Separation of Powers

When Vice President Dick Cheney visited Louisiana to go duck hunting in 2004, he had with him his hunting buddy, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Scalia's daughter, and many more.  The entire entourage, including secret service agents and White House staff, required two jet planes to transport them to Morgan City and large blocks of rooms to accomodate them in St. Mary Parish [1].

They were the guests of Wallace Carline, owner of Diamond Services Corp., an oil field construction company in Amelia, Louisiana, with offshore interests in the Gulf of Mexico.

Scalia is one of the justices who helped elevate Cheney to his present office in 2000, the will of the voting majority notwithstanding.  In turn, Scalia had been elevated to his high office by that same fraternity of conservatives in government to which they both belong.

Interestingly, the U.S. Supreme Court was scheduled to hear a lawsuit charging that Cheney and his staff violated open-government rules by secretly meeting with lobbyists for the oil, gas, coal, and nuclear industries prior to formulating the administration's energy policy [2].

The true value of having "friends in high places" is the reciprocity that results in an unbroken (and increasingly unbreakable) cycle of political power that leads to autocratic government.  With an imperial judiciary serving imperial chief executives and vice versa, one may reasonably ask: "What is to become of democracy?"

As if to answer that question, President Bush announced his appointment of Judge Charles Pickering to the Federal 5th Circuit Court of Appeals on January 16, 2004 during Congressional recess, thus bypassing the process of confirmation by the Senate which had blocked Pickering's elevation to the U.S. Supreme Court for two years over questions about his civil rights record [3,4].

Five weeks later, Bush appointed Alabama Attorney General William Pryor to the Federal 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, again bypasing the process of confirmation by the Senate which had objected to Pryor's elevation to the bench on ideological grounds [5,6].

Bush's arrogant determination to skirt the principles of representative government and rule by decree should have contributed to his defeat in the 2004 presidential election as would imposing his will on the American people (invoking "inherent powers") to needlessly take the country to war with Iraq [7].  His return to the White House by an unsophisticated electorate not only signaled public approval of his actions, it enabled him to easily replace retiring Supreme Court judges with nominees who would further strengthen the conservatives' grip on the judicial branch of government.


Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Charles Pickering decided to retire after a year on the bench, citing continued opposition to his appointment by critics [8].  The move suggests the effectivness of public pressure on an unpopular presidential decision.

The Supreme Court remanded to the lower courts the case brought by the Sierra Club and Judicial Watch to compel identification of industry officials who were alleged to be de facto members of Vice President Cheney's energy panel, the National Energy Policy Development Group.  On May 10, 2005, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ruled that the Bush administration was not obligated to disclose whom it consulted in forming its energy policy [9].

On January 24, 2006, the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmed President Bush's conservative appointee to the Supreme Court, Judge Samuel Alito, with its eight Democratic members voting against, and ten Republican members voting for confirmation [10].  In 1986, Alito had written an opinion expressing his approval of the exemption from legislation that presidents can confer upon themselves, a process that greatly expands the arbitrary use of presidental power and is considered by some a threat to democracy [11].

One of Justice Alito's first official acts was to cast the tie-breaking vote in a 5-4 decision to limit whistleblower lawsuits, thereby weakening whistleblower protection laws and inhibiting would-be whistleblowers from disclosing information about government misconduct [12]

Quietly, by means of "signing statements," President Bush claimed the authority to disobey more than 750 laws enacted since he took office, asserting that he has the power to set aside any statute passed by Congress when it conflicts with his interpretation of the Constitution [13].  He also signed executive orders giving himself sole authority to impose martial law in response to a national emergency [14].

President Bush's pursuit and exercise of arbitrary power has led to a call for his impeachment by such institutions as the Illinois State Legislature, which cited a train of constitutional abuses that includes spying on American citizens without warrant, imprisoning them without charge or trial, and manipulating intelligence for the purpose of initiating a needless war against Iraq [15].  Bush appeared to believe that by invading Iraq, he was doing God's work.

