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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Rule of Law? What Rule of Law?

Big news. Last night, Rep. Dennis Kucinich presented articles of impeachment against George W. Bush. Thirty-five counts in all. Big, big news...

Except it's not. Flipping through the channels this morning, I saw nothing about this. As far as the mainstream media is concerned, it never happened. We watch crime after crime after crime revealed, but holding the criminal accountable is completely out of the question.

The Democratic leadership likewise looks the other way, declaring impeachment "off the table" for political reasons. Far from holding the administration accountable for their undeniable crimes, the media would rather pretend they don't exist and cover the horse race of the election, while congressional leadership pretends that hearings without consequences and empty expressions of outrage are punishment enough. The truth is, that's not punishment at all. Bush and the rest of the bloodsoaked neocon crew, with shreds of the Constitution still hanging from their fingers, are going to get a stern talking-to, believe you me Buster and no two ways about it. They won't avoid the wagging congressional finger, the Harry Reid letter of miffedness, the Nancy Pelosi statement of irk, but any actual lasting consequence for their actions is completely out of the question. At this point, it could be revealed that Bush and Cheney have Iraqi children for breakfast every morning and all that would happen would be that they receive a letter respectfully asking them to stop -- please, if they feel like it.

Although not criminal in any legal sense, one issue where the Bush administration's moral criminality is most apparent is on the 21st Century GI Bill. Bush and Cheney are constantly hiding behind soldiers and veterans, constantly telling us that disagreeing with their stupid and pointless war in Iraq is somehow abandoning the troops. Bush is the military, any criticism of Bush is magically transformed into "not supporting the troops."

Meanwhile, Bush does absolutely jack for soldiers in the field and even less for those who come home. Bush and Cheney can't be bothered with funerals -- in fact, for a while there, they'd rather pretend there were no casualties at all, barring any photos of returning caskets. For the Bush administration, war is like crime -- neither has any consequence at all. Soldiers are pawns in every situation; when war crimes are ordered, the soldiers who carried out the orders are convicted -- those giving the orders go on talking head shows to be asked polite questions. If they can't fight anymore, they're warehoused in moldy VA hospitals. If veterans make up a significant percentage of the homeless, then that's just too bad -- there's nothing anyone can do. If the Army is experiencing an epidemic of suicides, prepare a press release about all the stuff you're going to to do address the problem -- then prepare a nearly identical one for next year when the token measures you implemented did absolutely nothing to address the problem. Do as little as you can get away with -- and, with a weak-kneed opposition party leadership, that's a pretty much limitless category -- and demand everything of them. Sacrifice is, after all, a one way street, leading in the opposite direction of the White House. The administration proposes, but the soldier disposes. And all the lost and ruined lives the White House leaves in their wake are irrelevant. It's the cost of freedom and it's a cost that someone other than the neocons pay.

"The day will come when the mission he served has been completed and the fighting is over, and freedom and security have prevailed," President Bush said in giving a posthumous Medal of Honor to Private First Class Ross Andrew McGinnis. "America will never forget those who came forward to bear the battle. America will always honor the name of this brave soldier who gave all for his country, and was taken to rest at age 19."

Yeah, about that...

Army Times:

The father of the nation’s latest Medal of Honor recipient has publicly called for President Bush to endorse a veterans’ education benefits bill being negotiated in Congress.

“I feel there is someone out there more important than [my wife] Romayne and I, and that is the troops who are still active,” Tom McGinnis said as he thanked family and friends for their support. “It’s important that we show them our appreciation … so that they are reminded that they are appreciated and will be welcomed when they come home.”

[...]

Spc. Ross McGinnis used his body to smother a grenade that had been thrown into his Humvee while on patrol Dec. 4, 2006, in Adhamiyah. Ross McGinnis, 19, was killed in the blast, but his actions saved the lives of the other four soldiers in the truck.


"I could talk about it to my friends all I want,” McGinnis said. “What good is that going to do? If I didn’t do it when I was down there at the Pentagon or the White House, one of the two, when will I ever have the chance to make an impact? I did what I felt was right, whether it was right or not."

The provision "covers the full cost of tuition and fees at any four-year public college or university and provides a monthly living allowance and an annual payment to cover books and supplies." Bush has promised to veto it. Remember, we expect everything from the soldier and nothing from Bush. That's the way things work these days.

The good news is that the 21st Century GI Bill is extremely popular. About 80% of Americans say that veterans are getting a raw deal under the old GI BIll and about 90% think we should update it.

But the Bush administration is joined by John McCain in opposing the bill, saying it would provide an incentive for troops to leave the service and go to college. It's a stupid argument -- what incentive is there to enlist in the first place? What Bush and McCain seem to envision is a military where people enlist and nearly 100% make it their career. It's not an extremely realistic vision, but visions rarely are. You'll notice that Bush didn't make the military his career, but walking the walk and talking the talk are two different things.

Of course, it looks like a veto would be overridden. An override is an almost sure bet in the Senate and a good bet in the House. But Bush, who's established long ago that he's above the law, could conceivably ignore the override. He's used "signing statements" as an unconstitutional stealth veto, which allows him to interpret the law any way he wants to. Bush could sign the 21st Century GI BIll into law and add, "Yeah, but we don't have to do any of that."

And then what would happen?

The wagging congressional finger, the Harry Reid letter of miffedness, the Nancy Pelosi statement of irk. Break the law all you want, Mr. President, but don't expect to get away without a lecture you can go ahead and ignore. The President of the United States has become a lawless position, with no danger of ever paying any price for the office's crimes. Nancy and Harry have seen to that.

Until there's some sort of consequence for the crimes Bush has committed, he has no incentive to ever obey the law. Token resistance from the lawmaking body makes sure of that. Future executives will be able to point to the Bush administration and say there's no such thing as an impeachable offense -- that precedent will have been established by Pelosi and Reid.

So cheer on legislation that Bush doesn't want. Just don't expect him to obey those laws or to implement their requirements. There's no reason him to.

Well, other than the rule of law, which has been allowed to degenerate into a quaint and ancient pretense. The justice and oversight muscle, unused, has been allowed to atrophy.

-Wisco

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