[JURIST] In a scathing and fiery speech in Washington Monday on eavesdropping and excesses of executive power, former Vice-President and 2000 Democratic Party nominee Al Gore [Wikipedia profile; advocacy website] declared that the US Constitution was in "grave danger" and accused President Bush of repeatedly breaking the law by authorizing warrantless wiretaps on domestic communications. Gore said that the "disrespect embodied in these apparent mass violations of the law is part of a larger pattern of seeming indifference to the Constitution that is deeply troubling to millions of Americans in both political parties":
A president who breaks the law is a threat to the very structure of our government. Our Founding Fathers were adamant that they had established a government of laws and not men. Indeed, they recognized that the structure of government they had enshrined in our Constitution - our system of checks and balances - was designed with a central purpose of ensuring that it would govern through the rule of law. As John Adams said: "The executive shall never exercise the legislative and judicial powers, or either of them, to the end that it may be a government of laws and not of men."Gore proposed the appointment of a Special Counsel to investigate the executive wiretapping program and urged that provisions of the Patriot Act not be further extended until adequate safeguards against abuse were established. Gore's address, which was to have been introduced by former conservative Congressman Bob Barr (unable to appear because of a technical fault) was sponsored by the liberal American Constitution Society [advocacy website] and Liberty Coalition [advocacy website], a civil liberties group. Read the full text of the speech as prepared for delivery [PDF also available; watch recorded video via c-SPAN. The New York Times has more. In an interview with ABC afterwards, Gore said in response to a question that the President's domestic surveillance program could be an impeachable offense, reminding viewers that "Article II of the impeachment charges against President Nixon was warrantless wiretapping that the President said was 'necessary' for national security." ABC News has more.
An executive who arrogates to himself the power to ignore the legitimate legislative directives of the Congress or to act free of the check of the judiciary becomes the central threat that the Founders sought to nullify in the Constitution - an all-powerful executive too reminiscent of the King from whom they had broken free.