Monday, November 20, 2006

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Impeachment

Speaker Pelosi says that impeachment is off the table, which has prompted cautious sighs among Republicans who feel that it would somehow be unfair to hold the Bush administration accountable for their actions, as well as cautious resentment among the neo-Internet Democrats who feel that it's far beyond time we started actually fighting using the same down 'n dirty (lack of) rules that our foes have employed since 1994. But it isn't much fun to be in the position of hoping that your party's leaders are lying to you. Fortunately for us all (including the long-term health of the Republican Party), everyone seems to be forgetting a few things.

First of all, this "on/off the table" phrase is incredibly misleading. As it has been most recently employed by Bush to hint that he might like to nuke Iran, one would think that taking something "off the table" must amount to a solemn vow that you would never, ever do it. In reality, it merely means that you don't have the intention of doing it right now. Grown-ups understand that things can be taken off and put back on "the table" as circumstances require. Before even using "the i word," testimony must be brought to Congress.

Secondly, everybody knows that Democrats are "flip floppers." Unlike Republicans, upon getting new information, Democrats actually have the ability to change their minds, utilizing a process known as "thinking." Therefore, for a Democrat, declaring an intention not to impeach at the present time in no way rules out impeachment at a future date. In fact it would be irresponsible of any Congress to merely start a fishing expedition for evidence to support a desired outcome. It would similarly be irresponsible for Pelosi to state that she had such a goal in mind until the appropriate processes were completed first. Take a close look, Republicans - this is what a responsible Congress looks like, in stark contrast to previous Congressional hearings into subjects such as Whitewater and Vince Foster's suicide.

So, out of the vast array of Congressional hearings waiting in the wings, which would be most likely to bear the delicious, juicy fruit of a Presidential impeachment? Let's look at a choice few:

9/11 Commission II

Almost as if they were frightened to complete their duty, the 9/11 commission famously tabled the question regarding whether intelligence had been manipulated to lead us into Iraq and adjourned indefinitely. The resumption of this commission under a Democratic chair to finish its assignment will inevitably uncover how one gets from scads of CIA-collected rumors which their own analysts discounted, to a final CIA summary stating that they know for a fact that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. Numerous other instances have occurred whereas items that the CIA had excised entirely from their reports later turned up in the mouths of our elected leaders.

Unfortunately, this one is going to go down like Iran-Contra. Sure, it's big. In fact, lying to get us into war is the one thing that lefties hate Bush for the most, but it won't stick. The administration will be able to shed a thick ablative shield of flunky scapegoats and then paint themselves as the mere victims of their own incompetent underlings. We'll all know it's a lie, but there won't be any smoking guns here. Still, this should hopefully discredit him to Nixonian levels, as well as root out the politicized bureaucracy installed in our intelligence services in favor of people actually willing to do their jobs.

Secret Prisons

On this, they are going to try to get away with their "law is unclear" game, dancing around on definitions (Does it apply to this foreigner? On that soil?) and employing delay tactics until no one is sure precisely why it's illegal.

Here's why it's illegal: when these occurred, the obligation of the U.S. Government to abide by Habeas Corpus was not a matter of Geneva Conventions or international treaty, but simply of Article 1, Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution which simply states that "The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it." As we are not presently in a state of either rebellion or invasion, claims regarding public safety are not relevant. Furthermore, this section of the Constitution notably does not refer to the legal or citizenship "status" of the person held. Habeas Corpus is not a right of citizens but rather a requirement placed upon the behavior of the Executive Branch. There are no other exceptions to this requirement, and no context which could change its meaning.

But wait! What about The Military Commissions Act of 2006? Didn't Bush get permission from the Republican Congress after the fact? Well, setting aside the fact that no Act of Congress can override an Article of the Constitution, the MCA attempts to absolve Bush's actions retroactively. In legal terms, that makes it an Ex Post Facto law. However, this is also explicitly verboten by the very same Article 1, Section 9 of the very same Constitution: "No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed."

Dadburn pesky Founders, they thought of damn near everything. Dadburn pesky Constitution. Bush probably should have read the silly thing before he took an oath to uphold it. Now, whether or not this constitutes a crime per se may be a difficult point of law, but whether or not Bush violated his Oath of Office is quite clear. That oath was to uphold the Constitution. The Constitution told him to uphold Habeas Corpus. He chose to do otherwise, so he broak his oath.

Warrantless Wiretaps

This one is a slam dunk. The Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act which governs this area of law explictly states that wiretaps require a warrant from a court. Bush has publicly stated that he authorized wiretaps without such warrants. There's no wiggle room on this. There are no legal exceptions or loopholes that he could possibly employ to get through or around the requirement for warrants. "Speedy" Gonzales & friends may talk around it all they like, but there's really no legal question on this whatsoever. And it doesn't matter what rhetoric he employs to appeal to the public that he should have been allowed to do what he did. The law is the law. This law is very clear. The President violated this very clear law. Presidents who violate laws get impeached. Period.

And so:

For each of the above points (and others), the pertinent facts will be placed before Congress, on the record. Once that is done, it would be a gross dereliction of duty for them not to impeach.

But even with all of this, until fairly recently I was filled with a vague sense of unease whenever the subject of impeachment came to mind. Not that I wasn't all for the impeachment of Bush, Cheney and whoever they care to cast off in their wake, but somehow I felt just a little bit like a partisan hack to admit it. Call it another form of liberal guilt, if you will. Here's what changed my mind and made it all easier: I merely asked myself "what about the Presidency itself?"

It would be one thing if all of the mean people currently in charge of the country wandered off into retirement and allowed saner heads get back to the business of putting the United States back together. Perhaps it would be better if we just moved on in 2008 and turned our backs on this ugly chapter of American history. After all, I'm a bleeding heart liberal softy ain't I? Give the poor schmucks a break and just put 'em out to pasture.

Unfortunately, that would set a precedent most foul. History would be written that these actions taken by these people went unpunished, leaving open-ended legal questions that a future President might exploit (maybe even a Democrat). We would always know what could happen, and that we did nothing to stop it last time. Thus, it is essential to the future health of the Union that all participants in the malfeasance of this administration be legally smacked so damn hard that it echoes forward throughout history, such that future generations of Chief Executives won't dare even think about trying to place themselves above the law for an instant.

Ultimately, no piece of paper, however venerable, has the power to enforce itself. The Constitution only "works" when the people in charge of executing it actually follow its precepts. This very thin point is all that stands between the United States and pure totalitarianism. When a President simply refuses to do what the Constitution says, the Union is forever imperiled. As such, violation of the Presidential Oath of Office itself must be considered an impeachable offense or else our Constitution may as well be written on toilet paper. This is why impeachment is necessary, completely irrespective of whether it is desireable.

So, whether you're a vaguely guilty moonbat or a panicky terrified wingnut, don't worry about the inevitable impeachment. It won't happen just because Bush is an idiot and a jerk, and it won't happen just because his lies are killing people. It won't happen because he is outnumbered by Democrats, and it certainly won't happen as revenge for Clinton. This is far, far more serious than the little partisan tit-for-tat games so beloved and feared by shrill Republican "strategists." Rather, impeachment will happen solely because it is a necessary step towards restoring freedom and liberty to America.

So relax. After all, freedom and liberty were supposed to be bipartisan concerns, right?




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