Back when Ronald Reagan was president, I had the feeling he was trying to run the calendar back to the 1950s. W. seems willing to settle for the 1970s, according to this Boston Globe report.
For the younger set, there was a seminal event in US political history back in 1972-74, when it became clear that the president (Republican Richard M. Nixon) had authorized illegal spying on the Democratic Party. Besides using operatives to break into the Dem’s headquarters at the Watergate Hotel, the Nixon administration was also accused of using the FBI to tap the phones of Democratic Party members.
The Washington Post exposed Nixon’s chicanery in a series of detailed investigative articles. Congress called for his impeachment. Nixon resigned in 1974, evading a messy public impeachment trial.
In the aftermath, Congress and the administration of Gerald F. Ford (Nixon’s vice president) restricted the espionage activities of all national security agencies, including the FBI and CIA. Congress also restricted the ability of the executive branch to acquire too much power, restoring the checks and balances built into the three-branch system of US government.
According to the Globe, the administration of George W. Bush has emasculated the limitations imposed back in the mid-70s on the executive branch and on the security agencies, returning us to the imperial Nixon era. We already know that this administration likes to do things its own way, since we are “at war” with terrorists. Bush and especially his vice president Richard Cheney (Ford’s chief of staff) prefer the much more expedient method of executive rule; involving the legislative and judicial branches just mucks things up.
I try not to be paranoid about such reports, but given Bush’s lame-duck status, his party’s weakness in an election year, and the possibility that a Democrat might capture the presidency, I wonder what his motives are. Is W. just trying to restore the presidency to the days before Watergate, or is he setting the stage for something more drastic?