Monday, March 12, 2007

The Arguments Against the Arguments Against Impeachment

In my previous two entries, I went into some detail about the revelations exposed in large part by the trial and conviction of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby: that he was part of but one of several efforts going on within the Bush regime to discredit Joseph Wilson by outing his wife as CIA.

As John Nichols of The Nation reports, Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA) is preparing to investigate the leaking of Valerie Plame-Wilson's status as a member of the Central Intelligence Agency to the press in 2003. But as Laura Flanders--also of The Nation--reports, Congressional Democrats are too worried about risking the chances of their party taking back the White House next year to perform their sworn duty to impeach George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.

Such cowardice is unconscionable in light of the literally hundreds of instances of lawbreaking, violations of the U.S. Constitution, and abuses of executive power. The excuses given for not impeaching and removing a dictatorial regime from power are many, but when examined closely they fall short of credibility. I will now debunk each "argument" (read: lame excuse) against impeachment that has most often popped up.
  • Impeaching Bush and Cheney would divide an already split nation.
The nation is already hotly divided along partisan lines, no thanks to the Bush regime and its neocon enablers in the right-wing press. But polls have shown that the majority of Americans favor impeachment if it is shown that Bush and Cheney lied us into war and if it is demonstrated that they played active roles in outing Valerie Plame-Wilson as CIA. This is a far cry from the impeachment of Bill Clinton, which most Americans opposed, rightly recognizing the process as purely motivated by partisan politics.
  • Republicans would have a field day attacking Democrats with charges of partisan politics.
They're doing that anyway. If the situation is "damned if they do, and damned if they don't," Democrats might as well be damned for doing. They can also seize control of the debate by pointing out that they are simply following the GOP's lead from 1998 and holding an executive who has broken the law accountable. They can say, "Republicans believed that perjury was worthy of impeachment, so why not lying us into war or outing a CIA operative?" Fear of recrimination from a political party that is now out of power in the most important branch of government shouldn't prevent Democrats from doing what they have to do.
  • Impeachment now would be pointless, since it is so close to the next presidential election cycle.
Pointless, perhaps, if you look at it from a strictly political point of view. However, from a Constitutional point of view there is indeed a point: impeaching both Bush and Cheney would prevent them from issuing pardons for themselves and their lackeys after leaving office. Although impeachment would never make it past the Senate (unless evidence of high crimes comes out that is so compelling it convinces 66 senators to vote in favor), it would nevertheless demonstrate that high crimes in office will not be tolerated no matter what political convenience dictates.
  • Democrats need to focus their time and energy on ending the war in Iraq, preventing war with Iran and passing a progressive agenda. Impeachment would simply distract from that.
This is perhaps the most obviously flawed argument against impeaching the Shrub and his gargoyle; with a such a tenuous grip on the Senate and Bush's veto power, Democrats are in no position to pass their legislative agenda now. Republicans in the Senate will filibuster any progressive legislation that passes the House of Representatives, or else force Democrats to accept amendments that gut their bills. And even if by some miracle their legislation manages to pass both chambers of Congress intact, Democrats simply do not have enough votes to override the inevitable veto. And even in the highly unlikely event Congress does manage to override an executive veto, the Shrub will just issue another illegal signing statement voiding the law. This would obviously include any binding legislation ending the war in Iraq, and blocking military action against Iran without Congressional approval. In short, there is already a stalemate that gives Democrats nothing but time and energy to devote to impeachment proceedings. And impeachment would certainly prevent the Shrub and his gargoyle from starting yet another war America can't win.
  • It would hurt Democrats going into next year's elections.
Impeaching Bill Clinton in 1998 did not cause the GOP to lose control of Congress in 2000; nor did it prevent them from stealing the presidency that same, latter election cycle. But let's look at the other side of this argument: when Gerald Ford, in a selfish act of political pragmatism, pardoned Richard Nixon it backfired on him completely; he lost the presidential election in 1976. Ford pardoned Nixon one month after his predecessor resigned from the presidency ahead of impeachment. Thinking a drawn out trial would hurt him politically, Ford reasoned that it would be better to risk the ire of voters than to have any reminder that he was Nixon's vice president, and therefore tied (no matter how precariously) to the Watergate scandal. But the gamble did not pay off. The American public, denied the justice they craved in the wake of Watergate and the Vietnam war, expressed their anger by voting in Democrat Jimmy Carter as president. Democrats would do well to remember this history lesson going into next year's election: impeaching Bush and Cheney for high crimes may not cost them Congress or the White House, but letting them get away with high crimes crimes surely will.

So there you have it; there is no valid reason, no excuse Congressional Democrats have for shirking their Constitutional duties. Impeachment is at this point the only way to hold Bush and Cheney accountable for their crimes. And if Democrats are smart they can go to the saner Republicans in both chambers and make a deal, in which the latter group's legislation will get a fair debate if--and ONLY IF--they support Democratic efforts to impeach and remove Bush and Cheney. Not that this will happen, mind you, but it's a possibility.

But someone needs first to light the fire under Congress to do its duty. Recall efforts must be used to force key Democrats (and Republicans) to initiate and support impeachment. Although such recall efforts are not likely to succeed, a real threat of early removal from office may be enough to get things moving. And savvy voters could point out that California governor Gray Davis was successfully removed from office in 2003, mere months after his re-election. If members of Congress targeted for recall elections balk at the idea of impeachment, they will use some variation of the above excuses for why they won't do their jobs. You can use my points in crafting your counter-arguments. If efforts by state legislatures work to force the House of Representatives to debate impeachment, these points will prove even more invaluable in that they may be used to convince squeamish members to find their backbones.

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