"Bring 'Em Home" [16]
  Pete Seeger and others

On June 9, 2008, Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich introduced Articles of Impeachment [PDF] to the U.S. House of Representatives [17].  This was followed by House Judiciary Committee hearings July 25, 2008 and predictions that President Bush could be tried for war crimes after he leaves office [18].


  1. J.E. Bourgoyne, "Cheney, Scalia duck into La. to hunt," The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, January 9, 2004, p. A-15.

  2. David G. Savage, "Duck hunt raises ethics questions; Cheney's energy case pending before Scalia," The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, January 17, 2004, p. A-10 (from The Los Angeles Times).  See also: Warren Richey, "Was the duck hunt a conflict of interest?" The Christian Science Monitor, February 13, 2004.

  3. Mike Allen and Helen Dewar, "Bush installs Pickering on 5th Circuit," The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, January 17, 2004, p. A-1 (from The Washington Post).

  4. Objections to the Pickering nomination are detailed in a letter to President Bush, signed by 81 accredited Southern historians and reprinted by People for the American Way on its Web site: pfaw/general/default.aspx?oid=12405, accessed 8/26/2004.  (Note:  Remove space from URL when copying into browser.)

  5. Jeffrey McMurry, "Bush bypasses Senate for judge," The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, February 21, 2004, p. A-5 (from The Associated Press).

  6. Objections to the Pryor nomination are summarized in an extensive report (PDF), "William Pryor: Unfit to Judge," prepared by People for the American Way and published on its Web site: pfaw/general/default.aspx?oid=10900, accessed 8/26/2004.  (Note:  Remove space from URL when copying into browser.)

  7. Bob Woodward, Plan of Attack, Simon & Schuster, April, 2004, 480 pp.

  8. Holbrook Mohr, "Pickering will quit federal bench; Retirement blamed on Democratic critics," The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, December 9, 2004, p. A-6 (from The Associated Press).

  9. David Stout, "Court sides with Cheney in suit over energy panel," The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, May 11, 2005, p. A-5 (from The New York Times).

  10. Jessie J. Holland, "Full Senate begins debate on Alito," The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, January 25, 2006, (from The Associated Press),, accessed 01/25/06.

  11. Andrew Sullivan, "We Don't Need a New King George; How can the President interpret the law as if it didn't apply to him?" Time Magazine, January 23, 2006, p. 74.

  12. Gina Holland, "High court limits whistleblower lawsuits," The Associated Press, May 30, 2006.  See also: Joe Baker, "High Court Ruling Gags Government Whistleblowers," The Rock River Times, Rockford, Illinois, Issue of June 7-13, 2006,, accessed 06/09/06.

  13. Charlie Savage, "Bush challenges hundreds of laws; President cites powers of his office," The Boston Globe, April 30, 2006.

  14. Doug Thompson, "Bush could seize absolute control of U.S. government," Capitol Hill Blue, January 13, 2006,, accessed 06/05/06.

  15. Steven Leser, "Bush Impeachment – The Illinois State Legislature is Preparing to Drop a Bombshell; Utilizing a Little Known Rule of the US House to Bring Impeachment Charges,", April 22, 2006, opedne_steven_l_060422_bush_impeachment___t.htm (remove space), accessed 05/03/06.

  16. From: Jim Brown, Pete Seeger: The Power of Song, [Documentary], Live Nation Worldwide, Inc., 2007.

  17. David Swanson, "Congressman Dennis Kucinich Introduced 35 Articles of Impeachment [PDF] Against President Bush on Monday Night,", June 10, 2008,, accessed 06/10/08.

  18. U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on the Judiciary, "Hearing on Executive Power and Its Constitutional Limitaions,", accessed 07/29/08.


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    Escaping Political Reprisal
    The New King George
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    Bush Impeachment, Part 1
    Bush Impeachment, Part 2 Bush Impeachment, Part 3