Not All Impeachment Proceedings Are Political. Some Are Constitutionally Necessary.
Last night The Honey and I listened to the podcast of Bill Moyer's Journal segment on Impeachment with Bruce Fein and John Nichols.
Without once using the word fuck, both Fein and Nichols used some pretty strong language in laying out what amounts to the case for impeachment against both President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. They discussed the matter in terms of the Constitution. Using facts (imagine!) and referring back to both the Clinton and Nixon impeachment trials, Moyer's guests explained how impeachment is necessary as a Constitutional issue, regardless of the politics.
Recognizing that Americans are weary of impeachment, Fein, a conservative who served in the Reagan Administration, and Nichols, a liberal writer for The Nation, explained that the Constitution allows for, in fact requires, impeachment to protect the country and the Constitution itself.
As they explained, if Congress allows the Bush Administration to continue to amass broader executive powers and to whittle away civil liberties, then Congress is not doing its job of oversight.
Listening to Fein describe the charges against Nixon in contrast to what Bush is currently doing made me realize that Bush is worse than Nixon. To illustrate, Fein cited the fact that Nixon did not order or prevent his White House General Counsel John Dean from testifying before Congress. Dean did testify. Bush ordered his White House General Counsel Harriet Miers to not testify before Congress this past week. She complied with his order and did not show up to testify before a subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee.
To demonstrate the sychophantic and dangerous nature of this Administration, Fein points out that The Bushies serve Bush and not the Constitution. He noted during the testimony of Sara Taylor, former White House Political Director, where she stated that she took an oath to the President. Here she is being reminded by Sen. Patrick Leahy that she actually takes an oath to the U.S. Constitution.
As we listened to the podcast, The Honey and I discussed how Americans don't like the idea of impeachment anymore because we think it will halt or harm government. The point that Nichols and Fein make is that it's quite irrelevant whether we like impeachment or not and that to not pursue impeachment when it is necessary will, in fact, harm our system of government because in this case, we're allowing the Executive Branch to shift the balance of power in dangerous ways that will last long after we are all gone.
As one of the guests pointed out, power is never given away or given back willingly. The imbalance of power we now see will have to be recalibrated to balance through force, not because some future president decides that he or she wants to reduce their power.
By impeaching President Clinton for political purposes, Republicans, through cleverness or luck, have created an American mindset that impeachment can only happen for political reasons. If Nancy Pelosi pushes for impeachment hearings for Bush and Cheney, it can only be because she wishes to grab power for herself (as next in line for the Presidency) and to punish Republicans for impeaching Clinton. I imagine that this charge haunts Pelosi as she considers this very important matter.
When she says impeachment is not on the table, Pelosi is playing politics. She is not fulfilling her role as the Congressional leader of the Majority. She and Harry Reid need to understand that it is their role to allow the evidence to be presented, to push for investigations and to force the Bush Administration to provide subpoenaed documents and testimony or face legal consequences.
Some will argue that the Supreme Court, now packed with Conservatives, will rule in favor of the Administration and this will cause the country to point at the Democrats and level charges of wasting time and money on doomed impeachment hearings, especially in a time of war. Oooh, time of war. The be all, end all of arguments. When you can't make a case for your position, it's convenient to remind us all that this is a time of war.
Regardless of the projected outcome, Congress has a duty to pursue this. To ignore it is to allow the Executive Branch to seize power that is not constitutionally theirs. It derails our system of government and it creates a precedent for future presidents who will hold onto and amass as much power as weak or compliant future Congresses allow.
Republicans will lead the charge in the spreading the message that impeachment proceedings are being done for purely political reasons. They will scream and yell and cry about their love of country, the Constitution, the government,the people who are all being hurt by impeachment. They'll remind us that they pushed for Clinton's impeachment because he broke the law by lying to Congress. They'll deny that it was political or about sex.
That is when they must be reminded that it is they who have obstructed legislation repeatedly since losing control on Congress, how little they got done when they were in control and how little oversight they performed. They should also be reminded of their campaign literature, websites, and rhetoric that trumpet their disdain for government, so to cry those big crocodile tears for it now is just ridiculous. They will have to be reminded, too, that since they won't compromise with the Democrats and form veto-proof majorities, their Republican president has vetoed some very popular laws. Who's not letting the government do it's work? Who's ignoring the will of the people?
With that, their charge that government must go on and impeachment is too big of a distraction and drain, fly out the window.
Listen to the Moyer's podcast or watch the video. Fein and Nichols explain why that is all irrelevant. The Democrats must force themselves to stand up to this message and to PUSH BACK with the truth - The Bush Administration appears to have broken the law and to have acted in an unconstitutional manner. Congress is charged with oversight and impeachment is a Constitutional tool that Congress must use when the Executive Branch will no longer recognize the oversight role of Congress.
Nichols says it best, I think, when he responds to Moyers' question about this issue forcing a Constitutional crisis. Nichols responds, "Don't make the medicine the disease."
Impeachment is not the disease, the unconstitutional actions and behavior of the Bush Administration are the disease. Impeachment is the Constitutional medicine to cure it for this Administration and for all those that come after it.
Cross-posted at Politits.