Sunday, April 09, 2006

The Government Is Not Bush's Personal Fiefdom

Courtesy of The Daou Report, here's a quotation from conservative blogger Carol Platt Liebau that captures a popular right-wing meme in defense of the Bush-ordered leaks:

The overheated coverage of the supposed Presidential "leak" of classified information is a joke.

As John Podhoretz points out, the authority to declassify information resides with the President. Hence, he can't "leak" anymore than someone can effectively steal from himself.

Interesting comparison. But let's think about it for a minute. Is all the classified information held by the government Bush's personal property? Obviously not. It's "property" that he and his administration hold in trust on behalf of the American people. That's why the laws specify procedures both for classifying and for declassifying information--which do not include quietly whispering selected portions of secret documents to individual friendly reporters in order to gain political advantage.

Just as a bank president disburses bank funds only according to specified procedures and with oversight and approval by others (like a loan committee), the U.S. president is supposed to declassify documents in public and in accordance with the rules--not in secret, piecemeal, and willy-nilly.

So in authorizing leaks to specific reporters in an attempt to discredit administration critics, Bush wasn't "stealing from himself." He was acting more like a banker who helps himself to a bundle of cash from the vault to get out of a tough personal scrape.

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