The Bush/Cheney Impeachment Papers

Dedicated to Constitutional Accountability

A Discussion on Impeachment and T&RC’s

with one comment

I’m going to take a liberty here. Or two. Thomas Nephew at newsrackblog and Nell Lancaster of A Lovely Promise had a dialogue about impeachment of sorts that was interesting and pushed the discussion. Thomas took on Mark’s T&RC advocacy, while Nell made some strong new arguments for impeachment. Nell’s further comments in response to a comment I made went even further. I’m going to present all that as a whole, here, without permission of any kind. I urge you to read it carefully and follow the links. It’s our democracy that’s at stake.

Impeachment and truth now. Reconciliation? Maybe later.

by Thomas Nephew

While it wasn’t her point, Nell’s excellent post earlier this week (”Prepare to Dare or Prepare to Despair“) reminds me that I’ve been less energetic than I should have been in supporting and discussing Dennis Kucinich’s H.Res. 1258 resolution calling for George Bush’s impeachment. The lengthy resolution presents 35 articles of impeachment, leading with Bush’s propaganda campaign for the Iraq war:

In his conduct while President of the United States, George W. Bush, in
violation of his constitutional oath to faithfully execute the office of
President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve,
protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of
his constitutional duty under article II, section 3 of the Constitution ‘to take
care that the laws be faithfully executed’, has both personally and acting
through his agents and subordinates, together with the Vice President, illegally
spent public dollars on a secret propaganda program to manufacture a false cause
for war against Iraq.

The resolution is a resource in its own right, presenting factual bases for each of the charges.* As David Swanson of AfterDowningStreet.org said,

Impeachment is only a lengthy process when you don’t already have the
evidence. President Andrew Johnson was impeached three days after the
offense for which he was impeached. … Bush and Cheney could be impeached, tried,
and convicted in a week.

 

Not even every impeachment supporter will agree that every single article in H. Res. 1258 merits Bush’s impeachment, removal from office, and banning from future federal office. But even in this the resolution serves a useful function, reminding us that impeachment is by design a political tool, to be wielded by the House of Representatives — not a judicial one or one limited to narrowly proveable violations of U.S. law.
To be sure — for those who insist on them — there are (in my opinion) such statutory and treaty violations involving illegal detention (Article 17), torture (Article 18), and illegally spying on American citizens (Article 24).

But impeachment can and sometimes must also be applied to the kinds of breaches of trust and willful poor judgment that have characterized the Bush administration, even if no specific statute is broken, even if “only” our constitutional system itself is at stake. The cannon of impeachment may seem less warranted for, say, the relative fly of “endangering the health of 9/11 first responders,” (Article 35), but quite a bit more so for the propaganda catapult of misleading claims about Iraq and 9/11 (Article 2), Iraqi WMD (Article 3), or “even” climate change (Article 32) — regardless of whether particular statutes were broken in the latter cases. Yet others strike at the equally profound subversion of the American political system, such as those about tampering with free and fair elections, corruption of the administration of justice (Article 28), creating secret laws (Article 22), and announcing intent not to follow duly enacted law (Article 26).

As AfterDowningStreet.com is reporting, Dennis Kucinich will present petitions supporting immediate impeachment hearings to Speaker Nancy Pelosi today. (You can still add your support here.)

Kucinich will also reportedly urge the formation of a truth and reconciliation commission — something Mark Gisleson (”Norwegianity”) supports in an article written for Mick Arran’s impeachment blog “The Bush/Cheney Impeachment Papers.” The arguments of Mr. Gisleson and others (like local congressional candidate Gordon Clark) notwithstanding, I see the “T&R” idea as a half measure ratifying a drift away from the Constitution and towards unwritten and impotent customs and conventions.
But even the half-measure of “truth and reconciliation” is not eagerly embraced by the Obama campaign. As Mark Benjamin reported for Salon.com (via Mick Arran) this summer:

…don’t hold your breath waiting for Dick Cheney to be frog-marched into federal
court. Prosecution of any officials, if it were to occur, would probably not
occur during Obama’s first term. Instead, we may well see a congressionally
empowered commission that would seek testimony from witnesses in search of the
truth about what occurred. Though some witnesses might be offered immunity in
exchange for testimony, the question of whether anybody would be prosecuted
would be deferred to a later date — meaning Obama’s second term, if such is
forthcoming.

