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Open Letter (3): Nixon, Reagan, and the Church

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If it seems to you. Ms Pelosi, Mr Obama, as if these events are long ago, far away, and hardly germane to a modern question like whether or not to impeach a president, let me try to clarify the context by resorting to some far more recent history.

Thirty-four years ago last week, Richard Nixon resigned as President of the United States after he was proved to have used agencies of the US government to spy on his domestic political enemies, among other crimes.
Barely a month later, on Sept 4, Gerald Ford, his Vice President. pardoned Nixon for any and all crimes he might have committed as president, calling the situation “a tragedy in which we all have played a part. It could go on and on and on, or someone must write the end to it.”

Sound familiar?

Nixon, who had been the first president to claim executive powers well beyond the Constitutional limitations put on the office by the Founding Fathers and the first to deliberately and with malice betray that Constitution in ways that wounded the nation so deeply that the effects are still being felt 30 years later, never saw a trial, never saw a minute in jail, never – to the disgust of the country he had treated like a dictator treats a banana republic – never saw a single consequence for criminal actions taken against all of us except the loss of the office he had violated repeatedly, not only without remorse but arrogantly insisting to the end that he had done nothing wrong.

Present VP Richard Cheney began his career in govt under Nixon, first as Donald Rumsfeld’s assistant at the OEO, then as Gerald Ford’s chief-of-staff after Nixon resigned and Ford became president. He has said that he developed the concept of the “unitary presidency”, in which he claims monarchical powers for the executive, in response to what he considered the “hounding” of Nixon from office.

Barely 12 years after Nixon’s resignation and Ford’s blanket pardon, President Ronald Reagan proceeded to appoint a rump government within the White House whose job it was to break laws and evade Congressional legislation and oversight – its Constitutional prerogative. In what came to be known as the Iran/Contra Affair, laws that were properly passed under the Constitution by the Congress of the United States were blatantly and recklessly violated in an arms-for-hostages deal that Reagan himself had publicly forbidden but privately ordered DefSec Casper Weinberger to carry out.

In all, 14 Reagan Administration officials were charged with crimes and 11 were convicted, including Weinberger and Ollie North. NOT ONE SAW A DAY OF JAIL TIME. North’s and John Poindexter’s convictions were overturned on technical grounds, and Federal prosecutors refused to try them again, possibly because they were aware that in the waning days of his administration, President George HW Bush was going to pardon them all, unconditionally.

And so not once, but twice, American presidential administrations have defamed and trampled on some of the most serious and solemn provisions of the Constitution of the United States WITHOUT LEGAL CONSEQUENCES OF ANY KIND FOR ANYONE INVOLVED. But most especially there was no action whatever taken against those at the top levels of govt who had ordered those violations: the president and the vice president.

Is it any wonder that the Bush Administration felt free to do whatever it wished, to violate US law, the Constitution, and Congressional orders lawfully given? To do its business entirely in secret, refusing even to let the Congress itself know what it was doing? The lesson they had learned and learned well was that a president could ignore laws, the Constitution, Congress, the judicial branch, and the people themselves WITHOUT FEAR THAT THEY WOULD EVER HAVE TO PAY A PRICE FOR THEIR CRIMES.

But the real tragedy is not in the lessons the criminals learned but in the lessons we, the people, have learned. Nixon, Iran/Contra, and now George W Bush, have taught us that we have no protection from runaway govt. That our politicians can violate the laws with impunity. That powerful men are allowed to do in the US as they have done everywhere else – betray the law, betray the people, betray their trust, lie, steal, even kill – and they will never have to pay the price for their illegal, unethical, immoral acts. That – and this is the worst consequence of all – the promise of America that has been held out as an example to generations of men and women longing to escape the tyranny of the rich and the powerful, that that promise is dead. That it is at best meaningless lip service. That the rich and powerful can get away with anything, and that our so-called “equality” is a sham.

Yet as bad as all that is, we have not yet hit bottom. If we return to the example of the Catholic Church in the previous post, we know that this is but the beginning of an unrelenting and inevitable process of decay if we insist on imitating their “move on”, “get past it” policy of denial and avoidance.

