Conservatives Rediscover Passion for Limits on Executive Power

Karl Rove, “The Architect” of the collapse of the conservative political coalition and the rise of a Republican president so inept that he’s presided over two failed wars a global economic meltdown the worst terrorist attack in American history and the destruction of a major American city, warns us of trouble ahead:

There are also plans to use the Obama campaign’s email list to lobby for Mr. Obama’s policies. The Chicago Tribune, reporting comments from Obama spokesman Steve Hildebrand, summed up the plan this way: the email list could be used “to challenge Democratic lawmakers if they don’t hew to the Obama agenda.” Just one problem. It’s illegal. There are statutory prohibitions on the White House from using tax dollars to directly lobby Congress by unleashing emails, calls and visits. That’s up to outside groups to do.

Rove is confused here. The list belongs to Obama for America. The proposal would be for that organization to continue to exist in some form, still controlling the list and still maintaining a relationship with Obama’s supporter. That separate organization would be engaged in whatever activities are being contemplated.

But it’s worth basking a bit in this persnickety concern for legal niceties. After all, Rove and George W. Bush have propounded the view that if Obama wants to bring pressure on Democratic lawmaker there’s nothing stopping him from ordering surveillance of the phone calls and emails made by members, their staffs, and their families in order to gain information with which to blackmail them. That sort of thing happened regularly, typically with FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover rather than a president as such being the main instigator, before 1970s-era surveillance reforms that Bush believes can just be ignored. Similarly, Obama could have family members of congressmen kidnapped and shipped off to secret facilities where they’ll be threatened with torture. Or the member themselves could be held without trial indefinitely in offshore military facilities. There’s a lot more to worry about than hanky-panky with email lists. Welcome to the brave new world.