Bush’s Mass Pardons Predicted
By Brent Budowsky
July 26, 2008
Consortiumnews Editor’s Note: As his presidency nears its end, George
W. Bush will be faced with a tough choice: either run the risk, along with
many of his top aides, of future prosecution for a variety of crimes from
the “war on terror” — or fashion a mass pardon for all those
In this guest essay, former Democratic congressional aide Brent Budowsky
predicts that Bush will take the latter course, even outdoing his father’s
lame-duck Iran-Contra pardons in 1992:
Before leaving office George W. Bush will issue a mass pardon, the largest
collection of presidential pardons in American history.
Bush will pardon himself, Vice President Cheney, and a long list of officials
involved in torture, eavesdropping, destruction of evidence, the CIA leak case,
and a range of other potential crimes.
As George Bush signs the pardons and boards the helicopter to depart Washington
as his presidency finally ends, even then he and those pardoned will worry about
the statute of limitations.
There is an important point to this, often not recognized in official Washington
during the Bush years: When the unthinkable became a way of life, acts were
committed that defied constitutional and legal principles in ways never done
by an American president.
Torture alone violates international law, domestic law, criminal statutes,
and American principles that date back to George Washington.
Eavesdropping without court order violates a statute, FISA, that includes severe
criminal penalties. If the courts ultimately conclude that these laws were broken,
as I predict they ultimately will, considering the number of individual violations,
and the penalties for each violation, the potential sentencing liability for
anyone convicted would be huge.
On the destruction of evidence, disappearing e-mails, claims of executive privilege
that I predict will be clearly rejected by the Supreme Court after Bush has
departed, arguably false testimony to Congress, attempts to cover up actions
that violate the law, the list, again, goes on.
There will be a huge legal debate about the right of a President to issue pardons
so sweeping in their language that they cover all these potential areas of legal
liability, and very possibly, it cannot be done.
Congress should pursue every pending and possible legal challenge to claims
of executive privilege so completely untenable under the law that even some
conservative Supreme Court justices will refuse to uphold them, as conservative
justices joined liberals ruling against Richard M. Nixon.
I predict a series of historic Supreme Court cases that will defeat most of
the Bush executive privilege claims and permanently end attempts for royalist
interpretations of the law that the Bush years embody.
The fact that Bush attempted to seize power in ways that negate the legislative
and judicial branches of government, and the fact that Congress was not heroic
in defending its rightful place in the separation of powers, do not change the
fact that what is illegal is illegal.
But this is not merely a liberal issue.
There are many authentic conservatives, true Barry Goldwater Republicans, genuine
libertarians, honorable strict constructionist conservative jurists and legal
scholars who agree entirely that on occasions George Bush has attempted and
at times executed seizures of executive power that violate the American Constitution
and American statutes.
So, get ready for mass pardons.
Get ready for the long-held precedents of American law to be ultimately if
belatedly upheld and spurious claims of executive privilege to be rejected.
Get ready for a long-overdue debate that has barely begun and will be triggered
by the mass pardons that will be the last sorry act of the presidency of George
Brent Budowsky was an aide to Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and to Rep. Bill Alexander,
then the chief deputy whip of the House. A contributing editor to Fighting Dems
News Service, he can be read on The Hill newspaper where this essay first appeared.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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