The history of the GC’s tells us that for as long as we avoid, so will the decay advance, even for 1000 years. The more recent history of the modern conservative movement tells us that modcon True Believers feel their sense of entitlement like a perpetual itch. They will not quit, they will not stop trying to get – by hook or, more likely, by crook – what they believe they are owed: power over the rest of us. And if they face no consequences for their actions, consequences serious enough to deter them from doing it all again the first chance they get, Church history says that we have a long way down yet and long before our thousand years are up, we will no longer be living in even the semblance of a democratic equality. The rich and powerful will run everything, the whole society will be as corrupt as the Bush/Cheney Regime, and the American Dream of freedom and equality for all will have become a nightmare of modern feudalism.

At this point, you are the only ones who can prevent this from happening. Please reconsider your decisions. For all our sakes. For the sake of our democracy. For the sake of our future.

Written by Mick

August 15, 2008 at 1:25 pm

Open Letter to Barack and Nancy: Why “Moving On” Is a Recipe for Disaster (1)

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Nancy Pelosi and the rest of the Democratic leadership have chosen not to bring the Bush Administration to account for any of its crimes because they consider it a risky political decision that could potentially backfire on them and cost them the election. One can certainly make a good argument that polls would tend to pretty strongly suggest otherwise, but even if one accepts their argument, there is a far deeper problem they’re ducking: the effect on the country.

Barack Obama backs Pelosi’s decision to take impeachment “off the table” for a slightly different reason (although we have to assume that Nancy’s reason carries a lot of weight with him). He is looking forward to his administration having massive problems to deal with in the wake of the worst presidency in American history. The last thing he wants to do is stir up partisan resentment that will make reforms more difficult (if not impossible) by alienating Republicans who might be disposed to work with him. One can certainly make a good argument that the modern conservative movement is so filled with heterodoxical extremists and unbending ideologues that any truly bi-partisan relationship is nothing but an unrealistic dream, but even if one accepts his position, there is a far deeper problem he’s ducking: the effect on the country.

This past June in The Nation, Corey Robin, in an essay on the way the Right has always followed and/or copied the Left, made the point that in the 1960’s Goldwater saw that conservatives, who were taking a beating as corrupt, mindless, corporate puppets had to prove that they had a “credo” of strict values that they lived by. To some extent, the late “values movement” came out of that perception.

Making privilege palatable to the democratic masses is a permanent project for conservatives, but each generation must tailor it to the contours of its times. In 1960, Goldwater’s challenge was set out in his book’s title: to show that conservatives had a conscience. Not a heart–he lambasted Eisenhower and Nixon for trying to prove that they were compassionate–or a brain, which liberals from John Stuart Mill to Lionel Trilling had doubted. Political movements often have to show that they can win, that their cause is just and their leaders are savvy, but rarely must they prove that theirs is a march of inner lights. Goldwater thought otherwise: to attract new voters and rally the faithful, conservatism had to establish its idealism and integrity, its absolute independence from the beck and call of wealth, from privilege and materialism–reality itself. If they were to change reality, conservatives would have to divorce themselves, at least in their self-understanding, from reality.

***

Goldwater learned from the New Deal. During the Gilded Age, conservatives had opposed unions and government regulation by invoking workers’ freedom to contract with their employer. Liberals countered that this freedom was illusory: workers lacked the means to contract as they wished; real freedom required material means. Goldwater agreed, only he turned that argument against the New Deal: high taxes robbed workers of their wages, rendering them less free and less able to be free. Channeling John Dewey, he asked, “How can a man be truly free if he is denied the means to exercise freedom?”

FDR claimed that conservatives cared more about money than men. Goldwater said the same about liberals. Focusing on welfare and wages, he charged, they “look only at the material side of man’s nature” and “subordinate all other considerations to man’s material well being.” Conservatives took in “the whole man,” making his “spiritual nature” the “primary concern” of politics and putting “material things in their proper place.”

