Laugh or Cry?

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Harriet Miers has resigned as White House counsel. Remember her? President Bush nominated her for the Supreme Court vacancy following the retirement of Sandra Day O’Connor. She was so utterly unqualified for the job that even Congress, itself a gaggle of mediocrities, could not stomach the thought of her ascent to the high court. But she stayed on as the President’s counsel until early January, when she resigned. Tony Snow, the president’s mouthpiece, lauded Miers, saying she was first to come and last to leave, and was beloved by the entire White House staff. He added that she aggressively defended the Constitution.

Now any lawyer — or astute layman, or inquisitive 7th grader, should know, or could easily discover, that the Constitution is regularly, repeatedly, and consistently ignored by the White House, by the Senate, the House, and all other government employees. Just off the top of my head (unburdened by much hair) I can think of three flagrant constitutional violations that we simply take for granted as normal. Yet we’re told that the President’s lawyer aggressively defended the Constitution! Does one laugh or cry on hearing such nonsense?

Mr. Bush now claims that he is authorized, somehow, to open mail without any sort of judicial proceedings. He obtained this authority by giving it to himself in a "signing statement" which he added to a postal reform bill he signed on December 20. What is particularly peculiar about this is that the bill to which he appended his signing statement specifically reinforced first class mail protections from searches without a warrant. Mr. Bush’s statement, however, said he would "construe an exception" providing for the opening of otherwise sealed mail in a manner consistent with the need to carry out searches "in exigent circumstances." We can safely assume that the existence of the exigency would be determined by the President, who would use this power, he assures us, to "protect human life and safety against hazardous materials and the need for physical searches specifically authorized by law for foreign intelligence collection."

And at the time our ruler bestowed this new power upon himself — a power not even hinted at in the Constitution that he swore to preserve, protect, and defend — his legal counsel was still the redoubtable Harriet Miers, who aggressively defended the Constitution! My head is spinning. Do I laugh or cry?

Are we expected to take this collection of knaves and nincompoops seriously? In the last session they voted on a Patriot Act that few, if any, of them had read. They nearly voted to build a bridge to nowhere, but stopped just short of that goal when it became apparent that a 230 million dollar bridge to an island of 50 inhabitants might be a bit extravagant, even for Washington.

They did, however, provide 13.5 million to the International Fund for Ireland, which then sponsored the World Toilet Summit, in Belfast. In an execrable excretory mode, they spent one million on the development of the water-free urinal, and half a million to build a teapot museum.

It’s not all pork, however. Congress also devoted its talents to many quite serious matters, such as education, which received 58 billion from the legislators in 2003 alone. There seems to be an obvious inverse relationship here: with increased spending, the literacy rate of our children declines. Health care consumes additional billions. Are we healthier? Which deadly diseases have been conquered? The failure of these government programs has, predictably, resulted in the call for still more spending. Failure guarantees further funding, if you’re funded by Uncle Sam.

And the economy? Not surprisingly, it’s a shambles. No nation has ever survived a prolonged dose of fiat, and the U.S. will discover that, the hard way, once again. Will Congress do something about it? The Federal Reserve System has been with us for seventy-three years, with results as baleful as predicted by many, but not a peep from the junketeers. Perhaps they have bigger things to worry about: spotted owls, and snail darters, for example.

Our Congressmen are corrupt and contemptible. To take them seriously is to grant them an importance that they in no way deserve. They love to stand before TV cameras and pompously expound in some subject, careful to say nothing of substance. Masters of platitudes, they know the truth only as something to be avoided at all costs, if its utterance could cost them a vote. And, of course, they blandly declare themselves representatives of the people, even when only 26% of the people voted for them. Dutiful media toadies solemnly report their activities, vesting them with an aura of significance and profundity that is, in itself, laughable. For instance, they refer to the election of Ms. Pelosi as Speaker of the House as an "achievement." It’s an achievement similar to getting hit on the head by a falling meteor. She just happened to be there when the party bosses decided it was politically correct and really trendy to elect a female to the Speaker position. For most Americans, the identity of the Speaker of the House is a matter of monumental insignificance.

If I were asked to provide the best argument for anarchy, I’d simply point to Washington.

Dr. Hein [send him mail] is a retired ophthalmologist in St. Louis, and the author of All Work & No Pay.

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