Presidential impeachment is the only remedy the American people have against the establishment of rule by a dictator, and is not an action to be taken lightly (as it was in the recent past). However, neither should it be considered “optional” for political reasons when a sitting President has committed criminal acts.
Commentary By: E in MD
On the tenth of June we saw the Democratic Congressman of Ohio’s 10th District draft and bring to the floor of Congress the Articles of Impeachment for President George W. Bush. Impeachment is a process that is long, expensive, and exhausting to the American people and the system of government that supports and protects them. However, some people seem to feel that impeachment in this case is either not justified or is just a waste of time.
Granted, Congress does have a whole host of important issues on their plate right now. The war, telecom immunity, domestic infrastructure, the energy crisis, the mortgage crisis. The list seems endless and perhaps that is why we have a Congress in the first place. The people occupying space in Congress are elected in order to do two things: the first, something they seem to have forgotten on many fronts, is to be the direct representative for the American people to their government. Obviously with three hundred million plus citizens, we can’t all head down to DC and start shouting and expect to get anything done, although given the track record Congress has had in doing this job over the last few years, perhaps it’s time that a large portion of us did just that. The second job of Congress is to provide a check on the other two branches of government.
Our government really isn’t that complicated, though it can certainly seem that way when you are trying to get something accomplished. We have three branches with each one co-equal and important. Each branch has specific things that fall under their jurisdiction and each branch is set up so that the competition inherent in our species will help to mitigate personal ambition amongst the members. The legislative branch, of which the Congress is but one part, is responsible for writing the laws and for keeping a budget. The executive branch is tasked with signing or rejecting the laws and then executing the laws that have been approved and making sure that they are applied equally to all people. The judicial branch is there primarily to ensure compliance with the Constitution and to make sure that restitution in some form is made when the executive discovers and prosecutes someone breaking the laws made by the legislative branch.
The executive is not empowered to interpret the law. That is the strict province of the judicial branch. The legislative branch is not entitled to prosecute the law, with the exceptions of impeachment and as the need arises in their capacity of advice and consent. The judicial branch is neither empowered to write, nor approve, nor execute the law. This system works because each branch balances out the powers of the others, thus preventing the consolidation of power within one branch, entity, group, or individual.
The biggest problems occur when parts of the system break down as they have now. For two full Congressional sessions, we had a Republican-controlled legislature that effectively gave the President anything he wanted with no real debate, study, or even much thought, all out of party loyalty and individuals grasping for power. We can see this in the rhetoric and tactics that the Republican party uses in its propaganda campaigns.
The Democrat-controlled Congress is suddenly a –do nothing Congress’, but they fail to mention the reason why nothing is getting done is because the Republicans are blocking every bill that comes along, even ones honoring the contributions of American mothers on Mother’s Day. When by some miracle a bill manages to appeal to the –minority’ enough that it passes, the President simply vetoes it. When the Republicans were in the majority they controlled everything including scheduling and committee assignments, and in many cases locked the minority out of the entire process using procedural delays and maneuvers. Now that they are in the minority they are still exercising control because of the threat of filibustering in the Senate and the delay of debate in the Congress. They are doing this not because the bills coming through are particularly offensive, but rather they are doing it out of sheer spite. They are playing the system for their own personal gain and to avoid culpability not only for their party but for their President.
It was only when the Democratic party recaptured a slim majority in Congress in 2006 that the Congress again started doing their job and began to question the actions and motivations of the Bush administration. By this time, however, Bush had already been re-elected and was two years into his second term in office. The new Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, has stated outright that impeachment as an issue was “off the table”, when she has absolutely no right to do so. Nowhere in the Constitution does it say: the Speaker of the House shall be gifted with the power to selectively ignore parts of this document at his or her leisure. Her desire to somehow appear nonpartisan in the face of such obvious corruption has effectively destroyed all credibility and power the Congress retained merely by her failure to act. This power she sacrificed is OUR power, the only power we as American citizens can truly wield, short of outright revolution.
With all of these things these things in mind, I must say that: There is no more important issue than impeachment.
On June 12th of 2008, in the Sun-Sentinel newspaper an editorial was written stating:
The nation does have a few pressing issues pending that could use some attention from our federal lawmakers.
Let’s see. There are a couple of wars going on, unemployment is on the rise as the value of a house continues to fall, millions of Americans have no health insurance, and did we mention that gas prices are expected to hit $5 a gallon? You get the idea. And still, some in Congress feel the nation is just itching for another presidential impeachment.
In this nation, right now, because of the machinations by the 107-110th Congresses, I as an American citizen, can be dragged out of my house in the middle of the night, jailed indefinitely, be subjected to torture, have all of my financial accounts frozen and my property and land seized, all because of the word of one man and one man alone. Having this much power in the hands of one man effectively promotes a that man to the status of a King. This is the very reason why we have separate, distinct and co-equal branches of government -to prevent abuses of the public trust, the Constitution and the citizenry by anyone one branch. No where in the Constitution does it say that the President shall be exempt from whatever law he should choose during times of war.
