do those who are calling for impeachment now.
    See, in the binary mind, it is easy to be against what one is actually for because failure spells the success of what one wants.
    What authoritarians want is power without obligations. If they can slough off their obligations unto an impotent and incompetent executive, that suits their purposes precisely, because obligations not carried out are an opportunity to try and try again. Planning to fail is good because it promotes longevity in office and constancy. Planning to fail is a prescription for no change.
    People who plan to succeed find it very difficult to comprehend this alternative. People who just exist in the realm of ideas have no difficulty with it at all.

    We organize governments to deliver services and prevent abuse.

    by hannah on Thu May 23, 2013 at 03:15:41 AM PDT

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