A Bush dictatorship? 

Emergency powers would allow it.

In Steven Lee Meyers' article published Oct. 15 in The New York Times, he reports that Bush senior administration officials don't believe that Vladimir Putin, Russia's president — whose tenure ends next year — “would step aside and leave the trappings of office to a successor, even a weakened one, let alone the power he has concentrated in the presidency.”

A greater question in the U.S. is: How would Americans feel if George W. Bush declared a national emergency, tightening further on individual freedoms, and assuring his continuation in the Oval Office past 2008?

Impossible, we mumble to ourselves. Why, look what Bush has done recently in Pakistan. There, the Bush administration has pressured President Musharraf to end the state of emergency he declared Nov. 3 and release the thousands of people detained there.

The public and media would actively dissent here, too, right? Then, get ready, for two reasons: (1) the U.S. president has massively broad legal powers, basically dictatorial, in national emergencies, and (2) Bush's dictatorial actions through his two terms, and perhaps even more so as he nears the end of his second, show a president who is a divine-right monarch in his own mind.

Last year, the Congressional Research Service issued a report for Congress, “National Emergency Powers,” outlining the chief executive's authority under declared emergencies, and Congress's power in regulating the president. The development of the report would indicate some in Congress have their own growing concerns.

The 25-page study, published Nov. 13, 2006, noted four aspects to an emergency condition: (1) “sudden, unforeseen, and of unknown duration;” (2) “dangerous and threatening to life and well-being;” (3) “in terms of governmental role and authority…who discerns this phenomenon?” and (4) requires immediate action that is not always “according to rule.”

The third and fourth aspects prove particularly relevant for Bush and Dick Cheney, who have consistently and aggressively demanded authority to determine the nation's direction with a pro-war, anti-environment and anti-human-rights administration. Their attitudes and actions have allowed their corporate cronies to capture huge government contracts, ignore regulations and profit monetarily while governmental programs for the poor, elderly and young have suffered, and American soldiers have continued to die from a war based on a lie.

Presidents have jumped at the chance to solidify their dictatorial powers during times they determined to be national emergencies. And the Congressional report notes the startling vastness of these powers:

Under the powers delegated by such statutes, the president may seize property, organize and control the means of production, seize commodities, assign military forces abroad, institute martial law, seize and control all transportation and communication, regulate the operation of private enterprise, restrict travel, and, in a variety of ways, control the lives of United States citizens. Furthermore, Congress may modify, rescind or render dormant such delegated emergency authority.

What kind of emergency could Bush create that would allow him to keep his grip on the presidency? The most logical trauma would be a threatened terrorist attack. He lied about a threat of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. What would keep him from lying about a threatened massive terrorist attack at home?

A second possibility would be vast civil unrest. The Associated Press reported on Aug. 10 that Bush's new war adviser, Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute said, “I think it certainly makes sense to consider” a return to a military draft. Bush, of course, said he didn't agree with his war adviser. But their bad cop-good cop public stances seem to be setting the stage for his administration's move toward a new draft. And such an effort could ignite resistance from the nation's young at a time when the president's approval ratings hang in the 30 percent range, primarily because of his badly miscalculated war.

A draft effort and president-driven war caused civil unrest in the '60s. Why not next year? And civil unrest could lead to a declared national emergency, which in turn could keep Bush in the White House beyond 2008.

Could Congress succeed in negating Bush's effort? They might vote to do so. But when Bush challenges that vote, whose side would the conservative-heavy U.S. Supreme Court — led by Bush-appointed Chief Justice John Roberts — take?

Roger Armbrust has worked as a journalist both in his hometown of Little Rock and in New York City. His articles and columns have covered labor and management, Congressional legislation, and federal court cases, including appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court.


Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

More by Roger Armbrust

  • 3 questions for McCain, Obama

    Someone should ask McCain and Obama three questions on the vital issue of executive powers.
    • Oct 9, 2008
  • 3 questions for McCain, Obama

    Someone should ask McCain and Obama three questions on the vital issue of executive powers.
    • Oct 9, 2008
  • Where is Rep. Snyder?

    John Brummett’s Jan. 18 column in the Arkansas Times cites U.S. Rep. Vic Snyder as indicating that Congress “bears the delicate obligation…to pay for whatever the commander in chief demands of the troops while opposing him where feasible…” in the continua
    • Feb 8, 2007
  • More »

More by Fritz Brantley

  • He talks, and talks, the talk

    A fellow posted an old newspaper article on his blog about a Mike Huckabee speech to a religious group in 1998. A friend faxed the article to me, then called to ask if I’d yet read it, which I had.
    • Dec 20, 2007
  • The incredible shrinking Huckabee

    Plus: COPS!
    • Dec 20, 2007
  • Going whole hog

    A Q&A with irreverent Arkansas-raised comedian Matt Besser
    • Dec 20, 2007
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Arkansas condones child abuse?

    If Harrises and Duggars go unpunished, yes.
    • Jun 4, 2015
  • Must address racial inequities

    We mourn for the families of the dead at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. As we grieve it's time to rekindle a conversation about race in America and press for the changes that the Emanuel congregation championed for centuries — changes that also made it a target.
    • Jun 25, 2015
  • Racism is systemic

    In a speech on Sunday at Bethel A.M.E. Church, Gov. Asa Hutchinson played directly into the narrative of respectability politics, where white people tell people of color how they should respond to a situation and condemn responses from others in the community experiencing anger, rage and other expressions of grief.
    • Jun 25, 2015

Most Shared

Latest in Guest Writer

  • Don't blame trigger warnings

    "Trigger warnings" have recently resurfaced in the news because of a letter from a University of Chicago dean of students that warned incoming freshmen to not expect advance notice of potentially upsetting material in the classroom
    • Sep 22, 2016
  • Schlafly's influence

    Phyllis Schlafly, mother, attorney and longtime antifeminist, died recently. What Schlafly promoted was not novel or new. Men had been saying that men and women were not equal for years. However, anti-feminism, anti-women language had much more power coming from a woman who professed to be looking out for the good of all women and families.
    • Sep 15, 2016
  • Global health is local health

    First with the 2014 Ebola outbreak and now with the Zika virus, Americans are becoming reacquainted with the fear of infectious disease. But although Ebola and Zika are both serious public health threats, they pale in comparison to three other diseases in terms of inflicting suffering and loss of life around the world — tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and malaria.
    • Sep 15, 2016
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Logoly State Park dedicates new visitors center

Logoly State Park dedicates new visitors center

Arkansas’s first environmental education state park interprets the importance of the natural world and our place within it.

Event Calendar

« »


2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 31  

Most Viewed

  • Arkansas 2016: the microclimate election

    In the lead-up to the past four Arkansas election cycles, the forecast has been a fairly simple one: strong winds blowing in the GOP direction.
  • The big loser

    So now the big crybaby says he's losing because his opponent is crooked and the referees are blind.
  • Trumped in Arkansas

    After two solid debates and the release of a video and corroborating testimony that further confirmed the misogyny of Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton is favored to win the presidential election Nov. 8

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: The big loser

    • Okay, Investigator, why the venom toward Hillary Clinton? As much as I dislike Donald Trump…

    • on October 21, 2016
  • Re: The big loser

    • Elementary logic: nobody can prove what didn't happen. It's your job to prove that something…

    • on October 21, 2016
  • Re: The big loser

    • Oh dear - OK, paint me as a fabricator, as a Hillary basher with no…

    • on October 21, 2016

© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation