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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

What does 'High Crimes and Misdemeanors' Mean?

I have mixed feelings about the Scooter Libby verdict. First, I'm glad that someone in the Bush administration has finally been held accountable for something. On the other hand, the person being held accountable is Scooter. Not that he's not guilty, the evidence must've been nearly overwhelming. It's my understanding that the verdict would've been guilty on all five counts if it weren't for one hold out juror on one charge. But Scooter's not the only guilty one.

One point of agreement among the jurors seems to have been that Libby's a patsy. When one juror spoke to the press, he expressed this feeling.

Noting that he was the only juror that planned to speak at this time, Dennis Collins offered insight in a post-trial press conference after he and ten fellow citizens found former Vice President I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby guilty of four charges of perjury, obstruction of justice, and making a false statement.

"It seemed like Libby was the fall guy," the jury believed according to Collins.


"Some jurors commented 'this sucks' for Libby..."

Apparently, the real culprits -- Dick Cheney and Karl Rove -- remain at large. This is not a victimless crime, although some would have you think it is. When I heard about the verdict, I flipped over to FOX and saw Brit Hume pushing this bit of BS:

News Hounds:

Well, in this case that's true because Scooter Libby is charged with lying during the course of an investigation that began as an investigation as to how and whether the name of a covert CIA agent had been illegally leaked by a Bush administration official. Well it turned out, of course, indeed the name had been leaked. Whether the woman was covert, Valerie Plame was covert within the meaning of the law, remains at this point, still unclear. Unlikely she was.

This is so ridiculous on its face that I'm surprised that Hume didn't blush when he said it. But I guess shamelessness is a job requirement for working at FOX. If Plame hadn't been a covert operative, the investigation would've died there -- you don't investigate the release of information that's publicly available.

The truth is that the people in this administration go much, much farther in their sense of entitlement than merely believing they're above the law. Like Raskolnikov in Doestoevski's Crime and Punishment, they believe that there is a different set of morals and ethics for history's 'great men.' History travels over the backs of the unfortunate and if it crushes a few, so what? Men of destiny shouldn't be concerned with petty consequences. The lives of the small are forgotten by history and, therefore, worrying about what happens to them is beyond absurd. The gardener doesn't cry when his hoe splits a worm.

Scooter has switched teams -- he used to be one of history's untouchables, now he's a worm.

Luckily, there's a remedy for this sort of thinking -- impeachment. Whenever I bring up impeachment someone comes along and leaves a comment saying that X isn't an impeachable offense. I'm not really sure where they get this. The term 'high crimes and misdemeanors' isn't defined in the Constitution, meaning the definition is left up to congress. A high crime or misdemeanor, in the sense of impeachment, is pretty much whatever the hell you want it to be. Ask anyone who thought impeaching Clinton was a good idea. He lied under oath in a civil case; the nation's prisons aren't swelling with people who've done that. Civil cases are almost always a process of determining who's lying.

Jaywalking is a high crime or misdemeanor, if enough in congress agree. Just about anything is an impeachable offense -- a least in a legal sense.

A practical sense is another matter. As the Clinton impeachers learned, impeaching a popular president is pretty much impossible. The ballot box consequences are too real. Bush doesn't have that protection and Cheney even less. People are already getting the ball rolling.

CBS News:

CBS affiliate WCAX correspondent Darren Perron reports that voters in 35 towns passed non-binding resolutions to investigate and possibly impeach President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. Twenty towns voted in favor of immediately withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq.

Nine other towns either voted no or declined to take up the impeachment resolution.

It's looking like New Mexico's legislature may make a similar call. If Bush pardons Libby -- and he hasn't said he won't -- expect talk of impeachment to grow.

There's a reason why the founders didn't define 'high crimes and misdemeanors' and instead used that very broad language. They wanted to make it possible to get rid of someone for the offense of sucking at their job. The american people agree, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney suck.

Let's fire them.


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