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Everyone agreed that it was not the sex. It was the lying, right? If having extramarital sex in the White House were an impeachable offense, the impeachment of presidents would long ago have become a routine affair. We’d have seen Roosevelt, Ike, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon and Bush the Elder in the dock for sure, and maybe Ron, too.
But everyone agreed it wasn’t the sex that got President Clinton in trouble. It was the lying. The audacious bending of the meaning of the word is and the word sex. Right?
But has lying ever been practiced so blatantly as it is being practiced today in the White House?
At least President Clinton’s lies were about his personal behavior. This administration has done its share of that kind of lying, to be sure. For example about the President’s cowardly conduct during the 9/11 attacks, or about Vice President Cheney’s dealings with Enron executives as the company was tanking. Or about President Bush’s year as an AWOL guardsman during the Vietnam War.
But this administration’s lying has gone far beyond that, and has led to the deaths of thousands, including well over a hundred Americans (and counting). This is prevarication on a scale that rivals the Johnson Adminstration’s lie about the purposted attack on an American destroyer in the Gulf of Tonkin, or the Nixon Administration’s lie about its secret war in Cambodia.
Like Johnson’s big lie, which led to the deaths of over 50,000 Americans and of millions of Southeast Asians, the Bush Administration’s lies about Iraq–that it had biological and chemical weapons ready to use and that it was well on the way to developing nuclear weapons of that it was directly supporting Al Qaeda–were deliberately designed to trick Congress and the American Public into supporting a war that otherwise would not have happened–in the first instance against North Vietnam and in the second against Iraq.
Both of these deceptions were murderous lies.
Remember: Nixon’s lie about U.S. aggression against the neutral nation of Cambodia–another murderous lie–was one of the articles of impeachment that were voted against him in the House of Representatives. Johnson never had to face the music for his monstrous lie, but perhaps had he not decided not to seek a second elected term of office, he too might have ended up being impeached for it.
Now it’s Bush’s turn.
Where is the public outcry demanding that he be called to account for his shameless and bloody deception of the American public and the Congress?
It is likely that with American troops still patrolling the streets of Baghdad, and still getting attacked and killed there, and with most American’s still revelling in the thrill of the military’s quick victory over Saddam Hussein’s army, nobody’s ready to call Bush and his cronies on their crimes of falsehood.
But the buoyant nationalistic mood is liable to shift dramatically as the Iraq situation continues to deteriorate, and as the American body count continues to rise. Particularly if, as is likely, the economy stays in the doldrums.
At some point it will start to become politically acceptable to start asking, “If everybody’s mad at us, why are we over there?” Once that happens, the next question will be “How did we get into this mess in the first place?”
That’s when Bush’s big lie will start to loom large in the public’s assessment of this administration.
As for impeachment, as long as Congress remains in the hands of the Republican Party, it’s not likely. That makes the 2004 election doubly important. Even if Bush manages to eke out a narrow victory again in 2004, it is critically important that Democrats regain control of at least one house of Congress.
It may seem hard to imagine today, but if the voters manage that, we may yet see another impeachment drama.
DAVE LINDORFF is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. A collection of Lindorff’s stories can be found here: http://www.nwuphilly.org/dave.html