Kafka on the Potomac

Whitehouse issued a statement earlier this week…

Wait, that’s confusing. Senator Whitehouse, who seems to have a lot more on the ball than the Whitehouse these days, made a terrific speech in which he clearly points out the Kafkaesque legal strategy that basically boils down to “the president can do whatever the hell he wants and it’s perfectly legal because the president can do whatever the hell he wants.” Here’s a snip from his excellent speech that examines documents that we’re not allowed to see because it’s dangerous for the electorate to know what the president’s legal strategy is.

In a nutshell, these three Bush administration legal propositions boil down to this:

1. “I don’t have to follow my own rules, and I don’t have to tell you when I’m breaking them.”

2. “I get to determine what my own powers are.”

3. “The Department of Justice doesn’t tell me what the law is, I tell the Department of Justice what the law is.”

When the Congress of the United States is willing to roll over for an unprincipled President, this is where you end up. We should not even be having this discussion. But here we are. I implore my colleagues: reject these feverish legal theories. I understand political loyalty, trust me, I do. But let us also be loyal to this great institution we serve in the legislative branch of our government. Let us also be loyal to the Constitution we took an oath to defend, from enemies foreign and domestic. And let us be loyal to the American people who live each day under our Constitution’s principles and protections.

We simply cannot put the authority to wiretap Americans, whenever they step outside America’s boundaries, under the exclusive control and supervision of the executive branch. We do not allow it when Americans are here at home; we should not allow it when they travel abroad. The principles of congressional legislation and oversight, and of judicial approval and review, are simple and longstanding. Americans deserve this protection wherever on God’s green earth they may travel.

Senator Whitehouse not only has a JD, he served as a US Attorney and was elected to serve as Rhode Island’s attorney general before joining the US Senate. I think he knows a bit more about the law than King George. And I have a feeling he’s read Kafka.

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