This romantic howl against the economism of the New Deal–similar to that of the New Left–was not a protest against politics or government; Goldwater was no libertarian. It was an attempt to elevate politics and government, to direct public discussion toward ends more noble and glorious than the management of creature comforts and material well-being.

It was all a scam, of course, an illusion they were selling the country, but it worked. Goldwater used an imaginary victimhood of conservatives as the basis of a cry for justice and “balance” that struck a chord with Americans who thought of themselves, too, as victims. Modern conservatism began as a sort of Victims’ Support Group. Robin writes, “Conservatives have asked us not to obey them but to feel sorry for them–or to obey them because we feel sorry for them.”

Reformers and radicals must convince the subordinated and disenfranchised that they have rights and power. Conservatives are different. They are aggrieved and entitled–aggrieved because entitled–and already convinced of the righteousness of their cause and the inevitability of its triumph. They can play victim and victor with a conviction and dexterity the subaltern can only imagine, making them formidable claimants on our allegiance and affection.

But we need to understand why it took “aggrieved” conservatives 30 years to conceive of a solution to FDR, and 30 more years to put it into victorious operation. The answer is actually fairly simple. Roosevelt didn’t just rout the conservative movement of his time, he resolved all the issues of its enemies and absorbed them into his coalition, an alliance that lasted 60 years and could have lasted longer if the Democrats who followed him hadn’t become so lazy and complacent.

What Pelosi and Obama (and the rest of the DLC-style leadership) is proposing to do is skip over this step and leave the hatred, anger, resentment, and sense of massive injustices done by the Bush/Cheney Gang to fester inside the body politic for the indefinite future. They can say that they’re “moving on” but what they’re actually doing is moving past – with their eyes shut – hoping the whole thing will just go away.

Unfortunately, history shows us that as a policy of providing for future peace and stability, you couldn’t make a worse choice.

(to be cont’d)

Written by Mick

August 13, 2008 at 2:20 pm

Pelosi Will Allow Non-Impeachment Impeachment Hearings

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Maybe we’re having some effect after all.

The Associated Press says Kucinich’s Impeachment Articles will get a hearing. Oh, not to impeach Bush, of course. That’s “off the table” (Nancy Pelosi TM). No, this is about politics. It seems that when the DLC Democrats aren’t being Bush, they’re busy living up to the GOP’s unflattering characterizations of them as opportunistic scoundrels who care less about the country than their own re-elections.

 

Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich’s single article of impeachment will get a committee hearing — but not on removing President Bush from office.The House on Tuesday voted 238 to 180 to send his impeachment article — for Bush’s reasoning in taking the country to war in Iraq — to the Judiciary Committee, which buried Kucinich’s previous 35-article effort in June.

This time, the panel will open hearings, possibly as soon as next week. But House Democratic leaders said the proceedings would not be about Bush’s impeachment, a first step in the Constitution’s process of a removing a president from office.

 

Instead, the panel will conduct an election-year review — possibly televised — of anything Democrats consider to be Bush’s abuse of power. Kucinich, an Ohio Democrat, is likely to testify. So will several scholars and administration critics, Democrats said.

 

 

(emphasis added)

 

This is…hard to describe. Pathetic? Absurd?

 

August 27, 1945

Dateline: Berlin

 

This week the Allied Forces decided not to try their prisoner, Adolf Hitler, because, as General Patton put it this morning, “He’s been through enough and anyway he’s lost the war. It’s time to move on. Enough of this crying and moaning. We need to look to the future, not the past.”

 

Instead, they are going to present a series of films about where Hitler went wrong and present testimony to prove to the world that he’s not a Nice Guy. “If we had been in charge of Germany,” said US Senator Jay Rockefeller, “we would have done a better job. We would have abused the German Constitution less than he did, for one thing. And we would have made it all legal retroactively. If he had done that, there wouldn’t even have been talk about a trial.”

 

The Committee in Charge of Whitewashing Dictators is expected to hear testimony from several German generals who will swear that none of this was Hitler’s fault, and a number of American businessmen (Preston Bush is one) who have complaints about non-payment by Hitler’s government for military supplies used against our soldiers.

