Paul’s Perambulations

December 20, 2006

Does the Constitution protect us from presidential abuse of power?

Filed under: Politics — admin @ 9:03 pm

The Nixon Tapes give us a classic example of abuse of power, as demonstrated by the following examples.  The scary thing is, he almost got away with it.  In the political circles of Washington, this was seen as fairly normal behavior until it was brought to public attention.

June 30, 1971

Nixon wants to get the goods on Ellsberg, to stop publication of the Pentagon Papers.

Nixon: “The way I want that handled, Bob, is.. just to break in.  Break in and take it out!  You understand!
Haldeman:  But who do we have to do it?
Nixon:  Well, don’t discuss it here.  You talk to… You’re to break into the place, rifle the files, and bring me….
Haldeman:  I don’t have any problem with breaking in. This isn’t a domestic.  This isn’t a foreign, approved security.
Nixon: Just go in and take it.  Go in around eight nine o’clock and clean it up.”

September 8, 1971.

Nixon wants to loose the IRS on his major opponents.

Nixon: ”John [Erlichman], we have the power.  Are we using it now to investigate contributors to Hubert Humphrey, contributors to Muskie, the Jews, you know, that are stealing in every direction.  Are we going after their tax returns?  You know what I mean?  There’s a lot of gold in them thar hills.  I can only hope we’re doing a little persecuting.”

September 8, 1972

Nixon:  “I’d a helluva lot rather have them talking about this [Watergate] than the fact we are the party of the rich and that prices are high.  This story is not helpful but, to the average guy, whether the Republicans bugged the Democrats doesn’t mean a goddamned thing.  It means something to intellectuals.  It means something to people who are concerned about repression and credibility and all that bullshit.”

We were fortunate that these plans came to light, but we can’t assume it was ever a sure thing.  In this case, only the hubris of taping brought this travesty to light.  It should be remembered that both the Weimar Republic and Soviet Union had excellent Constitutions, that arguably established freedom and justice every bit as well as ours.  When does a Constitution become just a piece of paper?  Our Constitution names the President as Commander in Chief of the military.  Congress has abrogated (and perhaps lost) its power to declare war, not having done so for more than half a century, and that was many wars ago.  If the United States were ever faced with disruptions comparable to the civil wars of Germany and the Soviet Union in the past, could we expect anything better from our Constitution than what resulted in those countries?

“The professors are the enemy.  Write that on a blackboard 100 times and never forget it.”     December 14, 1972

1 Comment »

  1. Nixon to Haldeman, the day after the Supreme Court uphold the right to publish the Pentagon Papers.

    “I really need a son of a bitch who will work his butt off and do it dishonorably…We’re up against an enemy, a conspiracy. They’re using any means. We are going to use any means.”

    Nixon was not the first President to tape conversations, but he was the first to have a system that was voice-activated and so taped everything.

    Comment by admin — June 27, 2011 @ 2:32 am

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