Blogs > Liberty and Power > Not All the King's Men

Jan 30, 2006 11:55 am

Not All the King's Men

Very interesting article in Newsweek about bureaucratic infighting within the administration over the Bush doctrine of presidential absolutism. Best performances playing against type: James Comey and John Ashcroft. The NSA eavesdropping program was a bridge too far even for Comey, the former prosecutor who threw the book at Martha Stewart for covering up a perfectly legal stock sale and who considered prosecuting fabulist Jayson Blair for making stuff up in the New York Times. In other words, not someone averse to expansive legal theories.

Ashcroft had earlier body-blocked Cheney's plan to invoke the"enemy combatant" theory--i.e., president designates you as EC, you're stripped of all legal rights and thrown in the brig indefinitely, with no opportunity to contest your imprisonment--against all terrorist suspects on American soil, citizens or not. Here, even when cornered in his hospital bed by Andy Card and Alberto Gonzales, he refuses to sign off on the NSA program. He also prevented John " crush 'em" Yoo's ascention to head of the Office of Legal Counsel.

Also in a starring role, Jack Goldsmith, former head of OLC, who repudiated the torture memos, despite great pressure from leading Vulcan David Addington. Though I never had him for class, Goldsmith taught at U of C when I was there, and he always cut an appealling figure: sort of like a genteel, cleaned-up version of John Belushi. As the article makes clear, he's one of the good guys in this story.

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Gene Healy - 1/30/2006

"Good guys *in this story*" is a comparative term and not a suggestion that they're heroes and paladins of liberty.

Robert Higgs - 1/30/2006

Yes, this story is interesting. It is reassuring, at least a little bit, to know that not everybody in the inner sanctum has just rolled over and played dead for Cheney and his minions. Yet, even after the dust has settled, more or less, we see that even the "good guys" maintained positions that are, to my way of thinking, simply reprehensible in a government that purports to be limited and constitutional--not much more than a loosening of the thumb screws.