Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Begin Impeachment

Until a couple weeks ago, I was in the "don't impeach" camp. My thinking went like this:
  1. Bush has committed a number of major and minor crimes against statutory laws and the Consitution, and he must be held accountable.
  2. Moving to impeach him before we've had a chance to run Congressional investigations in a relatively nonpartisan environment would polarize the issue, make it harder to investigate his crimes, and lead to defeat. Thus there would be no accountability, and Dems would be accused by half-wits in the media as mindlessly partisan descendants of a polity that gave us the Clinton impeachment.
  3. As a result, Leahy and Waxman should continue their investigations until they had a body of evidence that would expose Bush's crimes. Sufficiently defamed, Bush would have no support on the Hill and impeachment could either go forward or not--the point having been made.
But then came the Bill Moyers piece which, more than anything, has galvanized the lefty core for impeachment (no wonder Bush tried to run him off PBS). Amazingly enough, one of the guys who makes the most compelling arguments is Bruce Fein, who wrote the first article of impeachment against Bill Clinton. (The other is a writer for the Nation.) The entire conversation is rich (it's really a must-read or watch--follow the link above if you haven't), but here's the pith of the argument. First, Nichols:

Well, let's try a metaphor. Let's say that-- when George Washington chopped down the cherry tree, he used the wood to make a little box. And in that box the president puts his powers. We've taken things out. We've put things in over the years.

On January 20th, 2009, if George Bush and Dick Cheney are not appropriately held to account this administration will hand off a toolbox with more powers than any president has ever had, more powers than the founders could have imagined. And that box may be handed to Hillary Clinton or it may be handed to Mitt Romney or Barack Obama or someone else. But whoever gets it, one of the things we know about power is that people don't give away the tools. They don't give them up. The only way we take tools out of that box is if we sanction George Bush and Dick Cheney now and say the next president cannot govern as these men have.

Then Fein:
In some sense, yes, because the founding fathers expected an executive to try to overreach and expected the executive would be hampered and curtailed by the legislative branch. And you're right. They have basically renounced-- walked away from their responsibility to oversee and check. It's not an option. It's an obligation when they take that oath to faithfully uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States. And I think the reason why this is. They do not have convictions about the importance of the Constitution. It's what in politics you would call the scientific method of discovering political truths and of preventing excesses because you require through the processes of review and vetting one individual's perception to be checked and-- counterbalanced by another's. And when you abandon that process, you abandon the ship of state basically and it's going to capsize.
It's a better argument. Accountability is critical, but the critical function of checks and balances trumps it. If Congress is unwilling to stand up to an acknowledged imperial president, accountability is probably a lost ideal in any case. The very act of beginning impeachment procedings as a way of exerting Congressional authority now appears to be the only thing that could stop this dangerous executive branch land grab. Time to begin.


Red Hog Diary said...

I have tried to make the point to my conservative friends that they surely would not want Hillary to have the powers that George Bush is amassing and they would always look at me with a deer in the headlights look as if it were inconceivable that they would lose the presidency in 08. It will be interesting to see how they defend themselves after the Septemeber Iraq war assessment causes much of the GOP to abandon their beloved Decider.

iggir said...

"one of the things we know about power is that people don't give away the tools. They don't give them up."

hah! i've been saying this for years now...nice to see you're flip-flopping on impeachment.

Jeff Alworth said...

Nice to see that you're using the language of FOX news to tarnish my good name, Iggi, in the manner Sean Hannity tarnished John Kerry's.

One hack's flip-flopper is a citizen's deep thinker. Or something.

RH: this could be the key argument that gets the GOP to sign up for some kind of action against Bush/Cheney.