Impeachment as the Message

Suppose I seize
The ship, make it my own and, bit by bit,
Seize yards and docks, machinery and men,
As others have, and then, unlike the others, Instead of building ships, in numbers, build
A single ship, a cloud on the sea, the largest Possible machine, a divinity of steel,
Of which I am captain. Given what I intend,
The ship would become the center of the world.

–Wallace Stevens,
“Life on a Battleship” (1939)

John Dean’s July 18th FindLaw column calling for a special prosecutor to investigate President Bush and his administration presents a thorough analysis of “misstatements” in the now-notorious State of the Union Address. It should be required reading for every American, and the issues presented should be openly aired and argued.

Politicians misstate the facts and the truth all the time. Or, to put it more accurately, they lie. Citizens have grown so accustomed to this false face they can barely manage a shrug when another whopper comes bellowing down the pike. So tangled is the current linguistic web of politics that it’s nearly impossible to know which statements are true and which are false.

Those of us who carefully followed the Bushvolk buildup to the takeover of Iraq doubted much of the “solid evidence,” and experienced analysts were granted little space in the major press to demonstrate the questionable nature of that evidence. When, for example, much of the material Secretary of State Powell presented in his much-hyped address to the United Nations was later shown to be highly suspect, even manipulated, it barely raised a ripple.

As John Dean and others have said, this is a scandal of major proportions. Yet the press and the politicians are still pussyfooting around the issues, possibly hoping they”ll all go away. Will there be some smoking gun so blatantly hot that even the more die-hard administration supporters and their hyperbole-shouting talk-show commentators find it possible to ignore or condone? There is more, but how much more is needed? Are there no Republicans who value fairness and honesty more than downplaying and excusing administration actions that have cost many lives, spun the nation further into debt and possibly (am I the first to project it?) put the nation on the edge of a depression?

Regarding those famous “16 words” and administration blather about Saddam Hussein’s “nuculer” capability, consider this quotation:

“In mid-December, a British diplomat told me that the decision to attack Iraq had been made; all that remained was the need to strengthen the case for the action, he said. The Administration had tried to point to an impending Iraqi nuclear-weapons problem; however, the case for any such near-term threat, about which nothing had been heard [earlier], seemed to collapse under expert commentary.”

Those words were written by Elizabeth Drew in The New Yorker for February 18, 1991. Twelve years later is it “deja vu all over again”? Apparently it is, with many of the same players reworking the same old playbook.

Whether George W. Bush should be impeached depends on the evidence a special prosecutor uncovers, but John Dean is correct: a special prosecutor must be appointed, and one with far more credibility than Kenneth Starr. If serious misdeeds have been committed, those being investigated must be denied the “biased prosecutor” defense. There is another reason, however, why this writer believes impeachment may be necessary.

The impeachment of a President of the United States may be the most serious action this nation can take “against” its elected leader. When frustrated, angry members of the House and Senate chose to impeach President Clinton, the causewas truly trivial compared to the possibility that the Bush Administration lied to take the nation into a war it had long-since decided upon. Still, the message sent was clear: With few exceptions, Presidents shouldn’t lie, whether under oath or in public pronouncements.

Politicians are notoriously thick-skinned and cavalier when it comes to their public pronouncements. However, the impeachment of President Bush could send a signal to present and future political leaders that their lies will be their undoing. It would also send a signal to those who sought the head of President Clinton that over the pit, the pendulum swings both ways.

DOUG GIEBEL lives in Big Sandy, Montana. He can be reached at: dougcatz@ttc-cmc.net

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