I fear, sadly, the United States of America moves closer and closer each day to a dictatorship, ruled by a megalomaniacal despot determined to destroy the Constitution, our basic freedoms and the checks and balances that have kept our government under control for more than two centuries.

The first rule in establishing a dictatorship is “control the flow of information.” George W. Bush is close to doing that with the most secretive administration in American history. Now he and his right-wing co-conspirators have unleashed an all-out assault on freedom of the press – the last step on taking control of information and the media.

Bush Monday slammed The New York Times for publishing information about another of his secret spying programs – this one a covert monitoring of international financial transactions of Americans and banks.  Administration officials tried to talk The Times out of publishing the story. The Times, to their credit, refused.

“The fact that a newspaper disclosed it makes it harder to win this war on terror,” Bush said. That’s the standard Bush excuse. Every time he’s caught violating the Constitution he claims it makes him harder to win his so-called war on terror.

Bush wasn’t the only Republican lackey out trying to fry the Times.

The New York Times has now twice — two separate occasions — disclosed programs; both times they had been asked not to publish those stories by senior administration officials,” Vice President Dick Cheney said in another speech Monday. “They went ahead anyway. The leaks to The New York Times and the publishing of those leaks is very damaging.”

Damn right they were damaging – damaging to the constantly eroding credibility of the Bush Administration and damaging to their attempted coup to seize absolute control of the U.S. government.

In Congress, another rabid right-winger, GOP Rep. Peter King, launched an even stronger assault on the Times and freedom of the press, demanding the paper be charged with treason.

“We’re at war, and for the Times to release information about secret operations and methods is treasonous,” says King, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee.

Thankfully, others do not share King’s hysteria.

“On the basis of the newspaper article, I think it’s premature to call for a prosecution of the New York Times, just like I think it’s premature to say that the administration is entirely correct,” says Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Arlen Specter.

But Congress is really not a factor in Bush’s view of absolute power. As President, he’s appended more than 750 “signing statements” to laws passed by Congress – saying he will ignore those laws if and when he chooses.

Again, this pisses off Specter.

“It’s a challenge to the plain language of the Constitution,” the committee’s chairman, Specter said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I’m interested to hear from the administration just what research they’ve done to lead them to the conclusion that they can cherry-pick.”

This whole affair has a Nixonian ring to it: Nixon tried to stop The Time from publishing The Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam War. That publication helped fuel the antiwar movement in the nation.