Saturday, July 21, 2007

The Case for Not Waiting Out This Presidency

It’s almost too apparent to compare current refusals-to-submit of the Bush-Cheney White House with the bad old days of Richard Nixon stonewalling similar inquiry. Both used ‘executive privilege’ as an excuse to ward off the evil minions who would do them dirt—dastardly organizations like the House of Representatives, the Senate and the courts.

Bushburnsconstitution It’s almost too apparent to compare current refusals-to-submit of the Bush-Cheney White House with the bad old days of Richard Nixon stonewalling similar inquiry. Both used ‘executive privilege’ as an excuse to ward off the evil minions who would do them dirt—dastardly organizations like the House of Representatives, the Senate and the courts.
Both stood in front of the cameras, fighting to sound logical in the face of confused, disconnected and garbled argument. Both had Cheney, Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld in their administrations; young zealots under Nixon and harnessed again as old experienced hands under Bush. Both had their arrogant positions denied in the courts and both sought to circumvent the courts in their last days of desperate decline. Both ultimately came up against Congress, as the founding fathers require, to be checked and balanced.
Billmoyers Impeachment, which is now on everyone’s table except Nancy Pelosi’s, has been brilliantly put into focus by John Nichols. John is the author of The Genius of Impeachment and recently the guest of Bill Moyers on PBS. Moyers devoted a full hour to the subject and Nichols makes the point that we have wrongly stated the case;
“Impeachment is not a constitutional crisis, impeachment is the cure for a constitutional crisis.”
Nixon resigned rather than face impeachment. Bush thinks he can ride it out and fully intends to do so. But this president has been wrong in virtually every judgment he has made over the course of his six and a half years in office.
Gerryford The circle wasn’t properly closed on Nixon and that was a mistake that must not be made again. Congress felt the need to try him even after he resigned, but President Ford was perhaps too quick with a pardon and the point became moot. That necessary constitutional circle hasn’t even been drawn on Bush-Cheney.
Cheney says he isn’t liable to oversight because he’s not of the executive and not of the legislative, although he occupies an office in each and the Constitution has named his office as executive. Absurd on the face of it, but law is not law until and unless it is enforced.
Bush claims the Attorney General’s Office may not prosecute any purported crime that has its source within privileged discussion. Not surprisingly, all discussion of all issues falls under his definition of executive privilege and thus an entire two-term presidency is (in his view) exempt from oversight.
Bushpointingout Naming every document ‘secret’ has also served to obstruct the courts when Bush has been challenged. Clinton (1995) classified 3.5 million documents secret, compared to a stunning 14.2 million by Bush in 2005 alone.
Constitutional crisis is not only at the door, it’s scratching and howling to be recognized. Those who claim country has suffered too much are dead wrong—the country hasn’t suffered nearly enough to make it fully understand the depth and seriousness of crimes unpunished. Each and every illegal grab of yet more presidential power accrues to the next presidency. That president may well take a benign position, but the additional powers will have been cast in stone by precedent—unchallenged precedent. Death by a thousand small cuts.
Don't look to Congress for redress. Congress is (and has always been) feckless in time of need, dithering, fretting and sucking its thumb when bold action was called for. Not its fault. The storied halls of compromise and conceit, of deal-making and delay, of payola and pride were designed to be the modifier rather than the cure for every flamboyance. The House and Senate are two stomachs of the ruminating legislative cow, munching away within the green pastures of rabid right and liberal left.
Legislation is thus made a cud, regurgitated repeatedly, to be chewed again. That’s the congressional job. Chew and occasionally be milked of special-interest cream.
Scooterlibby Public opinion will impeach this crew and regardless of my former argument, public opinion has begun to swing. Opinion is prescient in that it isn’t the war that’s turned their head, but Scooter Libby’s commuted sentence. Libby and Valerie Plame are but a tiny piece of mismanagement compared to the debacle in Iraq, but they are the right piece, the correct piece, the kiss-my-ass and stick-it-in-your ear piece.
Misleading America into war was a regrettable failure of judgment, but bad choices are hardly impeachable. Bad choices are paid for at election time, not in the judicial chamber of a more-than-equally complicit Senate. Impeachment is reserved for ‘high crimes and misdemeanors,’ neither of which are defined as bad choices.
Put the war aside in perspective. The arrogant and deceitful run-up to the war is less important than some of the crimes committed in the pursuit of that war. The president and vice-president are potentially guilty of actual high crimes, according to this partial listing from www.impeachbush.org;
  • Instituting a secret and illegal wiretapping and spying operation against the people of the United States through the National Security Agency.
  • Authorizing, ordering and condoning assassinations, summary executions, kidnappings, secret and other illegal detentions of individuals, torture and physical and psychological coercion of prisoners to obtain false statements concerning acts and intentions of governments and individuals.
  • Violating within the United States, and by authorizing U.S. forces and agents elsewhere, the rights of individuals under the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Eighth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
  • Making, ordering and condoning false statements and propaganda about the conduct of foreign governments and individuals and acts by U.S. government personnel.
  • Manipulating the media and foreign governments with false information
  • Concealing information vital to public discussion and informed judgment concerning acts, intentions and possession, in order to falsely create a climate of fear and destroy opposition to U.S. wars of aggression and first strike attacks.
  • Violations and subversions of the Charter of the United Nations and international law, both a part of the "Supreme Law of the land" under Article VI, paragraph 2, of the Constitution, in an attempt to commit with impunity crimes against peace and humanity and war crimes in wars against Afghanistan, Iraq and others.
  • Usurping powers of the United Nations and the peoples of its nations by bribery, coercion and other corrupt acts and by rejecting treaties, committing treaty violations, and frustrating compliance with treaties in order to destroy any means by which international law and institutions can prevent, affect, or adjudicate the exercise of U.S. military and economic power against the international community.
  • Acting to strip United States citizens of their constitutional and human rights, ordering indefinite detention of citizens, without access to counsel, without charge, and without opportunity to appear before a civil judicial officer to challenge the detention, based solely on the discretionary designation by the Executive of a citizen as an "enemy combatant."
  • Authorizing secret military tribunals and summary execution of persons who are not citizens who are designated solely at the discretion of the Executive who acts as indicting official, prosecutor and as the only avenue of appellate relief.
  • Refusing to provide public disclosure of the identities and locations of persons who have been arrested, detained and imprisoned by the U.S. government in the United States, including in response to Congressional inquiry.
  • Authorizing the monitoring of confidential attorney-client privileged communications by the government, even in the absence of a court order and even where an incarcerated person has not been charged with a crime.
  • Ordering and authorizing the seizure of assets of persons in the United States, prior to hearing or trial, for lawful or innocent association with any entity that at the discretionary designation of the Executive has been deemed "terrorist."
  • Refusal to provide information and records necessary and appropriate for the constitutional right of legislative oversight of executive functions.
  • Rejecting treaties protective of peace and human rights and abrogation of the obligations of the United States under, and withdrawal from, international treaties and obligations without consent of the legislative branch, and including termination of the ABM treaty between the United States and Russia.
  • Rescission of the authorizing signature from the Treaty of Rome which served as the basis for the International Criminal Court.
That’s a bunch. Add more recent matters and stir slowly. These are not discontents or political biases, but issues of law, upon which a finding of ‘guilty’ or ‘not guilty’ can be found.
Time to get to it while there still is time.
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