FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Democrats and the Impeachment Clause

by DAVE LINDORFF

 

What is it about impeachment that has the Democratic Party leadership so frightened?

Talking with members of Congress, one hears the same refrain: “I know Bush and Cheney have committed impeachable crimes, but impeachment is a bad idea.”

The rationales offered are many, but all are either specious or based upon flawed reasoning. Let’s consider them separately:

Excuse one, offered by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, is that impeachment would be a diversion from Democrats’ main goals of ending the Iraq War, and passing important legislation. The reality, of course, is that many of the administration’s impeachable acts relate directly to the war, so hearings would only build support for ending it. Meanwhile, with the slim majorities in both houses, Democrats cannot pass any significant progressive legislation that could survive a veto (or a presidential signing statement) and the record shows it.

Excuse two is that impeachment is divisive. This seems the height of absurdity. When voters handed Congress to the Democrats, they knew they were setting the stage for divided government. That was the whole point. Moreover, divisiveness in Washington has largely emanated from the White House, not from Congress. Anyhow, given administration intransigence on all the issues that matter to Democrats, they have no alternative but to take a stand.

Excuse three is a claim that the public opposes impeachment. This is simply wrong. The few straightforward scientific polls done on impeachment, such as one published by Newsweek last October, show a majority of Americans to want it. Furthermore, if Bush has committed impeachable acts, it is inappropriate for House members, all of whom swore to uphold and defend the Constitution, not to act.

Excuse four is that old canard that impeaching Bush would mean making Cheney president-a deliberately scary prospect but one which any politician in Washington knows is garbage. Firstly, if Cheney were to become president because of a Bush impeachment or resignation, it would only be for a few months, and given his stunning lack of support among the public-currently about 9 percent and falling-he would be the lamest of lame ducks, unable to do anything. But more importantly, his own party would be certain to remove him before any removal of Bush, and for exactly that reason-they would not want to be going into the 2008 election with Cheney as party leader. This is exactly what happened to Spiro Agnew, whom a Republican attorney general managed to indict and remove before the collapse of Nixon’s presidency. The same thing can be expected to happen to Cheney, who would surely face either a sudden health crisis, or an indictment for corruption.

Finally, excuse five is that the president’s crimes and abuses of power need to be proven before any impeachment bill. This is completely backwards. An impeachment bill can be filed by any member of Congress who believes the president has violated the Constitution. At that point, it is up to the House Judiciary Committee to consider the bill’s merits and decide whether to ask the full House to authorize impeachment hearings. It is at an impeachment hearing where investigations should proceed. After all, only after the Judiciary Committee votes out an impeachment article can the full House consider whether to actually impeach. Calling for investigations before an impeachment hearing is like asking for an investigation before a grand jury investigation. It’s redundant, simply a dodge.

Besides, some of this president’s high crimes are self-evident. Take the case of Bush’s ordering the National Security Agency to spy on Americans’ communications without a warrant. A federal judge has already labeled this violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act a felony. There is no denying this felony occurred, or that Bush is responsible. The only question the House needs to vote on is whether the felony is a “high crime” warranting impeachment.

The same applies Bush’s refusal to enact over 1200 laws or parts of laws duly passed by Congress. Bush doesn’t deny that he has usurped the power of the Congress, as laid down in Article I of the Constitution. Rather, he asserts-with no basis in the wording of that document-that as commander in chief in the war on terror, he has the “unitary executive” authority to ignore acts of Congress. Again, there is no need for an “investigation” to establish whether this happened. What Congress must do is decide whether this usurpation of its Constitutional role is an impeachable abuse of power.

Likewise the president’s authorization of kidnap and torture. We know the president okayed torture. We know too, that he used his “unitary executive” claim to refuse to accept a law passed overwhelmingly by the last Congress outlawing torture. Finally, we know the president did not, as required by US and international law, act to halt torture and punish those up the chain of command who oversaw systematic, widespread torture.