 

“A deal is a deal,” Bush spokesman Chris Wallace said. “OK, the stuff was used against American troops but that’s not our fault. Who could have predicted an outcome like that? Nobody. We sold those armaments in good faith and we expect Adolf to keep his word and pony up.”

 

RCA Radio has already said it will refuse to carry the hearings live because “nobody cares any more. It’s old news. We need to think of the future and move on past all this quibbling. We have business to do with the Germans.”

 

Makes about as much sense, doesn’t it?

Written by Mick

July 22, 2008 at 8:09 pm

Pelosi May Allow Impeachment Hearings

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Dennis Kucinich has been in Congress long enough to have a well-developed sense of how intelligent his compatriots are and how much information they can absorb without squads of interpreters and weeks of special tutoring. As soon as he saw their stunned, vacant reaction to the 35 Articles of Impeachment he introduced in the House, he knew he had to pare the list down to a level they could comprehend: One. So he did. (Via TMiss)

Concerned that the 35 articles of impeachment he introduced a month ago might be too much for members of the House Judiciary Committee to handle all at once, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) simplified things Thursday.

The former Democratic presidential candidate introduced a single article to impeach President Bush, accusing him of deceiving Congress to convince lawmakers to authorize his invasion of Iraq more than five years ago.

That wasn’t the best news, tho. The best news is that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi indicated she might actually allow the Judiciary Committee to hold hearings on it. This is either a distinct 180-degree turnaround or else she’s lying. Either is possible but the latter is more likely.

Still, ONE article isn’t too much for the average House member to handle? Is it?

Written by Mick

July 11, 2008 at 12:53 pm

Salon Columnist Thinks Impeachment “Not Newsworthy”

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Last week Dennis Kucinich presented 35 articles of impeachment against Bush on the floorm ofm the House. They were carefully researched and fully sourced, yet the news media refused to cover the event, using the excuse that as there was nothing new there, in the phrase made infamous lately by Salon’s Alex Koppelman , “It isn’t newsworthy.” Apparently a small firestorm resulted and Koppelman attempted to clarify a few things a couple of days ago. From Koppelman’s original post (watch your gag reflex):

Some liberals in the blogosphere are complaining about the dearth of coverage of Kucinich’s resolution. I have to disagree — as I’ve pointed out before, when discussing complaints of liberal bias from the right, the media is in the business of covering news. This barely qualifies; if it deserves mention in the mainstream media at all, it certainly doesn’t deserve to be accorded the status of something big and breaking. I’m sorry, but the action of a lone congressman who’s widely considered something of a laughingstock, especially when it’s clear that action will never come to anything, just isn’t especially newsworthy.

Yup, that’s our vaunted national press. And this is in Salon, one nof the few outlets where progressives can expect to be able to read about things like this. But even Salon thinks “it’s not newsworthy” because Nancy Pelosi won’t allow the bill of impeachment to reach the floor of the House for purely political reasons. In any other country at any other time about any other president, the press would be all over this like a cheap suit whether Nancy agreed or not. Within moments of Koppelman’s posting of that first self-justification, his readers showed they understood more about what journalism is supposed to be about than Koppelman.

 

You’re right

The news here isn’t that Kucinich has formally accused Shrub of high crimes and misdemeanors but that Shrub has been committing high crimes and misdemeanors and everybody knows it and yet no one will call him to account for them.

A Right WIng Blog, hidden deep inside Salon, that’s NEWS!

The impeachment of President Clinton did the Republicans little good politically (They just won eight years in the White House with a subnormal candidate)

…and impeaching Bush now might very well diminish the substantial advantage Democrats currently have with voters.

(Don’t start counting that Democratic advantage too soon, there is a big split among women who think Hillary got the shaft)

Some liberals in the blogosphere are complaining about the dearth of coverage of Kucinich’s resolution.

I have to disagree — as I’ve pointed out before, when discussing complaints of liberal bias from the right, the media is in the business of covering news.

