Yet it is no exaggeration to say that no administration in American history has had as much contempt for the law as this one. There may have been administrations more corrupt—in the briefcase-full-of-cash sense—but none which so regularly proclaimed in the light of day its belief that it alone can decide which laws to obey and which to ignore.
But while I'm at it I'll share a bit more:
The administration has offered as its blanket defense to the charge of law-breaking an updated version of Richard Nixon’s “When the president does it, that means it’s not illegal.” George W. Bush’s authority as commander in chief of the armed forces, they tell us, means that he can ignore any law he pleases if he finds some connection to national security. In the case of Jose Padilla, they argued that the president has the sole discretion to decide who is an “enemy combatant,” and if he so chooses he can have an American citizen seized in Chicago and thrown into prison for life with no trial. If he finds the FISA law inconvenient or outdated, he is under no obligation to come to the legislative branch to change the law; he can simply choose to ignore it. As Bush explained, “The FISA law was written in 1978. We’re having the discussion in
2006. It’s a different world.” Indeed.
Or to take an example that has not yet occurred, if Bush decides that Nancy Pelosi’s criticisms of him are impeding his War on Terror, he could invite her to the White House, bring her out to the South Lawn, and shoot her in the head. After all, it’s a matter of national security—and that means he decides what’s illegal and what isn’t.
Of course, he would never do such a thing, right? But a democracy does not depend on the good will and good sense of its leaders to constrain such behavior. It depends on the rule of law—laws from which no one is immune no matter what office he holds.
I have to say that it's just downright depressing. This new doctrine of the "unitary executive" seems to have taken on a life of its own. That's what we get with what is essentially one-party rule.