Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Absolute Insanity

Executive privilege has been invoked throughout the decades for any number of violations of the law, most recently in regards to the ability of the President to do whatever pleases him because the country's in an infinite state of war (on 'terr').

I've never heard of executive privilege used as a defense of slander, though. But that's just what Missouri Governor Matt Blunt (R) has claimed in recent court filings.

"The absolute privilege provides complete immunity to its holder — even for intentionally false statements…,'' Blunt's court document states. "Under this standard, absolute immunity prevents Governor Blunt's alleged conduct from giving rise to defamation liability."

John Yoo would be proud. Where does one find lawyers who believe that simply writing something down makes it legally viable? Torture's not torture because we say it's not. Even if it is, treaties don't apply because we say so. Fourth Amendment? Applied at the President's discretion.

One of the central tenets of the American representative democracy is that our leaders are citizens themselves, not extra-judicial monarchs. That was the point of breaking from, well, a monarchy. To claim that holding an executive office grants the holder of that office carte blanche to do whatever he or she wishes requires an unfathomable amount of audacity.

Here, Blunt (and others) is(/are) claiming the specific right to spread outright lies about a former aide, Scott Eckersley, namely that he was fired for visiting a group-sex website and maybe a drug user. They later rescinded those claims.

The most significant deviation from President Bush is illustrated by this line: "Officials routinely contend that "absolute privilege," or executive privilege, shields them from legal liability for actions or comments made in connection with their governmental duties."

While I don't buy Bush's claims, at least he can attribute his misdeeds to his view of necessary governance. Blunt wasn't governing, and slander doesn't typically fall in the category of "part of official duties." 'Absolute privilege'--as his court filings term it--in this case, if followed to fruition, is basically a declaration that any act by an executive done while in office is immune from prosecution.

Snorting coke in the Governor's mansion has just as much to do with official duties as slander does.

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