Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Impeachment on a Silver Platter--No Strings Attached!

What an extraordinary gift Bush has given the Democratic Party and the American People. For months if not years, Democrats and Progressives have wrung our hands and beaten our heads against the wall: should we move to impeach? Whom, exactly, should we impeach? How can we do it? On what grounds? Will the American people stand with us, or against us? Above all, how can we do it without making Republicans look like the victims of a partisan witch hunt?

These have been vexing questions: practical considerations of politics and process have hampered the morally imperative drive to hold this Administration accountable. Simply submitting articles of impeachment for crimes and scandals would, unfortunately, stink of partisan witchhunts. As I argued in my Dragged Against my Will... post, it would take a Constitutional Crisis of epic proportions (such as I originally envision signing statements being) to make impeachment proceedings a feasible reality. It would have to be not just a question of accountability or morality, but of the very future of the Legislative Branch as a government entity co-equal in standing with that of the Executive.

Thankfully for Democrats, the American People and the United States Constitution, George Bush's recalcitrance, petulance, and extraordinary loyalty to his corrupt cronies have already answered all those vexing questions for us. Rather than our bringing the confrontation to him, George Bush is bringing the confrontation of Constitutional crisis to us.

As anyone who has been paying attention knows from Bush's petulant press conference today, the Administration is doing no less than inviting upon themselves a governmental power struggle unseen since the days of Abraham Lincoln and his unilateral suspension of habeas corpus. The key quote is here:

The initial response by Democrats, unfortunately, shows some appear more interested in scoring political points than in learning the facts. It will be regrettable if they choose to head down the partisan road of issuing subpoenas and demanding show trials when I have agreed to make key White House officials and documents available. I have proposed a reasonable way to avoid an impasse. I hope they don't choose confrontation. I will oppose any attempts to subpoena White House officials.

What Bush wants, of course, is the right to have his aides lie through their teeth in private, un-recorded sessions with no transcripts (i.e., no accountability). Elsewise, what could possibly be the difference between testifying under oath and testifying privately? As the conservatives so often say, "if you've got nothing to hide, what are you afraid of?"

He can't afford to have his aides tell the truth under oath, because then his whole staff--from Rove to Miers to Gonzales to many others--would fall. And that's just on the Justice Department firings business alone. But as Kagro X so effectively points out, this business goes far beyond the attorney scandal:

Realize that the resolution of this stand-off will determine the extent to which the Congress is able to investigate everything that's still on their plate. If they lose this showdown, they lose their leverage in investigating NSA spying, the DeLay/Abramoff-financed Texas redistricting, Cheney's Energy Task Force, the political manipulation of science, the Plame outing... everything.

And that's why Bush is playing it this way. Remember, too, that his "administration" is populated by Watergate and Iran-Contra recidivists, chief among them Dick Cheney, who has wanted to relitigate the boundaries of executive power since forever. Cheney and others on the inside believe that this time, with a friendlier judiciary, these issues can be decided the "right" way, overturning the victories won against Richard Nixon's insane theories of executive power.

Their thinking is that they'll either win it in courts, or run out the clock trying.

And the day they get five Justices to say they're right, everything you thought you knew about checks and balances becomes wrong.

There is, of course, another option: the highest court in the land--even above the Supreme Court. That court is the U.S. Congress--the final recourse for the American People to wrangle and hold accountable an out-of-control president. If the President refuses to obey subpoenas; if the attorneys in their back pockets refuse to prosecute; and the courts they have stacked refuse to convict--then impeachment is the final and ONLY recourse for justice.

It must be remembered here that BushCo always had two options in dealing with all these issues--even after perpetrating their crimes on the American people: they could
1) take the money and power, run, claim executive privilege and plausible deniability, let their subordinates take the fall, and slink out of office in 2009 as the most scandal-ridden and inept administration in history; or
2) choose to officially turn the American constitutional republic into a quasi-dictatorship by refusing to give ground and fundamentally altering the balance of power between the Executive and Legislative branches.

The first option would have harmed the Republican party for a while--but also allowed them to paint themselves as victims of partisan witchhunts, while letting a new fresh face emerge from the field in 2008 or 2012 to revitalize the Conservative movement.

The second option would lead inevitably to an epic showdown leading to impeachment proceedings and, should impeachment fail, the disenfrachisement of the legislative branch regardless of party control, with the end result in Authoritariansim either way.

Had the Republicans chosen option #1, they could have avoided impeachment proceedings.

Since, however, they have chosen option #2, they cannot POSSIBLY avoid impeachment proceedings unless Democrats in congress show a complete lack of spine.

What is more, Republicans in the House and Senate will not necessarily oppose us on impeachment when it comes to this issue: they can see the handwriting on the wall; they can see that Bush is leaving them out to dry; and they will not easily fall in line to play pawns for a lame-duck administration willing to go balls-out to strip those very congressional republicans of their own checks and balances to help them stop President Hillary, Obama or what-have-you. Furthermore, they will be less and less likely to want to defend Bush and his cronies as the ugliness of other impending scandals and investigations begins to unfold over the coming months.

In sum, Bush has given us every possible political cover and excuse for impeaching him, on an issue for which he has little to no congressional support among Republicans. It's wrapped up in a neat little package with a bowtie. It is, frankly, a generous gift to our Party, our Nation, and our Constitution.

All we need is the courage to open it.

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