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TAG SP 475: MSNBC: Bila Ada Perang, Kuasa Presiden Menjulang
By Dana Milbank
24/11/2001 8:31 am Sat
Bila Ada Perang, Kuasa Presiden Menjulang
(In war, it's power to the president)
Serangan ganas pada September 11 dan peperangan di
Afghanistan telah melonjakkan pengaruh pentadbiran Bush
sehingga memberinya kuasa yang menyengat melampaui
pengaruh kerajaan Amerika ketika diterajui oleh presiden
pasca-Watergate, malahan menyaingi kuasa Franklin D.Roosevelt.
Di banyak bahagian, pentadbiran Bush telah bertindak merangkul
kuasa yang sepatutnya dikongsi bersama dengan setiap jabatan
kerajaan. Dalam dasar luarnya, Bush telah mengumumkan
pengurangan senjata nuklear AS, tetapi tidak pula dia merestui
pengurangan itu dimaktubkan dalam satu perjanjian - yang
semestinya memerlukan pengiktirafan Dewan Senat. Dalam
menangani dasar dalam negara, pentadbirannya telah
mencadangkan satu rombakan terhadap 'Immigration and
Naturalization Service' (Halehwal Imigresen dan
Kewarganegaraan) tanpa mendapatkan pendapat wakil rakyat
terlebih dulu. Dalam dasar perundangan pula, pentadbiran Bush
telah merampas kuasa perundangan dengan cara Bush
menandatangani satu arahan bahawa pengganas boleh diadili di
mahkaman tribunal ketenteraan.
Semua tindakan itu telah dilaksanakan minggu lalu, adalah
bertujuan untuk memperkasakan pengaruh kuasa Bush di Rumah
Putih, termasuk segala inisiatif menghadkan penerangan halehwal
risikan kepada ahli Kongres, mengambil-alih kuasa berbelanja
daripada sistem perundangan, dan meluaskan lagi kuasa eksekutif
untuk memantau dan menahan mereka yang disyaki melakukan
Dalam sejarah Amerika, kuasa presiden adalah laksana samudera
yang ada pasang surutnya, disebabkan keperluan, yang
meningkat secara lumrah ketika keadaan perang disebabkan
perlunya mewujudkan satu lambang penyatuan dalam kerajaan.
Lyndon B.Johnson mendapat sokongan hebat ketika resolusi Teluk
Tonkin bergolak, seperti Roosevelt ketika menangani Perang Dunia
II. 'The War Powers Act' (Akta Kuasa Peperangan) dan segala
bentuk reformasi oleh Kongres untuk menghadkan kuasa presiden
selepas episod Watergate telah melahirkan eksekutif ulung yang
lemah, seperti berlakunya ancaman yang lemah daripada Soviet
Tempoh Presiden ala-Maharajah
Kini, mengikut pendapat ramai cerdik pandai, Bush telah
mengembalikan status 'Imperial Presidency' (tempoh presiden
ala-Maharajah). Frasa 'Imperial Presidency' ini pernah
diperkenalkan oleh Arthur Schlesinger Jr. ketika menggambarkan
pentadbiran Richard Nixon pada 1973.
'Kuasa yang dihayun oleh Presiden Bush masakini adalah begitu
menakjubkan,' kata Tim Lynch, pengarah 'Project on Criminal
Justice di Lebertarian Cato Institute.
'Bayangkan apabila seorang manusia boleh membuat keputusan
apakah perang itu boleh diisytiharkan terhadap Iraq. Seorang
insan yang sama boleh membuat keputusan setakat mana rakyat
Amerika boleh memeram rahsia dirinya.'
Rumah Putih berkata, peningkatan kuasa presiden adalah satu
tindakan yang betul dalam keadaan wujudnya krisis. 'Cara negara
kita dibentuk dulu, dan cara Perlembagaan dirangka, memerlukan
agar kuasa pengendalian perang itu bulat-bulat terserah kepada
Ketua Eksekutif negara. ' Demikian pendpat setiausaha akhbar
Rumah Putih, Ari Fleischer.
'Bukanlah satu perkara yang ganjil ketika berlakunya peperangan
tumpuan negara terpaku kepada ketua eksekutif dan
keupayaannya untuk mengendalikan peperangan itu secara hebat
By Dana Milbank
Nov. 20 - The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the war in Afghanistan
have dramatically accelerated a push by the Bush administration
to strengthen presidential powers, giving President Bush a
dominance over American government exceeding that of other
post-Watergate presidents and rivaling even Franklin D.
ON A wide variety of fronts, the administration has moved to seize
power that it has shared with other branches of government. In
foreign policy, Bush announced vast cuts in the U.S. nuclear
arsenal but resisted putting the cuts in a treaty - thereby averting
a Senate ratification vote. In domestic policy, the administration
proposed reorganizing the Immigration and Naturalization Service
without the congressional action lawmakers sought. And in legal
policy, the administration seized the judiciary's power as Bush
signed an order allowing terrorists to be tried in military tribunals.
Those actions, all taken last week, build on earlier Bush efforts to
augment White House power, including initiatives to limit
intelligence briefings to members of Congress, take new spending
authority from the legislature, and expand the executive branch's
power to monitor and detain those it suspects of terrorism.
Presidential power ebbs and flows historically and, by necessity,
typically heightens during times of war because of the need for a
unifying figure in government. Lyndon B. Johnson gained clout
under the Tonkin Gulf resolution, as did Roosevelt during World
War II. The War Powers Act and other reforms by Congress to limit
presidential power after Watergate made for weaker executives, as
did the reduced threat from the Soviet Union.
