Is Bush Evil?

I originally wrote this nice lost post over a week ago, when it was actually timely.  I just discovered that I had forgotten to actually post it.  Not quite as timely, but I still think worth saying…

As I've been following the absolutely deplorable story about how Bush tried to take advantage of a critically ill Attorney General John Ashcroft to get his way, all I could think is: what kind of person does this?  What kind of person is so hellbent on getting their way that they would send their flunkies to a man's hospital bed in the ICU when he has just come out of surgery to have him sign something he has refused to when healthy?  Seriously.  What kind of person does that make George Bush?  If not evil, certainly not very good.  So comforting to know he's “a person of faith.”  In case you are not familiar with the details, here's a nice summary:

The night of March 10, Ashcroft's wife called the attorney general's
chief of staff, David Ayers, from her husband's hospital room to say
that she had received a call from the White House and that Alberto
Gonzales, then the White House counsel, and White House Chief of Staff
Andy Card were on their way there. Comey rushed over, as did Goldsmith
and another department official, Patrick Philbin; he called in FBI
Director Robert Mueller as well, though Mueller arrived only after the
subsequent confrontation had taken place. In the hospital room, Card
and Gonzales sought to persuade a barely conscious Ashcroft to sign the
authorization, though the powers of the attorney general resided with
Comey, not him. Ashcroft, Comey testified, “lifted his head off the
pillow and in very strong terms expressed his view of the matter,”
standing by the department's position, and then said, “But that doesn't
matter, because I'm not the attorney general. There is the attorney
general.” And he pointed at Comey.

Over the next few days, Comey testified, “The program was reauthorized
without us and without a signature from the Department of Justice
attesting as to its legality.”

Dahlia Lithwick has a much longer, but much more dramatic summary here

Leaving aside just what this says about Bush's character for a moment, consider this from Marty Lederman— it's pretty damning it a nice bullet-point format:

Comey testified as follows:

(i) that he,
OLC and the AG concluded that the NSA program was not legally
defensible, i.e., that it violated FISA and that the Article II
argument OLC had previously approved was not an adequate justification
(a conclusion prompted by the New AAG, Jack Goldsmith, having
undertaken a systematic review of OLC's previous legal opinions
regarding the Commander in Chief's powers);

(ii) that the White House nevertheless continued with the program anyway, despite DOJ's judgment that it was unlawful;

(iii) that Comey, Ashcroft, the head of the FBI (Robert Mueller) and several other DOJ officials therefore threatened to resign;

that the White House accordingly — one day later — asked DOJ to
figure out a way the program could be changed to bring it into
compliance with the law (presumably on the AUMF authorizaton theory);

(v) that OLC thereafter did develop proposed amendments to
the program over the subsequent two or three weeks, which were
eventually implemented.

Read point 2 again.  There's no doubt the president considers himself above the law.  And you know what I think of that.  (And, some earlier thoughts of mine on having a president, not a king). 


About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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