Bush press conference - 12/19/05
President Bush was in good form during a Monday morning press conference. Alternately ebullient, insistent, exasperated, empathic and emphatic, there was the occasional bit of good humor and a whole lot of Texas.
But mostly, the talk was about national security (as usual), and especially about the president's decision to unleash the National Security Agency (NSA) on select members of a surprised citizenry, many of whom see this as a direct assault on their civil liberties.
Which it may become. But for now, it's mostly going to be a battle between lawyers, some in Congress, some not. So what the president mainly did was lay out his two lines of defense: (a) constitutional, that is, Article II gives him that power ("executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America...), and (b), statutory, i.e. that the resolution passed by Congress three days after 9/11 called on the president to "use all necessary and appropriate force" against al Qaeda (lawyer-types call this "AUMF," for 'authorized use of military force').
The president's opponents argue that (a) this is an extraordinarily broad interpretation of Article II, which goes against Bush's more usual insistence on a strict 'constructionist' approach to the Constitution (don't mess with it, don't "interpret" it), inveighed, say, when choosing judges, and (b), Congress did not give the president the right to break the law, in this case the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, which forbids the NSA from spying on American citizens.
For those who just want to see the part where President Bush threatens the press, click here.
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