here are more than a few people who are not sure the geographic state of the United States can survive the remaining terms
of the current government. It is, after all, perhaps the most corrupt, dishonest, and destructive government in its history.
Ray McGovern, a former CIA analyst, now says that he has proof
that the Veep was behind the forged documents that helped bring the invasion of Iraq. And George McGovern
thinks that this administration will not last out to the end of the term. Last week, articles of impeachment
against Cheney were introduced.
With that action, this thoughtful piece by Robin Cravey places impeachment
within the realm of possibility, and more importantly, in the realm of justice itself.
Impeach the president: defend the Constitution
by Robin Cravey
Tilted Planet Press
Many citizens today are calling on Congress to impeach President Bush. I agree, and I've believed for several years that Mr. Bush has committed high crimes deserving of impeachment. However, I don't expect that Congress will impeach the President, because I don't think Congress can convict him.
Americans have plenty of reason to demand that this president be driven out of office. He has lied to the people; he has used his office for private gain; he has violated the constitution; he has trampled on the rights of citizens and the rights of humanity; he has looted the national treasury; he has allowed our attackers to escape unpunished; he has diminished our standing in the world; he has destabilized international balances; he has worsened a global environmental crisis; and he has worn out and wounded our military in a pointless war. I could go on. We're all sick of it and of him.
The President shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors. (U.S. Constitution, Article 2, Section 4) The House of Representatives shall have the sole Power of Impeachment. (U.S. Constitution, Article 1, Section 2) The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present. (U.S. Constitution, Article 1, Section 3)
"How did you manage to impeach Nixon?" a young man asked me not long ago. Then, too, the president had lied to the people, trampled on the rights of citizens, violated the constitution, and engaged in a pointless war, though it was not a war he started.
I remember how, as a young man in my twenties, I sat in the television lounge of the Texas Union day after day as the House Judiciary Committee and then the full House debated and approved articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon. And I remember the voice of Barbara Jordan sounding the call of history through those proceedings.
After the House of Representatives approved articles of impeachment, the Senate committee began hearings. Mr. Nixon was impeached, but he was not convicted, and he was not removed from office. Instead, after being advised by leaders of his own party that conviction was likely, the president resigned from office.
Thinking ahead, before Mr. Nixon's impeachment, prosecutors persuaded his poisonous vice-president to resign from office in a plea bargain over official corruption charges. Gerald Ford, a plodding Republican Congressman of sufficient character, was named to the office and later assumed the presidency on Mr. Nixon's resignation.
How did we succeed?
I think several factors were decisive. One was the smoking gun. That is, against all the other greater crimes at issue, there was the matter of a burglary at Democratic Party headquarters, and the detective work in this crime story became a symbolic drama that gradually built a case that the president was a crook.
Another was the turbulent mobilization of the people. The civil rights movement, the draft, the women's rights movement, the environmental movement, the repeated frustration of our hopes by assassinations, all brought large crowds into the streets demanding change.
Another was the vigilance of an independent press. Then newspapers, radio stations, and television stations were owned by many different people and corporations, each with its own policies, many with strong investigative reporters, and most with a healthy skepticism of political power. Finally, there was a broad and deep Democratic majority in Congress.
The Democratic majority had been swept in with Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal, had largely weathered the Eisenhower years, had been boosted with Lyndon Johnson's Great Society landslide, and had survived two Nixon victories. This Democratic majority did more than just provide the party with enough votes to move the impeachment process forward. It provided a deep cadre strong leaders.
Furthermore, because of the bipartisan sobriety with which the Democrats ran Congress under Republican presidents, it allowed them to command respect and trust, and it set a collegial example that Republican members of Congress tended to emulate. Thus the impeachment debates could really be conducted on a level of national principles and the rule of law.
Today, the situation is much different. In the interim, a rankly partisan Republican majority took control of Congress and ran riot. They shut the Democratic minority out of the legislative process and trivialized the impeachment power by debating presidential sex practices in the halls of Congress. They went on to use every political tool legal and illegal to protect and increase their majority. Meanwhile, the independent press has been largely bought up and muzzled by a few large corporations. Through all this the populace has remained quiet.
Now the Democrats have at last regained the majority in Congress, but it's a fresh and slim majority. The House majority is adequate for some forward steps, but the need to sweeten the war limits bill with unrelated domestic spending shows a lack of strength and discipline. In the Senate, even worse, the majority is bare and tenuous. To move anything in the Senate will require the cooperation of responsible Republican Senators, and they are in short supply. To reach a two-thirds Senate majority on articles of impeachment would be impossible.
Knowing that the Senate will not convict, should the House impeach?
Let's think about it.
The president has committed high crimes in office. He should be punished or at least rebuked. To fail to confront him would be an encouragement for the many ambitious and unscrupulous pretenders vying for power.
If the House moves seriously and deliberately, the sight of our Congressmen drafting and debating articles of impeachment can provide a powerful national education. But it will take time. Democrats in the House are already hard at work investigating and exposing many of the abuses of the president's administration. Such investigations are an important prerequisite to impeachment. The entire process to report on current investigations, draft articles of impeachment, debate them in committee, and approve them by the full U.S. House could last into next year, when we will be involved in elections for a new president. And the House could go through debate and fail to impeach.
The sight of the U.S. House impeaching the president could provide one lesson to the nation, but what then? What if the President just stubbornly continues in office? That would provide a different and possibly negative lesson. When Bill Clinton defied the impeaching House, he could do so because everyone could see the frivolous nature of the impeachment. If George Bush defies House impeachment on serious charges, what will the lesson be?
Will the Republican lesson in Congressional frivolity be followed by a Democratic lesson in Congressional impotence? That would be bad. We need a strong Congress to protect us from the encroachments of the executive. We play into the hands of men like Mr. Cheney if we further diminish the stature of Congress.
The lesson from President Bush defying impeachment could be a positive one if the Democrats are unusually skilled and disciplined. If they conduct the proceedings with probity, the President's defiance could further demonstrate his intransigent lawlessness and the danger of men like him.
Failure of the Senate to convict, or maybe even to take up the articles of impeachment, could also remind the people that off-year Congressional elections can add up to profound national consequences.
Could the president and vice-president actually be forced from office? It's difficult to see how. Given their obvious contempt for the rule of law, they are not going to resign just because the House of Representatives has approved articles of impeachment.
How do we decide?
We don't decide based solely on whether this president can be removed, or whether the Democrats can retake the presidency. We certainly don't decide based on whether the Democratic Party will regain their ascendancy, though that would be good for the country. What is at stake here, as Mr. Cheney and his ilk understand, is the power of the Congress to represent the people: in short, our Constitution.
Can the House of Representatives take on the President and regain some of its constitutional power? A better question might be whether the House of Representatives can regain its constitutional power if it does not take on this President.
Again, if this President is not rebuked, the next President of either party will have some very dangerous precedents to stand on.
The risks are high.
Can we succeed?
Let's find out.
Labels: political philosophy