Wednesday, May 24, 2006

An argument for Congressional Term Limits

Ed Morrissey deserves the accolades he gets. Today he chimes in with a piece on the recent moral failings of Congress Critters of all stripes. But the key to what Ed has to say involves the failings of leadership on the right.

Congress already has enough problems with corruption and scandal without adding even more arrogance to top it. If the leadership wants to argue that their status as elected officials somehow gives them the ability to disregard subpoenas and court orders, then the American people may want to trade that leadership to ensure that Congress understands that it operates under the same laws as the rest of us. Hastert and Boehner do not argue against an imperial presidency, but rather they are arguing for an untouchable political elite, where our elected officials risk nothing by taking bribes and selling their votes to the highest bidder. After all, the evidence of those transactions will almost always reside in their offices -- and if they can ignore duly executed subpoenas and search warrants, then they can sell themselves at will.

In the strict constructionist view that the GOP supports, this should mean what it says: members cannot be arrested while in attendance of a session or while traveling to or from said session. They also cannot be prosecuted for their speech while in session. That's it. It's a very narrow immunity, and it has to be in order to preserve public accountability for elected officials.

I find it troubling and not just a little hypocritical that Hastert and Boehner now want to use a "living Constitution" model in order to defy valid court orders.

Imagine that, Congressional hypocrisy! Whodathunkit?

The Blogfather adds this nugget: if Hastert thinks the Democrats may take the House in November, this may be exactly the kind of precedent he wants to establish

Glenn's sarcasm is to be noted with a grain or two of salt, however, the broader point is that the spirit of Congressional license is infectious. Between the scandals on both sides of the aisle, I think we can reasonably conclude that the next swamp we might want to drain is in Washington.

UPDATE: Bryan over at Hot Air adds his thoughts on Speaker Hastert's remarkably obtuse interpretation of the Constitution.

The House, led by Republican Speaker Dennis Hastert, has gone ballistic. Hastert’s screaming about Constitutional separation of powers (the FBI is under the executive branch), and even demanding that it return whatever it took from Jefferson’s office. The Democrats are right there with him, in a rare and ill-advised show of unity.
Link again in original

Ill-advised might be a little understated. What is necessary is for some of us int he blogosphere to get both pissed off and curious about this story.

UPDATE II: Over in the Corner Mark Kirkorian offers a weak defense of Hastert.
The Speaker of the House may well have committed a ridiculous mistake in giving cover to a criminal from the other team, but this kind of invective is out of place. Hastert sure seems to be an ineffective leader (a la Bill Frist, a great American who should stick to what he knows how to do, and get out of the Senate as soon as possible), but neither of them is an idiot.

By nature if one makes ridiculous mistakes, does that not qualify them to receive a modicum of invective? Hastert has erred. I may not call him an idiot, but he has earned a lot of criticism.


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