High Noon

You know the scene. Two scruffy gunfighters square off on opposite ends of a deserted road. Dust whips about in the blistering breeze as the noon time sun shines perilously down upon them. Somewhere a child grabs one last peek at the two bloodthirsty men before slamming closed a shutter. A tumbleweed rambles by unnoticed by the men as they attempt to stare each other down with steely gazes.

Sweat trickles down their brows. Jaws clench beneath whiskered skin. Fingers twitch in anticipation.

Off in the distance a church bell rings and the charged silence becomes an explosion of noise and motion as guns are yanked free from their holsters and triggers are pulled releasing hot speeding lead and death into the air.

The showdown between the White House and Congress is not remotely as romanticized as the gun battles of the fabled Wild West, but in a way they can be just as exciting. What’s more, the stakes are far more important than freeing a small settler’s town from the tyranny of a group of roguish bandits.

In the latest installment of The Wild Wild Capitol, White House Counsel Harriet Miers and Chief of Staff Josh Bolton are staring down the barrel of being charged with criminal contempt, and already the administration is coming in to stonewall them.

It’s hard to say how successful this would be should the battles between Congress and the White House be turned into a serial spaghetti western shown on prime time television. On one hand, there are plenty of fireworks to be passed around, but on the other hand, one wanders if the repetitiveness might not turn viewers off half way through the first season.

But beyond the predictable subpoena-stonewall pattern we’ve fallen into, the heart of the conflict, the single most important plot point, is not only intriguing, but vital to the machinery of our government: Executive Privelege.

By now, after all of this, people should be pretty well versed in Executive Privelege. According to the administration, it blocks congress and prosecutors from talking to aides because not doing so would inhibit them in their advisory roles to the president. The thought being that in any given decision making process, we don’t want the president’s most trusted advisors holding their tongues because what they might have to say could be used against them in court, or be used to embarrass them.

There’s some merit to this idea, I suppose. Some things, none are coming to me this second, but some things sometimes just need to be said. Also, with today’s world of sound bites and quoting out of context, virtually any bit of advice could undergo a quick nip/tuck and turn into something damning.

But I think what we are now seeing is the inherent flaws of the executive privelege. I understand the necessity of private counsel, but even in many institutions outside of the White House, protections of private counsel are not limitless. We saw this in the case of Judith Miller, and the outing of Valerie Plame. Yes, reporters are to protect their sources, but there is a line in the sand. Crimes committed in confession only receive so much legal protection, and the same goes for medical professionals.

Confidetiality in counsel is highly prized in this country, but the rule of law supercedes that in almost every case with the exception, it would seem, of the White House, perhaps the one place where it is the most dangerous.

Look at everything we are seeing right now. The president is showing record low polling numbers in virtually every known poll, including Fox. He has taken liberties with our personal freedoms that have those of us who stand watch over civil liberties literally lying awake at night. And of course, there’s Iraq.

There are so many things this administration that are flat out wrong, and debatably illegal, and yet, not only do we find it next to impossible to hold the president accountable, but we can’t even hold his advisors accountable as well?

Something there just strikes me as ludicrous. The president has made it known that his aides will only testify behind closed doors without being under oath. This, of course is useless, giving them free reign to lie, and not even have cameras available so people can watch them lying. If that’s not gilding the lily, I got no idea what is.

But here’s the real clincher. As I’m so fond of saying, the president is elected by us to work for us. We are his employer, and like most employers have, we should hold the power to evaluate and terminate the president as we see fit. This includes being privy to the advice he receives.

Simply put, this guy hasn’t done a single good or decent thing since taking office. I want to know why. If he’s my employee, and I’m not satisfied with his work, as any employer would claim to have the right to do, I want to know why. Executive privelge prevents this. It prevents you and me, the employers from seeing that this man is getting very bad advice and then acting upon it.

Now, I’m not so naive as to believe that we need to know everything. There are true matters of national security that it is best to keep out of the public domain, but that is a very small fraction of the information out there, and has little to nothing to do with what these subpoenas are over. Let’s remember, this investigation has everything to do with the political influence over the firings of US attorneys. Last time I checked, I didn’t have to worry about my home being bombed by a disgruntled Gopper lawyer who didn’t get a job because a Dem was holding the spot, or by a Gopper Politician who was miffed that he didn’t win an election that should have been rigged towards his benefit.

They aren’t trying to hide national security information, they are trying to save their own skins, and assuming that they can’t hold out forever, they are at least trying to lengthen the narrative to a point where it becomes difficult to string together into a tight little package made easy for public consumption.

This is not how government is supposed to work.

So let’s agree on this one thing. When all is said and done, we need to revamp this whole “Executive Privelege” idea because if this presidency has taught us anything, it’s that we can ill afford a president who gets nothing but very bad advice.

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