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The bankruptcy of the Democratic Party leadership’s position in Congress on impeachment was revealed in stark terms yesterday, when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that she would sue the president in court if he resorted to a signing statement to kill the next version of Congress’s Iraq funding bill.
Suing Bush over a signing statement, given the number of Federalist judges that this administration has named to the federal district and appellate courts, and to the US Supreme Court, is not just an exercise in futility; it is a dangerous tactic which could backfire disastrously by leading to a ruling that it’s perfectly constitutional for a president to ignore laws passed by the Congress. Does Pelosi really want to risk such a catastrophe?
The only solution is to impeach the president over his signing statements, and there is no need to wait for the next one to take action. Bush has invalidated more than 1200 laws or parts of laws passed by Congress since 2001 using what are called “signing statements.”
Republican apologists for the president have noted that other presidents, including Clinton, also issued signing statements, which is true. But they fail to mention that other presidents did not use those signing statements to then ignore or invalidate laws passed by Congress. They merely used them to register their view that a law, or a part of a law, was unconstitutional.
Bush has made a wholly different argument. For the past six years, he has been claiming that because he is commander in chief in a time of war, by which he means the so-called “war” on terror, he has had what he calls “unitary executive” authority. By this he means that legislative and judicial power, as well as executive power, are all in his hands for as long as the threat of terrorism is with us. Since this “war” on terror never really ends, what he is claiming is that separation of powers no longer exists in America. Indeed, the Constitution itself is set aside. The president is a dictator during his term of office, and Congress is just a debating club.
At this point, it should be clear to anyone, including Speaker Pelosi, that the only remedy for this gross abuse of power by the president is impeachment.
Unfortunately for America and the Constitution, Pelosi is still hamstrung by her foolish insistence that “impeachment is off the table.”
As long as she continues to refuse to allow impeachment of President Bush, she cannot hope to stop the war, restore habeas corpus, undo the Military Commissions Act, stop illegal spying on Americans by the National Security Agency, or win passage of any significant legislation to deal with global warming. She cannot really do anything, because Bush will simply issue signing statements and use his claim of “unitary executive authority” to invalidate any legislation passed by Congress.
Pelosi needs to be told by her colleagues and by all Americans who care about the survival of the Constitution that this is not an issue for the courts. It is an issue that demands impeachment.
The Founding Fathers were clear that where abuse of power occurs, it is Congress, not the Courts, that must have the responsibility to take corrective action. Abuse of power is not a violation of the law, and so it is not something that the courts are likely to handle properly even under the best of circumstances. Abuse of power is a so-called “political crime,” which requires a political response, which is precisely why the Founders included an impeachment clause in the Constitution.
Pelosi has ducked this issue for long enough, and now she’s about to do serious damage to the nation because of her political cowardice.
If the American republic is to survive, it is time to impeach this president on a charge of abuse of power.
DAVE LINDORFF is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. His n book of CounterPunch columns titled “This Can’t be Happening!” is published by Common Courage Press. Lindorff’s newest book is “The Case for Impeachment“,
co-authored by Barbara Olshansky.
He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org