Did President Bush Violate the U.S. Constitution in Designating His Private Property in Texas the Seat of the Executive Branch of U.S. Government?
(it's no small issue that W spends so much time at the "western white house." according to the constitution, there can be NO SUCH THING! the white house is in DC. by moving the seat of government to texas, he is outside of view. this is not acceptable.)
Scandal Involving the So-Called "Western White House" Far From Trivial, Implicating Both the Events of September the 11th, 2001, The President's Ongoing Penchant for Propaganda, and His Historic Disregard for the Constitutionally-Mandated Separation of Powers
By ADVOCATE STAFF
Remember September 11th, 2001?
Of course you do.
We all do.
And for those of us not particularly fond of this President or confident of his competence, one of the first questions which nagged us after that horrible day in American history, and which nags at us still, is this: Could the President have done more to protect us?
As the controversial but critically-acclaimed movie "Fahrenheit 9/11" famously disclosed to the nation, President Bush spent an alarming percentage of his first eight months in office relaxing on his private ranch in Texas. Indeed, the President was a rare sight in Washington in the months leading up to September 11th, leading many to question not only President's early-term political agenda--a missile defense system which has never yet worked now seems an absurd political "priority," in retrospect, and seemed so to many progressives at the time--but also the President's commitment to governing this nation as opposed to, well, vacationing on his private property hundreds of miles from the nation's capital.
Which brings us to the headline emblazoned above, which should be every bit as troubling to the average citizen as it was to us at The Nashua Advocate when we first stumbled across the story.
So, to begin.
On August 3, 2001, USA Today ran a story, entitled "White House to Move to Texas for a While," which should have raised some heads among average citizens and legal scholars alike, but, in the event, did not:
Six months after taking office, President Bush will begin a month-long vacation Saturday that is significantly longer than the average American's annual getaway. If Bush returns as scheduled on Labor Day, he'll tie the modern record for presidential absence from the White House, held by Richard Nixon at 30 days.
Ronald Reagan took trips as long as 28 days.
White House officials point out that the president is never off the clock. They refer to the 30 days at his Texas ranch--now it's called the Western White House--as a working vacation. He'll receive daily national security updates and handle the duties of the Oval Office from his 1,583-acre spread near Crawford.
But some Republican loyalists worry about critics who say Bush lets Vice President Cheney and other top officials do most of the work. They're also concerned about the reaction of the average American, who gets 13 vacation days each year.
When Bush retreats to his ranch, aides say, the White House just changes location. "He'll be returning to Texas and operating out of Crawford," says Karen Hughes, counselor to the president, referring more to the small town where reporters will gather than the exact site of Bush's command center. He'll be 7 miles down narrow, winding Prairie Chapel Road.
Does any legal scholar in America doubt that the President can't move the White House, either formally or pragmatically, without prior Congressional approval?
More importantly, to put the finest point possible on this previously unreported story: while it's true that the President could live in a shack in Anacostia if he wanted to, his official government residence--and, far more importantly, the constitutionally-prescribed "Seat of Government" (yes, that's an actual term from the U.S. Constitution)--must not only be on federal property, but must be in a "District" (there's that pesky Constitution again) designated by, you guessed it, the Congress.
Meaning, not the President, and not the Executive Branch of government, of which the President is the head.
And lest anyone doubt that the White House's intention in August of 2001 was to move the Seat of Government, one need only consider the statement articulating same by the President's Chief Adviser (bolded above), as well as the inescapable fact that, approximately thirty days prior to the worst assault on America soil since Pearl Harbor, the Bush Administration actually put up a sign declaring Bush's private property to be the "Western White House."
And the nation--consumed, at the time, with the sordid Chandra Levy/Gary Condit fiasco--failed to take any notice of the change.
Oh sure, a few blogs noticed--but no one thought the move was illegal.
Nor, as a much less momentous matter, did anyone note the cravenness of the move, quite apart from it being illegal.