Until the point where the Supreme Court ruled that the detainees of the US Government still have habeas corpus right it was at the sole discretion of the Executive that any on person be jailed under the Global War on Terror as an –unlawful enemy combatant’. Whether or not you were a citizen of the US isn’t relevant because if the executive branch has already decided that your rights don’t matter then how is informing them that you are an American citizen going to change their minds when you are strapped to the waterboard. If they do not accept your 4th, 5th, 6th, and 8th amendment rights even though legally mandated to do so I doubt very much the fact that you are an American citizen will matter in the slightest. Even with the Supreme Court ruling, anyone can still be jailed as such, but in theory they have the right to contest their confinement as legal or illegal, assuming the administration allows them access to a lawyer that is.
George W. Bush under the rhetoric of the war has decided on his own merit, using no constitutional basis at all that the laws of our nation do not apply to him. One can see this from his signing statements alone but it is more apparent in his actions. Whatever, Jose Padilla may or may not have done, he was an American citizen and as such had the rights and protections of an American citizen. Not only did his conviction prove that there was no need for his indefinate incarceration and physical and mental torture to provide a conviction but it also proved that under Bush’s regime any one of us. You, me, Bill Gates, could find ourselves in the same exact predicament.
A second editorial on the Sun-Sentinel on June 16th, 2008 states:
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel rightly upbraided partisan Democrats like Reps. Dennis Kucinich and Robert Wexler for promoting impeachment of President Bush. It failed to note that impeachment is for actual violation of law, not opposition to policies.
I have read the Articles put forth by Congressman Kucinich and while there are some parts I believe should be removed, ultimately it is the criminal behavior of the Bush administration that is finally being addressed. The bottom line is that impeachment is the solemn duty of the Congress, and like the rest of the Constitution, they do not get to pick and choose the parts that they wish to abide by and which they will ignore. The FISA law states with exclusivity that FISA shall be the sole method by which the government will collect intelligence from domestic sources even during war time. George W. Bush’s warrant-less wiretapping scheme violated that law on an untold number of occasions. Each count is a felony with a penalty of up to five years in prison and/or ten thousand dollars in fines.
Another count of the indictment is the fact that George W. Bush admitted that he knew and approved of the use of torture on US Detainees. You can call it –enhanced interrogation’, if it will make you sleep better at night. Referring to these actions as the antics of a –fraternity hazing’ is not only disingenuous but is outright dangerous to American civilians and soldiers abroad. Whether or not you agree with the terms used to justify the torture of other human beings, if the United States is known to use these techniques against other human beings then Americans caught by other organizations will have no qualms using the very same techniques against us. If you were subject to these techniques under the claws of Iran or North Korea or China you would know what it was when it was happening to you and you would call it torture. Just because the same exact technique is applied by an employee of the United States government does not make it right or just or good. Torture and its use against anyone is wrong and torture against anyone in our custody is a violation not only of US law but our treaty obligations and international law as well.
Lastly, if the Senate Report on Iraqi WMD Intelligence is to be believed and the President or his cabinet knowingly falsified evidence or used evidence they knew was false then they are also guilty of defrauding the United States government. This is yet another felony violation and one that has led to over four thousand American deaths, untold Iraqi death,s and a total cost for the war that may measure in the trillions of dollars.
On these facts alone, he should be impeached. We are not discussing lying to Congress about extramarital relations with a twenty-one year old intern. We’re discussing the commission of an untold number of felonies that have resulted in the deaths and torture of thousands of people. If it were you or your loved ones who had been treated in such a fashion, I would like to think you would not be so quick to dismiss the attempt to bring an admitted criminal to justice.
Whether the author of the original editorial likes it or not George W. Bush has violated the law, and the President, more than anyone because of the power he wields, must be beholden to the law. Otherwise the law has no meaning. We do not allow the bank robber to walk out of the bank without consequences just because he said “I’ll never do it again”. Allowing these actions to go unpunished is tantamount to endorsement and some future President who may well be even more malfeasant than George W. Bush could use that endorsement as legal precedent for even more heinous acts against our nation.
I, for one, would rather see this President in prison for his actions than to see my children suffer at the hands of some future President who also sees himself as the right hand of God.
We are not a nation of men. We are a nation of laws. A man or woman who makes the choice to ignore a law deserves to be punished whether they be a bank robber, a rapist, a murderer, or a torturer. Even when the person ignoring the law happens to be the President of the United States and it is the sworn duty of Congress to act. Every other year each member of Congress who is elected or re-elected must swear the following oath ( From Article VI, Clause 3 of the US Constitution ):
I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. [So help me God]*.
To claim that impeachment is somehow not a duty because this President happens to be unpopular is either shear ignorance of our form of government or the ravings of a partisan divided heart that believes the Constitution is no more than a piece of paper full of guidelines.
* The actual wording of the oath for members of Congress was not codified in the Constitution as it was for the President. It specifies only that Congressmen “shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation to support this constitution.”. However US Code Title 5, Part III, Subpart B, Chapter 33, Subsection 3331 did codify the above oath into Law.