There are a few new books out now (or coming out soon) on impeaching the current president.
(A digression?I try to avoid saying ?President Bush? because it still pains me to say or write George Bush?s name in conjunction with the word ?President?? Even when I read it in the paper or hear it from some newsperson or comedian it makes me wince).
In any case, I?ve just read two of the books on impeachment?
The first is: The Impeachment of George W. Bush, A Practical Guide for Concerned Citizens by Elizabeth Holtzman and Cynthia Cooper (journalist and author). Liz Holtzman was, as most of you over 50 might remember, the very young congresswoman from Brooklyn who sat on the House Judiciary Committee that recommended the impeachment of Richard Nixon.
The second book is by Dave Lindorff and Barbara Olshansky. Lindorff is an investigative journalist and author, and Olshansky is the deputy director for the Center for Constitutional Rights and is currently conducting habeas litigation (getting the administration to name and actually produce the prisoners) on behalf of the detainees held at Guantanamo. Their book is called The Legal Argument for Removing President George W. Bush from Office.
I strongly recommend both books. They cover a lot of the same ground but I?d suggest starting with the Lindorff-Olshansky book; it has a bit more history; of Bush?s co-and-under-fuehrers, cronies and gang members?and of Bush?s personal history (how he has always been arrogant, contemptuous, and immoral)? This book is written with more overt (and righteous) personal outrage than the Holtzman/Cooper book.
The Holtzman-Cooper book is none-the-less passionate but is written more as a legal brief. It has plenty of history too but more the kind a lawyer would lay out to a jury when backing up arguments in court.
Also Holtzman is in a position to (and does with conviction and precision) compare the step-by-step and crime-by-crime points of Nixon?s impeachment and the impeachment (hopefully soon to come) of Bush.
Holtzman gives you the benefit of her personal involvement in Nixon?s impeachment and shows you how it was undertaken, first, with reluctance and even some regret, then with great care? The impeachment eventually turned out to be an almost completely bi-partisan act of Congress?
Both books give you a history of impeachment?and the origin and meaning of ?High Crimes and Misdemeanors?? All taken from British law that developed as that country?s democratic government grew over centuries.
Since Bush?s crimes are so blatant and egregious, the authors of both books don?t have a lot of trouble making their case: Bush?s illegal spying on Americans, his lying to get us into a catastrophic war; his failure to exercise his powers to help during Hurricane Katrina, his facilitation of torture; his deliberate outing of Valerie Plame?s identity as a CIA officer, etc. etc..
Both books lay out the intent, planning and commission of these and other crimes against the people and the constitution of the United States. The Lindorff-Olshansky book drags Cheney and other top administration officials into the spotlight more than the Holtzman-Cooper book?which stays on Bush like a laser beam.
As a matter of basic education, both books describe the linear progression of investigations and legal and procedural steps needed for impeachment.
The essential point of both books is that impeachment is necessary when a President (or Vice-President) has committed crimes that threaten the very essence and nature of our system of government. (Compare Clinton having sex and lying about it to the Bush?s invasion of Iraq, spying on millions of American citizens, condoning (if not encouraging) torture of captured combatants (even on non-combatant suspects) and contemptuously ignoring simple and legal requests from Congress for information on these and numerous other activities).
Impeachment needs to be brought when a man like Nixon or Bush decides that he is above the law?that he is in fact, more of an imperial monarch (like, for instance, King George the Third of England) than the elected public servant of the American people.
The powers of the executive branch of government have been violated before by other Presidents?usually in connection with a war (Lincoln suspended habeas corpus, Lyndon Johnson rigged (at the very least had the Navy provoke) the gulf of Tonkin attack and Roosevelt was guilty of dubious or possibly illegal acts in connection with the US going to war).
Basically, since Roosevelt?and especially starting in the Sixties with Johnson and Nixon?the powers of the executive branch have been growing dangerously; that was one reason Congress wanted to impeach Nixon?He was dangerously tipping the balance of power between the branches of government.
A single example of runaway executive power: Though approximately 130,000 American soldiers have been killed (and tens of thousands grievously wounded), in wars that occurred after WW2, not one of those soldiers died or was wounded with the actual direct consent (overt declaration of war) of Congress?the assembled representatives of the people of the United States.
However, even in this example, starting with Truman?and even, to some extent, during Vietnam?America?s military was used with some clear approval, oversight and active consent of Congress (even though Johnson and Nixon continued to lie to them about the war in Vietnam).
But even the appearance of consent was thrown out when Bush, Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld and a bunch of neo-conservative lunatics decided to declare a war on Iraq all by themselves (a war they intended to fight way before 9/11 even occurred. Cheney was planning on it in the early 90?s).
Congress voted to support the President?s use of force to fight terrorism?to go after Osama Bin Laden and even, perhaps, to invade Afghanistan. They did not vote to invade and occupy Iraq. (Of course, Congress?both parties?deserves blame for rolling over like a pet poodle for the executive branch. And let?s not forget the cowardly collusion of the mainstream print and electronic media, about 75% of whom should resign in shame?or at least start their next column, editorial or news report with a deep apology to the American public).
The recent mid-term elections show a glimmer of recognition in the American populace that the executive branch has set itself above the constitution and people of our country. Maybe now (even if its not necessarily for the right reasons) Congress can re-establish the powers of the legislative branch. It seems to be what the public wants, finally?
