I really have not been clamoring for the impeachment of Dick and George Cheney-Bush. I had held out hope that an opposition party in power in Congress might be able to offset the abuses of power wrought by the current administration. Unfortunately, the total disregard by this administration for the Constitution and systems of shared power and checks and balances has become egregious.
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has told the Congress, under oath, that the Constitution does not guarantee the protection of habeas corpus to the citizens of the United States. If he believes this and acts accordingly, Gonzales has violated his oath of office. So too the President and Vice President if they endorse Gonzales’ opinion. Congress must demand that Bush, Cheney and Gonzales repudiate the Attorney General’s pronouncement and reaffirm their oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. If they refuse, then they must be removed from office.
In addition, both Bush and Cheney have added more troops to the Iraqi occupation force, despite the opposition of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, an accumulating roster of the military, both active and retired, the Iraq Study Group, the American Public, and the Congress. By announcing that nothing, not even an act of Congress, will deter them, the Bush/Cheney team have, in effect, proclaimed themselves dictators (they couch it in terms of a “unitary executive, to which none of the founding documents of this country make reference). If this proclamation is to fall short of an implementation of rule by decree, the Congress must promptly and decisively reinstate its co-equal status with the Bush Administration, and it must send back that message to the White House with an explicit threat of impeachment.
Finally, over the past months it has become apparent that Bush and Cheney might launch an attack on Iran. Most informed observers agree that this would be an act of insanity, that would unite the world against the United States, probably sharply curtail the production and shipment of oil from the Persian Gulf throwing the US and the world into a depression, and just possibly igniting a third World War. This attack might be prevented by an act of Congress refusing to fund such an attack and proclaiming explicitly that the Congress, in accordance with its Constitutional authority, forbids the President to launch an attack against Iran. That act of Congress should state that failure of the President to obey this act would result in impeachment.
There is no need for the Congress to “build a case” against Bush and Cheney. I believed that if Bush and Cheney were to be impeached and convicted by the Senate, investigations would have to take place, with the amassing of evidence, testimony under oath, and extended debate in Congress. Such was the case with Nixon and with Clinton.
However, I have come to realize that the situation today is substantially different. The evidence is public, indisputable, and even, in some cases, freely admitted by Bush and Cheney. As John Dean has pointed out, when Bush announced that he had authorized secret wiretaps in direct violation of the FISA law, he had, in effect, confessed to an impeachable offense. In addition, the use of torture violates the Geneva Conventions, and the launching of an aggressive war against a nation, Iraq, that did not attack or threaten to attack us, constitutes a war crime in violation of the Nuremberg Accords. Both of these treaties have the force of law, and thus their violation merits impeachment. Bush’s “signing statements,” many of which state explicitly a Presidential prerogative to ignore acts of Congress at will, contradict the Constitutional requirement that the President “shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” Through the FBI, this government, under direction from the White House, has ignored the rule of low in obtaining National Security Letters.
There are many additional “high crimes and misdemeanors” that justify impeachment and conviction, but some of these require investigation and debate. However, those listed above are both indisputable and sufficient. All that remains, then, is the will of Congress to do its duty. While extended debate on all these issues might be desirable under ordinary circumstances, these are not ordinary circumstances. The Bush/Cheney administration has caused enormous damage to the American economy, to its international reputation, and to its Constitutional order.
Why not “impeachment now”? In a carefully articulated essay in The Nation, Professor Sanford Levinson of the University of Texas Law School argues against impeachment, not withstanding his belief that Bush is “quite possibly the worst President in our history.” He raises three essential points:
- The Constitution provides us with a language to get rid of a criminal President, but it provides us no language, or process, for terminating the tenure of an incompetent one.”
- There is simply no possibility that Bush will actually be removed from office in the twenty-four months that unfortunately remain to him.”
- There is a “highly legalistic” question as to “what exactly constitutes ?high crimes and misdemeanors,'” which the Constitution stipulates as grounds for impeachment.
I believe that all three objections can be successfully rebutted. If so, then given the gravity of the crimes and misdemeanors, only partially listed above, the impeachment of Bush and Cheney becomes both feasible and urgent. Continue reading »