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Posted October 5, 2012
Posted February 21, 2007
KNOW YOUR CONGRESSIONAL CURRENT EVENTS
LIKE DeBakey wielding his scalpel, Mann and Ornstein open the Congressional body politic exposing diseased tissue and malfunctioning organs. They diagnose the top ten or more disorders while expressing a palpable disappointment that members of Congress have disregarded the health of the House and Senate, a neglect which is proving deleterious to the well-being of the nation. Scholars of the first rank and influential consultants to Congress on procedure and protocol, these two ¿grizzled veterans¿ draw upon decades of close observation. They understand the two institutions of Article I better than almost anyone except Byrd. Therefore, when they say Congress is sick and needs rehabilitation, we had better believe it because they advance no partisan agenda other than curing that which ails Congress. And they do so for the sake of the three hundred million. MANY OF THE PROBLEMS afflicting Congress are systemic having become ingrained over time under both Democratic and Republican rule and misrule. But they are worse now (2006) than before. To quote Ornstein and Mann: ¿Republicans have far exceeded Democratic abuses of power.¿ One pivotal problem (during the 2000 to 2006 era) was Congressional abdication of legislative oversight of executive branch functions. The authors state that ¿when George Bush became president oversight largely disappeared.¿ Republicans saw ¿themselves as field lieutenants in the president¿s army¿ and therefore refused to perform the oversight function. The consequences have been the policy disasters of which everyone is aware. It is sometimes argued that Congressional oversight of the President and the bureaucracy is the most important responsibility that Congress has, even superseding its ordinary ¿lawmaking¿ function of designing new programs in response to events and agendas advanced by the President and pressure groups. Placing presidential and bureaucratic activity in the sunlight in order to revise existing law and guidelines and impose new restrictions for the purpose of holding the executive accountable and keeping it in check is more important. To forgo that sacred responsibility is to betray the public trust and deserves electoral retribution. (In the case of Walter Reed Hospital and other veteran facilities, why does America have to rely on Imus as enforcer to get Congress to carry out its oversight function pursuant to the Priest-Hull?) AN IMPORTANT COROLLARY of Republicans taking a furlough from oversight is their tolerance of executive branch secrecy. Again, according the authors, Republicans in the 2000-2006 period went beyond what Democrats had done before in shutting off information to the press, public, and Congress itself. When Democrats in Congress wanted information, executive branch officials and Republican leaders combined to stonewall on issues such as information about the 9/11 attacks, proposed missile defense systems, Abu Ghraib, energy policy meetings with Enron and so on. The information refused listed in the book is extensive and demonstrates Bush¿s ¿aggressive denial of information that Congress thought was essential to its work.¿ Even Republican Senator Grassley, known to average citizens outside the beltway as Mr. Ombudsman and Mr. Integrity, expressed frustration at getting access to information declared off limits by the Bush cabal. Combined, absence of oversight and tolerance of secrecy lay the groundwork for forcing American democracy further from freedom and closer to a creeping authoritarianism that once ingrained would be difficult to reverse. SYMPTOMATIC OF THE OVERALL CARELESSNESS with which Congress has proceeded is the issue of continuity of Congress after a catastrophic terrorist event disabling enough Senators or House members to prevent quorums and doing business. In such a case, martial law would prevail indefinitely until legitimate quorums are assembled. Ornstein and Mann consider this an important issue while majorities in Congress do not.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.