(I turned off NBC last night when they opened their program with weather,weather,weather. It’s summer time, and they don’t do substantive reporting during the summer, yada yada. Since when did the MSM ever do its job, since 2001?)

This barely qualifies; if it deserves mention in the mainstream media at all (judgemental, badly judgemental on your part)

but the action of a lone congressman who’s widely considered something of a laughingstock (He ran for President, and received consideration. Is Ron Paul a laughing stock, Ross Perot?? Prejudicial and judgemental.

Take a vacation Alex, you don’t do news during the summer. Everyone knows that.

you are probably right that it doesnt matter…

But the thing that seems so unfair is if there was a Democrat in the oval office, and a fringe far right republican was presenting articles of impeachment for even the most ridiculous reasons, it would be HUGE news!

 

 Alex felt somewhat…misunderstood, if not abused, thus the “clarification”. But watch out! It doesn’t help.

First of all, I didn’t take a position on whether Bush deserves to be impeached, and I’m not doing so now either. I just took a position on whether Kucinich’s introduction of articles of impeachment was newsworthy. Second, other than the specific action, there was nothing new in what Kucinich did. “I don’t think there’s anything in there that hasn’t been previously disclosed,” he happily admitted to me. In fact, all of the information in the 35 articles of impeachment offered by Kucinich (with the possible exception, Kucinich said, of some legal theories about the application of international law) had been previously disclosed and widely discussed; in some case, the public disclosure dated back years. 

Oh. So Koppelman didn’t cover the Clinton impeachment because it was all old news that had been around for years, is that right? 

Well, Koppelman wasn’t around then but one doubts he would be all that reluctant because, you know, an impeachment that might happen is news but an impeachment that won’t happen isn’t even worth discussing the merits of.

The transparency of this bullshit is startling. There are only two possible explanations:

  1. Either Koppelman is so lame he can’t think up anything better or, even scarier,
  2. Koppelman really believes what he’s saying, that in order for an impeachment to be news there has to be something in it that people (read: Beltway pundits) don’t already know and therefore haven’t yet dismissed as “kooky”.
That’s scary because it shows how deep into the muscle of the news media conservative attitudes have driven. Tim Russert, Liz Bumiller, Judith Miller, Charles Gibson, Michael Gordon, Brian Williams, and dozens of other reporters and news broadcasters have all been quoted as saying, in one form or another, that journalists aren’t there to investigate but only to report the news, which they interpret in their lazy way, as “Ask questions and copy down the answers”. Russert went so far as to suggest that if a reporter challenged the statement of a govt official, he was breaking a cardinal rule by making himself the story! Koppelman is, exactly as commenter Jeffrey Harrison said and in the Russert mode, deliberately missing the main story – two of them, actually. The first in the lack of a call for accountability despite Bush’s proven high crimes and misdemeanors, and second, why won’t there be an impeachment? But of course he’s already decided he knows the answer to the latter and his tone would suggest he agrees with it.
There’s basically no chance this will go anywhere. Kucinich offered a similar resolution against Vice President Cheney last year, and that is currently stuck in the House Judiciary Committee. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has made it clear that impeachment is “off the table,” and with good reason. The impeachment of President Clinton did the Republicans little good politically, and impeaching Bush now might very well diminish the substantial advantage Democrats currently have with voters. Plus, Bush has little more than half a year remaining in his term.
 

Written by Mick

June 18, 2008 at 6:45 pm

Tell Conyers to Do His Job, Start the Impeachment Hearings!

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We’re not the only ones urging you to call/write/badger Conyers.


 
(From Representative Press via uggabugga commenter Tom)

Written by Mick

June 17, 2008 at 5:58 pm

Posted in John Conyers

An Open Letter to John Conyers

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An Open Letter to Rep John Conyers, Chair, House Judiciary Committee

2138 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
p/202-225-3951

Dear John,

You must be more aware than most what a long, sad time the Bush Era represents. Lord knows you’ve investigated enough of it. It should be clear to you after reading Mr Kucinich’s articles of impeachment against President Bush that there have been serious breaches of ethical and lawful conduct by his administration and at his order throughout both his terms that certainly deserve consideration as “high crimes and misdemeanors”. In fact, no president we have ever had has so often and with such contempt violated the Contitution as has President Bush.

