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Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Cato Institute: Bush in ‘ceaseless push for power’



President George W. Bush had shown disdain and indifference for the US constitution by adopting an “astonishingly broad” view of presidential powers, a leading libertarian think-tank said on Monday.

The critique from the Cato Institute reflects growing criticism by conservatives about administration policy in areas such as the “war on terror” and undermining congressional power.

“The pattern that emerges is one of a ceaseless push for power, unchecked by either the courts or Congress, one in short of disdain for constitutional limits,” the report by legal scholars Gene Healy and Timothy Lynch concludes.


That view was echoed last week by former congressman Bob Barr, a Republican, who called on Congress to exercise “leadership by putting the constitution above party politics and insisting on the facts” in the debate over illegal domestic wiretapping of terrorist suspects.

On Thursday Senator Arlen Specter, chairman of the judiciary committee, noted: “Institutionally, the presidency is walking all over Congress.”

Mr Healy and Mr Lynch argue that Mr Bush has also failed to protect the right to political free speech by approving a bill that eliminated “soft money” contributions to political parties. He had also cracked down on dissenters, with non-violent protesters being harassed by secret service agents whenever Mr Bush appears in public, it said.

The more serious charges concern Mr Bush’s actions in the “war on terror”. Citing a 1977 interview with President Richard Nixon, who said, “Well, when the president does it, that means it is not illegal”, the report argues that the administration’s public and private arguments for untrammelled executive power “comes perilously close to that view”.

The authors cite spying by the National Security Agency and the “torture memos”, produced by the Department of Justice to defend the authority of the president over interrogation techniques. “The constitution’s text will not support anything like the doctrine of presidential absolutism the administration flirts with in the torture memos.”