By All Means, Let's Have This Debate
by William L. Anderson
by William L. Anderson
At this writing, the confirmation for Judge Samuel Alito still is not completed, and there are rumblings that some Democrats will try to filibuster the nomination and keep it from reaching a vote. That is not surprising, given that groups on the left, plus the editorial page of the New York Times, have been demanding a filibuster, even though they do not believe it ultimately will succeed in keeping Alito off the U.S. Supreme Court.
Some of the angst liberals have experienced with this nomination is understandable. They consider abortion "rights" to be front and center, the main "right" supposedly guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution (even though the Constitution does not mention abortion). In fact, the ACLU even has declared that abortion "rights" trump everything else that comes down in the Bill of Rights. Thus, anyone who possibly could upset the Roe v. Wade balance is going to face hostile opposition from these groups and from Democrats in general.
However, as has been noted on these pages, some of the debate has dealt with issues that are of most importance to our lives, those being attached to the balance of power, and specifically the power of the executive branch versus Congress. One dissenter, Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, has declared that "I am concerned that if we confirm this nominee it will further erode the checks and balances" that the Constitution supposedly created.
Now, I agree with that argument as far as it goes, but it really does not go far enough. That is because the dissenting senators, as well as the New York Times editorialists, have a truncated view of executive branch power. In their minds, the debate is only between Congress and the occupants of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Guess what? The executive branch covers all of those agencies that people on the left (and some on the right) claim to love. Whenever the Times editorials blast the Environmental Protection Agency, it is not because the EPA has abused its power, but rather because it has not exercised as much power as the editorial writers believe it should have done. The same goes for the Internal Revenue Service. The same people who have suddenly discovered the various checks and balances created by the Constitution are also the same people who decried any attempt by Congress to put even mild restraints upon the IRS during the Clinton years, even after it was firmly established that the agency was abusing citizens and illegally destroying their livelihoods.
(James Bovard's Feeling Your Pain, which documents hundreds government abuses during the Clinton Administration, is worth reading for anyone who believes that Bill Clinton and Al Gore respected the rights of anyone. Government abuse of citizens is the staple for all of the political classes.)
When Congress passed the Patriot Act more than four years ago, Senate Democrats added a number of draconian "money laundering" measures. These expansions of the federal criminal code have empowered a number of federal agencies — which fall under the umbrella of the executive branch — and further has jeopardized what few rights Americans have managed to keep from being swallowed by the onslaught of the state.
When the same senators who have decried the powers of the executive branch took part in the hearings that investigated the Waco and Ruby Ridge massacres, the Democrats on both the House and Senate panels lavished praise on federal agents and viciously attacked surviving Branch Davidians and what was left of Randy Weaver's family. Guess what? The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms are executive branch entities.
When federal prosecutors went after Martha Stewart — and committing a number of felonies in the process — none of the Alito dissenters questioned the actions of U.S. attorneys. Instead, they sought to distance themselves from Ms. Stewart, who has been an active Democrat and large financial supporter of that party. When it came to empowering the executive branch, however, Democrats were first in line to call for the crucifixion of Martha Stewart.
Ever since the Great Depression and the New Deal, federal agencies have amassed huge powers and have become a law unto themselves. This process has come about only because Congress agreed to re-delegate its constitutional powers and hand them over to the executive branch. The process continues unabated today, and many of the same people who have decried Alito's "deference" to the presidency have been at the forefront of calling for federal agencies to have even more jurisdiction over our lives.
(For example, Howard Dean many times has bragged that Democrats were responsible for the creation of the Transportation Security Administration. That is the agency whose employees have been pawing people in airport "security" lines, and who have been responsible for pilferage of baggage. If any person objects to his or her treatment, that person can be charged with "interfering with the duties of a federal officer" and receive up to 20 years in prison. That politicians would brag about creating such a monstrosity tells me that they are not serious when they speak of "separation of powers.")
So, yes, by all means let us have the debate on "separation of powers." Let us applaud when Patrick Leahy or Teddy Kennedy or John Kerry speak of limiting the powers of the president. But, let us not stop there. If we are going to limit the president's powers, then we must logically turn to those entities that the president and his appointees control: the bureaucracies. At that point, unfortunately, the dissent stops while the Kennedys and the Kerrys and the New York Times editorial writers bow down and pay homage to the IRS, FBI, BATF, EPA, TSA, and every other agency that Congress should never have created in the first place.
Copyright © 2006 LewRockwell.com