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Monday, January 07, 2008

The Campaign for Change is Broader than You Think

Bush, Pelosi, and Reid yuk it up

During an election year, we tend to follow the horserace. This year, maybe more than any other, the people want change and there is no incumbent. You could argue that the race is anyone's to win or lose. There's some optimism, some pessimism, some healthy skepticism, and a near universal agreement that the future really couldn't be any worse than our present. At least, in the leadership category.

So, in our excitement and trepidation, we look toward 2009 and treat this year as merely the road we take to get there. But this road is twelve months long and we still have to travel it. On our way to 2009, we have to live in 2008.

It's easy in our interest with the future and our fixation on change to ignore the present and the reason for that fixation. The reason we've fixated on tomorrow is that we don't like today. And the King of this Status Quo is George W. Bush.

So, we're yanked back into the present, which we really shouldn't be ignoring anyway, with an op-ed in the Washington Post by George McGovern titled Why I Believe Bush Must Go (Nixon Was Bad. These Guys Are Worse).

As we enter the eighth year of the Bush-Cheney administration, I have belatedly and painfully concluded that the only honorable course for me is to urge the impeachment of the president and the vice president.

After the 1972 presidential election, I stood clear of calls to impeach President Richard M. Nixon for his misconduct during the campaign. I thought that my joining the impeachment effort would be seen as an expression of personal vengeance toward the president who had defeated me.

Today I have made a different choice.

McGovern couches his argument squarely in the occupation of Iraq and the lies that brought us here, but he doesn't put all his eggs in one basket. "Bush and Cheney are clearly guilty of numerous impeachable offenses," he writes. "They have repeatedly violated the Constitution. They have transgressed national and international law. They have lied to the American people time after time. Their conduct and their barbaric policies have reduced our beloved country to a historic low in the eyes of people around the world. These are truly 'high crimes and misdemeanors,' to use the constitutional standard."

In fact, when McGovern argues that Bush and Cheney have committed many impeachable offenses, he's absolutely right. When it comes to reasons to impeach this president and vice president, you don't have to look far for a smorgasborg of reasons. Three years ago, Peter Dizikes wrote a piece for Salon back in 2005 that listed "34 scandals from the first four years of George W. Bush's presidency -- every one of them worse than Whitewater." With the passage of time, you can add more.

It's actually a little instructive to read Dizikes' piece -- there are literally so many abuses that revisiting them reminds you of ones you've forgotten. There are so many, you can't keep them all in the same head. It's like a grocery list; you have to write it all down or you're sure to forget something. You'd think that many would be enough.

It's not. At least, not for this Congress. "Of course, there seems to be little bipartisan support for impeachment," McGovern says. "The political scene is marked by narrow and sometimes superficial partisanship, especially among Republicans, and a lack of courage and statesmanship on the part of too many Democratic politicians. So the chances of a bipartisan impeachment and conviction are not promising."

In other words, if the Executive branch doesn't care about the Constitution, neither does the Legislative. On the left, there's little argument as to whether or not Bush has committed crimes. I've always argued that Bush's warrentless wiretapping is the best case, since it had been ruled illegal. Doing something that's illegal is generally and formally referred to as "committing a crime." Seems pretty clear to me.

It also seems pretty clear to me that investigating a crime -- and, perhaps, following up with an indictment -- isn't a optional course of action for government. If you know a crime has been committed, you're pretty much bound to do something about it -- no matter how high the office the lawbreaker holds.

Yet, the arguments against impeachment are entirely political. Legal arguments are totally absent, since there are none. Before the Democrats even came into power, WaPo reported, "[Democratic spokesman Brendan] Daly said Pelosi never considered impeachment a priority. Republicans 'are in such desperate shape,' he said, 'we don't want to give them anything to grab on to.' He said Conyers agrees with Pelosi's thinking."

So let me get this straight -- we couldn't impeach Bush in the Republican Congress because they were so strong and it wouldn't go anywhere. But now that the dems are in control, we can't impeach because the GOP is so weak?

I'm sorry, but is that supposed to make a damned bit of sense?

Besides, that's not a legal argument. It's a political argument that kicks justice aside in favor of expediency. Yes, impeachment is a political process, but it's also a duty. McGovern quotes Elizabeth Holtzman, who was a key player in the move to impeach Nixon. "[I]t wasn't until the most recent revelations that President Bush directed the wiretapping of hundreds, possibly thousands, of Americans, in violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) -- and argued that, as Commander in Chief, he had the right in the interests of national security to override our country's laws -- that I felt the same sinking feeling in my stomach as I did during Watergate. . . " Holtzman wrote two years ago. "A President, any President, who maintains that he is above the law -- and repeatedly violates the law -- thereby commits high crimes and misdemeanors."

When both the Executive and the Legislative branches ignore the Constitution, it might as well not exist. And when the Legislative ignores the abuses by the Executive, the Executive rules by fiat. What Bush says goes, like a King, and he rules by proclamation, not by legislation. Not only is Congress ignoring their duty, but they're complicit in Bush's crimes by allowing them. Sure, there are investigations, but when the only consequence likely to come as a result of them are the convictions of peons like Scooter Libby and the wagging congressional finger, there's no reason for Bush to care. Investigations without consequences are a pointless waste of time and political theater. It's like a Stalinist show trial in reverse where, instead of being found guilty beforehand, the accused is always found innocent. Or, at least, "innocent enough" to get away with it.

"I believe we have a chance to heal the wounds the nation has suffered in the opening decade of the 21st century," McGovern writes. "This recovery may take a generation and will depend on the election of a series of rational presidents and Congresses. At age 85, I won't be around to witness the completion of the difficult rebuilding of our sorely damaged country, but I'd like to hold on long enough to see the healing begin."

Sadly, he won't with today's leadership. Not only should we be watching that presidential horserace, but the congressional one, as well. If we can barely wait until Bush is gone, we should feel the same way about the leadership of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. We need a new president, new speaker, and new majority leader. Not only does Bush suck, but all the leadership sucks.

And that should also be an issue in this campaign.


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