Bush vs. Watergate – Who Wins?

· dKo journal, Edgewise, Paleoblogs

A lot of people have said that the Bush/Cheney White House re-established Presidential powers that had been eroded since Watergate. How could they tell? Congress has not been testing Presidential power, because it was backing Presidential policy.
Now there are two fighters in the ring, and we may at last get to see whether it is Bush-Cheney or the Watergate legacy that has indeed prevailed.
Quoting here from my own old Watergate wrap-up:*
“[T]here has normally been little reason to think of Congress as a political unit set off against the Executive…. Congress as a whole could at any time have had its way, if there had been a way it wanted very much to have….
“…Nixon’s logical extension of other Presidents’ abuses was also the reductio ad absurdum, for it left Congress without leverage in any traditional transactions.
“When Senator Muskie asked incredulously, ‘Under your definition [of executive privilege] Congress has no power to command the production of the testimony of anyone in the executive branch in any circumstances?’ Kleindienst replied ‘If the President so commands it.’
“The various claims to privilege invoked by Presidents are by and large flimsy and incoherent–so much so that even a sympathetic judiciary would find them unsustainable (courts are not guided by pure logic, but a minimum of logic is a precondition of their work).”
*”Gerald Ford–Understudy for Defeat,” Ramparts, October, 1974. (I have re-sequenced these excerpts.)
Well, now, let’s find out!