When it comes to ignoring?even attacking?the constitutional foundations on which this country is built, Bush is the worst president this country has ever had. He is not like any president that has come before him. His utter disregard for the processes and requirements of our democracy remove him from the frame of the constitution and place him outside the pale of law and civilized behavior. Nixon was a rank amateur?practically a champion of freedom and democracy compared to Bush.
Bush and Cheney (along with Rice, Rumsfeld and their allies) have brought the United States to the very brink of fascism. It?s a wonder to me that they even permitted this recent election to happen, or at least didn?t help facilitate some kind of 9/11 horror at the last minute to scare the voters into keeping the Republican?s in the majority.
Is there anyone out there that didn?t harbor, even for a minute, a secret fear that Bush/Cheney/Rove would do something truly awful to win? The very fact that so many Americans could even entertain and discuss such thoughts is a damning enough statement about the personalities of the men who are running our government right now.
I suppose I?m even pleasantly surprised that the worst these criminals did was to arrange to have the announcement of Sadam Hussein?s death sentence two days before the election?It shows that maybe they still
have some vestige of comprehension that they are living in a Democracy. (Or maybe it simply shows that they didn?t plan on losing the mid-term elections).
Now Bush and Cheney are in danger of being investigated for real? actually forced to produce documents, minutes of meetings, testify to what they knew and when they knew it; then, ultimately impeached, removed from office?and, hopefully, wind up paying for their crimes by going to jail. Once thing?s for sure?they will get every chance along the way to defend themselves, which is a lot more than they?ve given their victims?both inside and outside the borders of the USA. Rumsfeld, though he jumped out of the plane (or was pushed?it doesn?t matter) is not immune. In fact, now that he is just a detestable common citizen, he can be summoned to account for himself much more easily than if he was still the Secretary of Defense. He was one of the people responsible for the kidnapping and torture of people suspected of being terrorists and of prisoners of war.
On my radio show on Sirius, a lot of callers (mostly Democrats and even self-described liberals) are saying (as Nancy Pelosi was saying before the election) that it would be a mistake to launch right into impeachment?that it would ruin The Democrats? chances of righting all sorts of wrongs. (Addressing tax reform, minimum wage, drug prices, corporate corruption, and, most of all, the war in Iraq.) Not to mention the fact that getting right to impeachment would show the Democrats to be ?too liberal? or ?out of control? and thus ruin their chances for a successful run for the Presidency in 2008.
Many people (and, as usual, a lot of the blow-hard pandering cowards in the mainstream media) are saying that the American public is moderate?even conservative (look at the nature of the Democrats that got elected).
There are a lot of reasonable, decent people saying it would be a mistake for the Democrats to immediately try to impeach the President.
I say it would be a great mistake to hesitate for one moment.
Investigations into all the crimes of the Bush-Cheney gang need to be launched immediately; investigations by the appropriate committees need to look at presidential spying, illegal imprisonment and torture, war profiteering, rigging of energy prices, and, of course, the lies they told to get the USA into invading Iraq?and the lies they told, and are still telling, about our crimes and failures in that hapless country.
I remember every detail of the Nixon hearings on impeachment. It was, in my opinion, one of the greatest moments of America?s history. It was the constitution come alive; Democracy operating at its highest level, ethically and morally. Even after the shame and horror of Vietnam, it made me proud to be living in a country where people could, by using the country?s founding principles and laws, bring down a tyrant in its own midst.
The country was desperately ill, almost mortally wounded after Nixon?s crimes and the war in Vietnam. The impeachment hearings actually healed the country?reminded us that morality and law could be restored by the citizens of the country acting through their elected representatives. It was proof that the system worked.
?I want to add, at this point, that I am not talking about further contributing to the petty, paralyzing polarity that has defined politics for the last 12 years (mostly due to the nature and behavior of the Republican majority in Congress and the current administration). It?s not a question of Revenge of The Democrats? Again, think of Nixon and how he was brought under control and gotten rid of?By a bi-Partisan group of people who wanted to reclaim the country as a Democracy.
It is time for people to talk to each other again?not to play The End of Days on Capitol Hill.
The Republicans are always talking to their ?base? about redemption.
That?s what I?m talking about?redemption of hearts and souls tarnished by vicious, petty behavior and authoritarian goose-stepping.
Its way past time for the two parties to get together and do the right thing.
Impeachment is what this country needs right now. We are a rogue nation?out of control in the world?doing harm almost everywhere. The United States has become a symbol of greed, violence and tyranny in most places in the world. Within our own, sick, sad borders, bigotry, religious intolerance, hatred and general moral collapse have brought us to the point where the country is almost irretrievably lost. There is no sense of equality, of generosity, of humanity. The country is killing itself in a paroxysm of polarity and paranoia?all played out on a relentless background of mindless, sadistic ?entertainment? and runaway greed. Most of this is perfectly symbolized in the people who now own and run our government.
And the Democrats are far from blameless? They are already gearing up to receive the corporate lobbying benefits that the Republicans controlled all these years?
This country is desperately ill. Impeachment isn?t something theoretical, something that needs to be considered with politics in mind or an option to consider sometime in the future. It?s needed right now?the same way an ambulance and an emergency room is needed when someone is in danger of dying from a heart attack.
…So, take a look at the new books on impeachment?
They might change your point of view if you feel that impeachment is too radical a move for right now or the near future? If someone in your family or your neighborhood was as out of control as the people running our government, you probably wouldn?t sit around wondering what to do for very long?you?d have to take some action?for survival’s sake.
– Mike Feder (New York City – November 15, 2006)