Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Whither Our Sam Ervin?

Senator Sam -- lover and protector of the US Constitution

I got baptized into following political scandal at an early age. In the spring of 1973 as the Ervin Committee was convening, the National Observer, a high-brow predecessor to USA Today, published a double-truck spread of all the Watergate players, complete with bios, allegations, and flow-chart arrows indicating the links among the players. Mom posted it on a closet door next to the television. That summer at our grandparents house, we all watched the hearings as Mom explained what was going on. At age 10, I was engrossed in the unfolding drama.

I remember Ervin's drawl. I remember Howard Baker's "What did the President know and when did he know it?" I remember all the pipes. I remember Ervin's fiery exchange with Erlichman.

Conveniently, the folks at ThinkProgress have published the list of the Abramoff players -- you may want to print and tape it up next to your monitor or TV and make notes as the indictments and/or pleas ensue.

And as the Congress slowly stirs to to investigate Bush's wanton disregard for the 1978 FISA Act (I've linked to the section the President violated) and the Constitution, I thought some of Senator Sam's quotes during the Watergate crisis would remind us of our system of CHECKS and BALANCES:

"Divine Right went out with the American Revolution and doesn't belong to White House aides. What meat do they eat that makes them grow so great? .... I don't think we have any such thing as royalty or nobility that exempts them. ... That is not executive privilege. That is executive poppycock."

"I'm not going to let anybody come down at night like Nicodemus and whisper something in my ear that no one else can hear. That is not executive privilege; it is poppycock."

"As long as I have a mind to think, a tongue to speak, and a heart to love my country, I shall deny that the Constitution confers any autocratic power on the President, or authorizes him to convert George Washington's America into Gaius Caesar's Rome."