Now, in the views of many scholars, Bush has restored the 'Imperial
Presidency,' a term Arthur Schlesinger Jr. used to describe Richard
M. Nixon's administration in 1973.
'The power President Bush is wielding today is truly
breathtaking,' said Tim Lynch, director of the Project on Criminal
Justice at the libertarian Cato Institute. 'A single individual is
going to decide whether the war is expanded to Iraq. A single
individual is going to decide how much privacy American citizens
are going to retain.'
The White House says an increase in presidential power is the
correct prescription for a crisis. 'The way our nation is set up, and
the way the Constitution is written, wartime powers rest
fundamentally in the hands of the executive branch,' White House
press secretary Ari Fleischer said. 'It's not uncommon in time of
war for a nation's eyes to focus on the executive branch and its
ability to conduct the war with strength and speed.'
The public - and Congress - seem content for Bush to assume as
much power as he desires. He had 90 percent approval ratings in
polls even before last week's dramatic progress in the Afghanistan
campaign, and congressional leaders have mustered little
resistance to the administration's bid to increase power in the
interests of national security.
Even before Sept. 11, the Bush administration has been looking for
ways to reassert presidential prerogatives, particularly in its
relationship to Congress - which some in the administration
believe grew too powerful during the Clinton and Reagan years
and first Bush administration.
'Every administration resets the balance with Congress as times
change,' said Fleischer. 'When the executive branch gets itself
into trouble, the congressional role, particularly the one on the
investigative side, grows. The nation grew weary of endless
investigations and fishing expeditions.'
DRAWING A LINE
Thus the administration declined to cooperate with a General
Accounting Office probe into Vice President Cheney's energy task
force, and cooperated with a Senate request for information on
new environmental regulations only after a subpoena threat. Seeking
to restore 'executive privilege,' the administration refused to hand
over to Congress many executive papers - even some from the Clinton
David Walker, a Republican who is director of the General
Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, said:
'There's a feeling of some in the current administration that they
want to draw a line in a different spot than previously has been
drawn in the separation of powers. As a result of Watergate and
the challenges [President Bill] Clinton had, Congress has been
much more involved in a range of areas they don't believe are
This pattern of consolidating presidential authority has extended to
other areas of governance. Bush issued an executive order
allowing a sitting president to block release of a predecessor's
records, undermining a law Congress passed about such papers.
When an open-meeting law prevented Bush's Social Security
commission from meeting privately, the group split into two so the
law would not apply. In foreign affairs, the administration has
shown a distaste for international treaties that require
congressional ratification, recently rejecting amendments to the
Biological Weapons Convention in favor of actions that wouldn't
require legislative approval.
The events of Sept. 11 have accelerated the trend, prompting the
administration to pursue an array of new powers to combat
terrorism and bolster domestic security.
Bush has opposed Congress granting statutory authority to
Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge, which has allowed Ridge
to refuse congressional requests for him to testify. Bush's Justice
Department decided, without the usual waiting period for public
comment, that it could listen in on lawyer-client conversations if
Attorney General John D. Ashcroft believes it necessary to
prevent terrorism; he could do so even if people have not been
charged and even in the absence of a court order.
That move followed congressional approval of the USA Patriot Act,
which makes it easier for the government to monitor, search, detain
or deport suspects and gives the Justice Department more power
to detain immigrants without charges. Also this month, the
government stopped saying how many people it has detained
related to the Sept. 11 attacks.
RELATIONS WITH CONGRESS
In the counterterrorism campaign overseas, Bush ordered sensitive
intelligence briefings to be limited to eight of the 535 members
of Congress, leading lawmakers to complain Bush had violated the
1947 National Security Act. Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) said Bush
'put out a public document telling the world he doesn't trust the
Congress.' The president backed down after lawmakers promised not
to leak information.
The administration has had mixed success pursuing more control
over fiscal policy. In mid-October, when Bush requested authority
for the president, after consulting with the speaker of the House, to
extend government funding if Congress could not convene
because of a crisis, Congress balked. Lawmakers also objected to
an initial administration proposal, after the attacks on the World
Trade Center and the Pentagon, for what amounted to a blank
check from Congress.
As it is, Congress gave the administration $40 billion to spend in
response to the attacks with few strings attached. Even so,
lawmakers have complained that the administration has not
provided, as required, information on how it is spending the
Some in the legislative branch, particularly in the opposition party,
detect a striking departure in public policy. 'There's just a
philosophy in the administration that the public doesn't have a
right to know, which is counter to the trend of the last 30 years,'
said Phil Schiliro, staff chief to Rep. Henry A. Waxman (Calif.), the
ranking Democrat on the House oversight committee. 'Now they
can justify it with national security, but that's more for
Scholars who follow Washington offer say history offers ample
precedent for a wartime expansion of presidential power. 'Crisis
seeks leadership,' said Charles O. Jones, a presidential scholar
with the University of Wisconsin. 'The only question becomes is
the White House prepared to accept it and use it effectively. This
team has an above-average record so far.'
Norman Ornstein, a governmental scholar at the American
Enterprise Institute, said the growth in presidential power during the
first year of the Bush administration exceeds the clout presidents
gained in recent wars, comparing it to the free hand Congress and
the judiciary gave Roosevelt to fight World War II.
'You always have to worry about people who have this kind of
power who don't have the restraint,' he said. 'I worry about that,
but we have such a different kind of threat on the country as a
whole that you have to change the way you look at presidential
© 2001 The Washington Post Company