On the other hand (and for what it’s worth), while it doesn’t call for either a commission or impeachment, the draft Democratic platform identified many of the same issues highlighted in H. Res. 1258. And it closed the relevant “Reclaiming our Constitution and Our Liberties” section with the ringing words:

Our Constitution is not a nuisance. It is the foundation of our democracy. It
makes freedom and self-governance possible, and helps to protect our security.
The Democratic Party will restore our Constitution to its proper place in our
government and return our Nation to our best traditions–including our commitment
to government by law, and not by men.

Impeachment is not a nuisance either — it’s an integral part of the Constitution. Impeachment is no esoteric afterthought — it’s the biggest actual “check and balance” in the document, and it’s mentioned six times. Impeachment is literally patriotic. And it would be a far more powerful tool towards uncovering the truth than any congressional committee or even special prosecutor would be — refusal to honor impeachment-related subpoenas was itself an article of impeachment in the Nixon articles of impeachment.

As Nell Lancaster wrote:

Impeachment is the key to reversing the damage of the last eight years, not
simply papering it over. The time to organize for demanding it is not after the
election, but now._______________________________________________________

 
From Prepare to dare or prepare to despair

by Nell Lancaster

Impeachment right away: Only a small minority of the American public — even of informed, activist liberals — understands that the Constitution provides for impeachment of officials after they’ve left office, not just for sitting presidents. Yet post-power impeachment hearings are the single best way to uncover just what lawbreaking was done. Not only do impeachment investigations have much stronger testimony-extracting powers than regular Congressional hearings, but post-term impeachment is much less easily characterized as a “partisan witch hunt” because it’s removed from an electoral landscape.

Other excuses will be will be thrown up by compromised, fearful, lazy, and/or power-loving Democrats. The two most common are “we don’t want to be seen as vindictive” and “impeachment would be a distraction from the vital work we have to get done”.

The best answer to ‘vindictive’ is that this is about restoring the Constitution, pruning back these dangerously expanded executive powers that no one — including “our” people — should have. That’s the opposite of vindictive.

We’re going to get the ‘distraction’ line not only from politicians but from our allies, every organized progressive constituency desperate to get issues addressed by Congress after eight (or 28) years in the desert. Yet if the impeachment investigations are put off for even a year, we’ll run right up against the midterms, and by 2011 the presidential campaign will have begun. So if hearings don’t begin in 2009, it’s hard to see how they could get going before 2013 -– by which time the “ancient history” charge will have more effect. So it could be 2009 or never.

We cannot wait. If there’s no serious domestic move toward accountability for torture, for which impeachment hearings are among the most practical and plausibly effective forum, then within a year there will be international legal interventions. The politics and optics of that are terrible, for anyone who cares about achieving a systemic rooting-out and reversal of this country’s policy of torture. Legal threats from outside the country risk creating an effect of rallying around the old regime (however incredible such a thing seems now), and not only among Republicans. The most secure footing for international law will be created by Americans ourselves restoring the rule of law in the United States.

Likewise, only actual exposure of what went on with domestic spying under Bush-Cheney can light a big enough fire under Congress to get them to roll back the legislation that enables it, and only impeachment hearings seem to me to have the testimony-inducing force to get that exposure.

Impeachment is the key to reversing the damage of the last eight years, not simply papering it over. The time to organize for demanding it is not after the election, but now.

(The mechanics to accomplish this are for another post. Please don’t wait for that; share thoughts and suggestions in comments.)

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Written by Mick

September 11, 2008 at 8:33 pm

Posted in The Kucinich Bill

One Response

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  1. It’s a pleasure to be included here.

    On the other hand, it’s sometimes annoying to read my own stuff a few days later. Re-reading, I obviously gave the T&R idea very short shrift — I mainly *feel* opposed, but I haven’t really worked out why much better than the sentences above, nor calmly weighed that against its possible political merits and feasibility. Also the item supposed to support Obama’s reluctance about T&R maybe doesn’t quite do the trick, though I think the linked article does.

    Thanks again.

    Thomas Nephew

    September 11, 2008 at 11:10 pm


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