There are many impeachable crimes by this president (and vice president), such as obstruction of justice in the Valeria Plame outing case, conspiracy (or treason) in the Niger “yellowcake” document forgery scandal, conspiracy to engage in election fraud, lying to Congress, criminal negligence in responding to the Katrina disaster, bribery and war profiteering, etc., which would require Judiciary Committee investigations.

In the meantime, though, Democrats need to step up to their responsibility.

If this president is not to be impeached, Congress may as well the Constitution to remove the impeachment clause. It will, in that case, have become as much an anachronism as prohibition.

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: dlindorff@yahoo.com

 

 

 

More articles by:

Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

February 20, 2018
Nick Pemberton
The Gun Violence the Media Shows Us and the State Violence They Don’t
John Eskow
Sympathy for the Drivel: On the Vocabulary of President Nitwit
John Steppling
Trump, Putin, and Nikolas Cruz Walk Into a Bar…
John W. Whitehead
America’s Cult of Violence Turns Deadly
Ishmael Reed
Charles F. Harris: He Popularized Black History
Will Podmore
Paying the Price: the TUC and Brexit
George Burchett
Plumpes Denken: Crude thinking
Binoy Kampmark
The Caring Profession: Peacekeeping, Blue Helmets and Sexual Abuse
Lawrence Wittner
The Trump Administration’s War on Workers
David Swanson
The Question of Sanctions: South Africa and Palestine
Walter Clemens
Murderers in High Places
Dean Baker
How Does the Washington Post Know that Trump’s Plan Really “Aims” to Pump $1.5 Trillion Into Infrastructure Projects?
February 19, 2018
Rob Urie
Mueller, Russia and Oil Politics
Richard Moser
Mueller the Politician
Robert Hunziker
There Is No Time Left
Nino Pagliccia
Venezuela Decides to Hold Presidential Elections, the Opposition Chooses to Boycott Democracy
Daniel Warner
Parkland Florida: Revisiting Michael Fields
Sheldon Richman
‘Peace Through Strength’ is a Racket
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Taking on the Pentagon
Patrick Cockburn
People Care More About the OXFAM Scandal Than the Cholera Epidemic
Ted Rall
On Gun Violence and Control, a Political Gordian Knot
Binoy Kampmark
Making Mugs of Voters: Mueller’s Russia Indictments
Dave Lindorff
Mass Killers Abetted by Nutjobs
Myles Hoenig
A Response to David Axelrod
Colin Todhunter
The Royal Society and the GMO-Agrochemical Sector
Cesar Chelala
A Student’s Message to Politicians about the Florida Massacre
Weekend Edition
February 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
American Carnage
Paul Street
Michael Wolff, Class Rule, and the Madness of King Don
Andrew Levine
Had Hillary Won: What Now?
David Rosen
Donald Trump’s Pathetic Sex Life
Susan Roberts
Are Modern Cities Sustainable?
Joyce Nelson
Canada vs. Venezuela: Have the Koch Brothers Captured Canada’s Left?
Geoff Dutton
America Loves Islamic Terrorists (Abroad): ISIS as Proxy US Mercenaries
Mike Whitney
The Obnoxious Pence Shows Why Korea Must End US Occupation
Joseph Natoli
In the Post-Truth Classroom
John Eskow
One More Slaughter, One More Piece of Evidence: Racism is a Terminal Mental Disease
John W. Whitehead
War Spending Will Bankrupt America
Robert Fantina
Guns, Violence and the United States
Dave Lindorff
Trump’s Latest Insulting Proposal: Converting SNAP into a Canned Goods Distribution Program
Robert Hunziker
Global Warming Zaps Oxygen
John Laforge
$1.74 Trillion for H-bomb Profiteers and “Fake” Cleanups
CJ Hopkins
The War on Dissent: the Specter of Divisiveness
Peter A. Coclanis
Chipotle Bell
Anders Sandström – Joona-Hermanni Mäkinen
Ways Forward for the Left
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Winning Hearts and Minds
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail