Thursday, April 08, 2004

Terry Eastland, author of Energy in the Executive, defends separation of powers and executive privilege but concedes the need for Condoleezza Rice's testimony today. Eastland's analysis is the best thing written so far on the most recent tensions between the president and Congress. My only quibble is his assertion that the executive is all execution or administration and the legislature is all deliberation. In fact, the president participates rather significantly in the legislative or deliberative processes by virtue of the veto power. Otherwise, Eastland's analysis is excellent -- especially his point that political circumstances matter in working these tensions out and that Rice's frequent public appearances to reply to Richard Clarke necessitated her testimony today. Perhaps a less rhetorical presidency (or national security advisor) would have allowed a stronger assertion of executive privilege and may have circumvented today's testimony.

The rhetorical presidency would seem to advance executive power. In this instance, excessive rhetoric undermined executive power by making it difficult to assert the case for executive secrecy and privilege. The administration is not as "insular" or "secretive" as the frustrated media once made it out to be; perhaps it should revert to that mode.

The good news is that Rice's testimony went well, and in a few days nobody will remember Richard Clarke.


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