First, because Texas is incontrovertibly in the South, so the misnomer "Western White House" was a predictably transparent Team Bush attempt to make good copy, in this case by avoiding the inescapably provincial/Civil War-era implications of confiding to the nation that its President escaped to the "Southern White House" every few weeks (or even more frequently than that). After all, this nation has a fairly bloody history where "two White Houses" are concerned (particularly where one of them is in the South).
Moreover, the overtly-political maneuver was likewise transparent for its attempt to paint the President as a "hard worker": not only did USA Today report in its August 3rd, 2001 article that fully 30% of the nation refused to tell pollsters the President was "working hard enough," but, as "Fahrenheit 9/11" would later alert the nation, during his first eight months in office--the crucial eight months preceding the attacks of September the 11th--the President was cloistered in the "Western White House" a staggering 42% of the time.
Still think the President's attempt to evade the prying eyes of the Legislative Branch, and to force the people's representatives in Congress to seek a private audience with him on his private property instead of merely driving down the street to the real White House, isn't a big deal?
Well, consider this: the last world leader to so remove his nation's Seat of Government was baroque-era tyrant Louis XIV, the so-called Sun King, who moved his official operations from Paris to Versailles in a patent attempt to screw with the nobility and further entrench his iron grip on France.
Of course, The Sun King had nothing stopping him from moving his Seat of Government to Versailles.
Whereas this President did.
And indeed took a sworn oath to uphold the document which made unilaterally relocating the White House illegal.
But no one called him on it.
The Nashua Advocate here puts forward the following premise: the President's declaration that the seat of the Executive Branch of government would, during the entirety of his Administration, and whensoever he might choose, be variously something other than property owned by the citizens of the United States--and in a "District" duly designated by the Legislative Branch as the Seat of Government--was an illegal act for which any member of the Legislative Branch could now seek immediate redress, remedy, and injunction in a court of law.
The President can vacation wherever he likes, but he cannot establish a "Western White House" and declare, as he has, that the operations of the Executive Branch of government will from time to time be conducted solely from a location that is, in no uncertain terms, his own private property.
Now, for the legal proofs:
Article I, Section 8, Paragraph 17. [In part]. "Powers Granted to Congress: To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District...as may, by...the acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of Government in the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be..."
COMMENTARY: So what does this tell us? First, that the notion of a "Seat of Government" is a constitutionally-prescribed precept. Second, that there is only one "Seat of Government," not two or three or thirteen. Third, Congress decides which one place will be the "Seat of Government," and Congress alone. Fourth, that the "Seat of Government" must rest on federal--that is, public--property, meaning property "purchased [by Congress, on behalf of the People] by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same [Seat of Government] shall be..."
The President's "Western White House" fails each and every one of these tests. Which means both that it isn't the "Western White House" and may not be called that, and that the President may not make his Crawford ranch the Seat of Government for the Executive Branch for any period of time, period. Meaning, he can vacation there but can't set up even semi-permanent operations (let alone 42%-of-his-reign operations) in the State of Texas, whatever his Chief Adviser thinks.
Article IV, Section 3, Paragraph 2. [In part]. "The Congress shall have the Power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States;..."
COMMENTARY: So what does this tell us? Well, that Congress controls all federal property, including, of course, the White House. And that since Congress is responsible to the American public for its actions, the White House can truly be termed "The People's House." Not so "The Western White House," which is private property owned by George W. Bush, citizen. Congress has no power there. The American people do not own that land. George W. Bush, citizen, can invite or not invite to his private home anyone he wants.
So, what's the significance of all this?
[Anticipating, here, the frivolous objections to this article from, candidly, those many frivolous conservatives whose pet issues involve, typically, how many politically-correct albatrosses you can balance on the head of Tom DeLay, or a toilet-bowl scrubber, whichever is worth more, and not, God forbid, anything touching upon the Constitution of the United States. Which, by the by, doesn't in any way disallow filibusters].
So, if you're looking for the meat in all this, look at it this way: first, the President of the United States may have violated the United States Constitution (and even the Declaration of Independence, to the extent it's binding [see below]), contrary to his oath to uphold same under Article II, Section 1, Paragraph 8.
That's a big enough hill of beans any way you look at it.
Second, there are damn good reasons the Founding Fathers gave the most representative branch of government control over where and how the President would set up the Executive Branch of government.
