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From an editorial in the St. Petersburg Times, May 21, 2006, via Newshoggers:

“[T]he changes that George W. Bush has made to our nation’s constitutional firmament may not depart with the first family’s bags. His disregard for the separation of powers has so dramatically distorted the office of the president that he may have engineered a turning point in American history.

Bush has taught tomorrow’s leaders that, if there are no consequences for ignoring legal constraints on power and if no one stops you from conducting the nation’s business in secret, you don’t have to be accountable. He is ruling through the tautological doctrine of Richard Nixon, who told interviewer David Frost that as long as the president’s doing it “that means it is not illegal.”

…Holding the executive branch to account for its actions, demanding that it respect the law and insisting that it fully report to Congress on its activities – these are nonnegotiable duties of Congress, because they are key part of our inheritance.

Being answerable to another is humbling. It makes you more careful in your actions. It requires that you consider how you will defend your decisions. George Bush has freed himself of this constitutional imperative and is showing the next president, and the next, how it is done.”

Bush taught, Obama learned, as evidenced by recent events. Like the expansion of the FBI’s investigative powers:

“The Obama administration has long been bumbling along in the footsteps of its predecessor when it comes to sacrificing Americans’ basic rights and liberties under the false flag of fighting terrorism. Now the Obama team seems ready to lurch even farther down that dismal road than George W. Bush did.

Instead of tightening the relaxed rules for F.B.I. investigations — not just of terrorism suspects but of pretty much anyone — that were put in place in the Bush years, President Obama’s Justice Department is getting ready to push the proper bounds of privacy even further.”

Like ignoring the advice of the Attorney General, the Pentagon general counsel, and the head of the Office of Legal Counsel on the president’s convoluted definition of “hostilities”:

“President Obama rejected the views of top lawyers at the Pentagon and the Justice Department when he decided that he had the legal authority to continue American military participation in the air war in Libya without Congressional authorization, according to officials familiar with internal administration deliberations.

Jeh C. Johnson, the Pentagon general counsel, and Caroline D. Krass, the acting head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, had told the White House that they believed that the United States military’s activities in the NATO-led air war amounted to “hostilities.” Under the War Powers Resolution, that would have required Mr. Obama to terminate or scale back the mission after May 20.

…Other high-level Justice lawyers were also involved in the deliberations, and Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. supported Ms. Krass’s view, officials said.”

But the Executive’s ability to expand power and ignore existing law becomes easier with idiots like Lindsey Graham ready, willing, and able to lend a helping hand with statements such as this:

“Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Sunday that Congress should not interfere with U.S. operations in Libya. “Congress should sort of shut up and not empower Qadhafi,” Graham said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Pull out that copy of the Constitution that I’m sure is in your coat pocket, Sen. Graham. See what it says about Congress’ responsibilities and duties relating to the declaration and funding of war. I don’t think “shut up” is among them.

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