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Don't let down our Guard

The president has no business usurping governors' authority

The title of the National Guard is a bit of a misnomer, for while these military units may be called upon to assist in times of national emergency or war, they are formed by the states and operate under the authority of the governors of those states.

That bit of trivia does not seem to concern the Bush administration, which has attempted yet another power grab by pushing legislation that would allow the president to take control of Guard units when he deems an emergency to exist.

The National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 5122) has been approved by both Houses of Congress, but is in conference committee to resolve differences in the two versions. The Republican-controlled House (surprise, surprise!) approved the version with the Guard-grabbing language.

But this is not a partisan issue for the states. In fact, 51 governors, including some from territories, have signed a letter asking House leaders to drop the provision ceding authority to the president. One Republican governor, Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, said the proposal "violates 200 years of American history." The governors on the list also include Rick Perry of Texas and a guy named Jeb Bush, from Florida.

That other guy named Bush, the president, has already made numerous efforts to marginalize Congress by using "signing statements" announcing that he may not recognize bills even after he signs them. He has attacked the nation's judges and skirted the laws involving courts by authorizing warrantless searches. Now he says he should control the armed forces currently under state control. Why do we need three branches of government when President Bush thinks he can handle it all? Why do we need independent state legislatures and governors when all decisions could flow through the White House?

President Bush has taken this country down the wrong path in too many ways to list here. The United States is resilient and has bounced back from previous chief executives who were either incompetent or power mongers, or both. But this president is trying to make structural changes in the nature of government, changes that concentrate more and more power in the hands of the president. Those changes will not disappear when his time in office mercifully ends.

This president speaks often of his desire to spread democracy throughout the world. At home, he is slowly, piece by piece, limiting the democracy that has made this nation so great.

Congress should protect states' rights and do its job in preserving the powers of all three branches of the federal government. It must stand up to this president and tell him that, once again, he is wrong.