While Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) and a panel of distinguished legal and historical experts pondered what Feingold called "the wreckage that this President will leave" on Constitutional issues, Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) took umbrage primarily with the title of the hearing, "Restoring the Rule of Law."
Amazingly, that objection in yesterday's Senate hearing was based on Brownback's utter shock that anyone would think the Bush-Cheney crew has done anything to break the law in the last seven years.
"I have to take some question about the title of the hearing and the testimony offered by some of our witnesses here today is both clearly intended to imply that President Bush and certain members of the administration have undermined or even eviscerated the rule of law," said Brownback. "I have to take issue with the premise. Clearly there is a wide range of opinion as to how the president has conducted the war against terrorism over the past seven years -- I give that."
"At the end of the day the fact that these sort of disagreements exist in no way demonstrates that our nation is somehow subsisting in a lawless state. And I don't believe that it's helpful for even really productive to claim that it is."
Brownback then went on to claim there have already been plenty of hearings on the trampling of the Constitution, implied that Americans should just get over it already and said "I'm coming from a farming background so the express that comes to my mind is that this is well-plowed ground"
So here's what we know about Brownback: He was one of only three Republican presidential candidates in a 2007 debate to proudly say he doesn't believe in evolution. He is fervently anti-choice and believes that women should have no reproductive choice at all. He's voted against working families consistently -- and especially on every minimum wage increase that Democrats have ever proposed.
And we now know that he's one of only a handful of people in the country who believe deep-down that Bush, Cheney and their administration have been as honest as the day is long. Of course even a few rudimentary reminders from Brownback's Senate staff might have kept him from sounding so silly.
The Supreme Court ruled just this summer that the Bush administration's suspension of Habeas Corpus rights to prisoners in U.S. custody was unconstitutional, with Justice Anthony M. Kennedy writing for the majority "the laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times."
On Bush's illegal domestic spying program, Constitutional lawyer and author Glenn Greenwald summarized in 2006 another reason Brownback sounded so disengenuous yesterday. Wrote Greenwald:
"Ultimately, though, the entire legal debate in the NSA scandal comes down to these few, very clear and straightforward facts: Congress passed a law in 1978 making it a criminal offense to eavesdrop on Americans without judicial oversight. Nobody of any significance ever claimed that that law was unconstitutional.More damning still on the legality of Bush's actions was a February 2006 rebuke from the American Bar Association (ABA) in which the ABA condemned the warrantless domestic spying program and accused Bush of exceeding his powers under the Constitution.
"The Administration not only never claimed it was unconstitutional, but Bush expressly asked for changes to the law in the aftermath of 9/11, thereafter praised the law, and misled Congress and the American people into believing that they were complying with the law. In reality, the Administration was secretly breaking the law, and then pleaded with The New York Times not to reveal this. Once caught, the Administration claimed it has the right to break the law and will continue to do so."
"Times of conflict have often put stress on America's liberties," said ABA President Michael S. Greco, adding that asking Americans to give up their liberties for the sake of security is a "false choice."
And in their formal opinion sent to the White House, the ABA called on Bush "...to abide by the limitations which the Constitution imposes on a president under our system of checks and balances and respect the essential roles of the Congress and the judicial branch in ensuring that our national security is protected in a manner consistent with constitutional guarantees"
Of course, there's much, much more than just that as this barely scratches the surface of the Bush rap sheet.
And while Senator Brownback can be aghast that Feingold would imply that Bush has done anything illegal at all, he's had his own doubts in the past. Brownback previously challenged Bush on his spying program, saying this on ABC's This Week in 2006:
"I think we need to look at this case and this issue. I am troubled by what the basis for the grounds that the administration says that they did these on, the legal basis, and I think we need to look at that far more broadly and understand it a great deal. I think this is something that bears looking into and us to be able to establish a policy within constitutional frameworks of what a president can or cannot do."Still got a problem with that hearing title, Senator Brownback?
You can read more from Bob at BobGeiger.com.