1. The Founders did not want the Seat of Government in the United States to be bifurcated--or worse--in a geographic space spread across the length and breadth of the country. They believed, presumably, that doing so would fragment American government and reduce its effectiveness and even its authority (while, simultaneously, raising exponentially the transaction costs of running the affairs of the nation).
2. The Founders did not fight the American Revolution simply to reinstate some of the worst excesses of the pre-French Revolution monarchy: namely, a hereditary monarch whose control over the Seat of Government annually allowed him to control, as one would a marionette, say, every organ of government business. By removing itself to a remote location, the Executive Branch could, the Founders presumably reasoned, interfere with the proper functioning of other branches of government and place a disparate stock of power in the hands of the Executive Branch. With a "Western White House," the President A) need not open the space to the public, B) need not receive any person, in government or otherwise, he does not wish to receive, C) might not be obligated to disclose his business--and who he sees or does not see--to the American People, and so on.
3. The Founders established Washington as the nation's capital as a compromise between the Several States who were parties to the Constitutional Convention. To move the Seat of Government hundreds of miles to the west abrogates the intentions of all parties to the signing of the United States Constitution in a fashion which (had it been suggested, say, at the time) might well have nullified all such signatures to the Founding Document. In other words, the whole deal, the whole kit-and-kaboodle might have fallen through in 1789 had Crawford, Texas (of course, then a part of Mexico) been made the capital instead of Washington, which was the official compromise of the Several States then in existence at the time.
4. The Founders wanted the Seat of Government to be a publicly-accessible space, one which would effectively reify what Lincoln would eventually term--and the Founders certainly strove for--"a government of the people, by the people, for the people." Does a government which conducts its affairs, and makes its Seat, on a private ranch in Texas meet that standard? Does anyone doubt that Crawford, Texas was the Seat of Government during the 42% of the time Bush was there between January and September of 2001? Alternately, are any of you conservatives out there willing to concede publicly that Bush was hundreds of miles from the Seat of Government in the months leading up to September 11th?
No, of course you won't. Karen Hughes couldn't or wouldn't admit it, and neither will you.
5. This President has a history of mingling the powers of the Legislative Branch with his own (supposed) powers. Witness, for example, the Administration's refusal to turn over documents to Congress which would have established, conclusively, just who was behind Team Bush's so-called "energy policy." This latest revelation is no different: the President wants to spend approximately 42% of his time at a private location, inaccessible to the People's representatives and indeed the People themselves, make it in every sense the Seat of Government, and then--through a trickery of signage--not be called on it. When, in fact, the sign does little more than confirm the President's unconstitutional intent in slithering off to his "Western White House."
The President should be asked, by a Member of Congress, to remove the plaque from the President's private ranch in Texas which dubs said private property "The Western White House."
There is no Western White House.
There is just a White House.
And it is the People's House.
And when the President goes to Crawford, Texas, he goes on vacation--not to his "other office" or to a second Seat of Government which, conveniently, he owns, controls, operates, maintains, and, in the private-citizen sense, governs exclusively.
The Crawford ranch is a private residence.
Calling it anything more than that, especially as a justification for escaping accountability in Washington, and/or escaping the demands of the People's representatives, is quite simply illegal.
That's right, illegal.
You heard it here first.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: To the doubters, particularly those who, like many conservatives, believe the non-binding, pre-constitutional dicta of the Declaration of Independence is sacrosanct, whatever the U.S. Constitution says: What would you say if it was proven to you that The Declaration of Independence specifically addresses what Bush has done during his Presidency--and addresses it using George's name, too, as the actions taken by this President mirror those by George III?
To quote from the Declaration:
The history of the present King of Great Britain [George III] is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.
To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world....He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
So, this is not the first unpopular Head of State to be accused of routinely conducting important government business at a place "unusual, uncomfortable, and distant" from the nation's "legislative bodies."
In 1776, those places were across an ocean; now, they're hundreds of miles from the Seat of Government in the other direction. Either way, the unilateral removal of the Seat forces the People's representatives to go begging--in this case, on the reigning leader's private property].