I realize that there are political risks involved, that the right wing will scream “Witch Hunt!” and accuse you of playing politics, that the Blue Dog conservatives in your own party will claim that it’s all a waste of time when Bush is leaving office soon anyway. What you need to understand is that impeachment isn’t even about Bush. It’s about the future of the country, the future of our democracy, the rule of law.

We have recent history to guide us in this matter. There was the pardoning of Richard Nixon by Gerald Ford which was supposed to “heal the wounds of the nation” so we could all “get past the unpleasantness”. There was the lack of any accountability in the Iran/Contra affair because Reagan was “too popular” and anyway it was over, the country needed to “heal” after the unpleasantness of the trials of the more minor figures like Ollie North. What did these two incidents teach us?

That the effort to slide past accountability for major transgressions against the Constitution didn’t “heal” anything or anybody. Instead they kept the wounds open, festering. Nixon and Reagan, Poindexter, et al almost literally got away with murder. The pardons left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth, as if a bite of fish had begun to rot the moment it touched your tongue. Good people in both parties may have breathed a sigh of relief that the immediate wound was bandaged but they gradually became aware that beneath the bandage pus continued to ooze, the infection continued to poison us.

And look at the result. The same people involved in Iran/Contra, free of punishment or banishment, were invited back into the government by President Bush and promptly returned to the same lying, the same trickery and deceit, the same anti-Constitutional, anti-democratic actions that resulted in Iran/Contra 25 years ago.

A refusal to punish criminal acts is tantamount to an invitation to perpetrate them again. And again. And again. The nation will not survive another Bush. I’m not sure it’s going to survive this one.

You must be aware of how little regard anyone has in the Bush Administration of what Congress does or wants. If this were Russia, Bush would have dissolved both houses of the legislature long ago. They have contempt for you and everything you represent. You no doubt think you’re “rising above” petty political considerations by refusing to debate the articles of impeachment, not lowering yourself to their level. But in fact you are kowtowing to them, doing just what they want you to do.

Because without impeachment, without accountability, they know they can return in the next Republican administration and screw us – and our democracy – yet again.

The crimes of the Bush/Cheney Administration are so serious and so numerous that it is folly to let them slide. If the Constitution isn’t worth protecting, isn’t worth a little political risk-taking when it has been under such an assault for so long, then what is? The Constitution is America. If it can be treated as a disposable dishrag by a would-be tinpot dictator without any consequences accruing to the perp, then it is what Bush/Cheney have been treating it as if it is: a worthless piece of paper that can be ignored by the powerful any time it gets in their way.

That is not the America I grew up in, not the America most of us believe in. I don’t want my grandchildren to have to suffer through and perhaps even run from an America with laws no one thinks are worth protecting and defending when they’re attacked, overthrown. Most important, it is not the America the nation as a whole wants you to leave us with. If the risk is name-calling, what of it if the stakes are the Constitution itself, the very meaning and purpose of America?

You have nothing to fear and everything to gain by opening debate on Kucinich’s articles of impeachment. The country needs to “heal” but the only thing that will heal us is the sense that justice has been done. If you continue to stonewall even the possibility of impeaching the one president in our history who has richly deserved it, who has put us in the most deadly danger to serve his own selfish ends, who will then have escaped the justice only you can offer, then you are the one who will be responsible for infecting the wound. The sense that the Democrats have let the country down – again – will be pervasive, inescapable, if you want only to think about the politics of it, and you will have alienated the base that has kept you afloat up til now.

Is it worth it? Is silence worth it? Inaction when action is called for, cowardice when courage is needed? I know you have the courage, you’ve demonstrated it before. Please demonstrate it again.

Don’t let the Constitution down.

 

With great respect and some hope,

Mick Arran

Written by Mick

June 11, 2008 at 5:53 pm