Thursday, April 05, 2007

Why I support impeachment

SteveG has put forth his case opposing impeachment. I strongly disagree.

Impeachment Ought to be Reserved for Extreme Cases

I agree that impeachment ought to be reserved for extreme cases—cases where an official actually breaks the law in substantial way.

The criminal acts of the Bush administration clearly meet this standard; there are any number of "smoking guns". Bush has lied to Congress about (among other topics) the justification for the war in Iraq, an actual crime. He has spied on the conversations of Americans without warrant from the FISA court, an actual crime. He has, in the U.S. Attorney firings, clearly obstructed justice, an actual crime. But most importantly, Bush has prosecuted a war of aggression, which is not only a crime against U.S. law, but a Crime against Humanity. In a just world, Bush would face not only impeachment, but also a trial before the World Court for this crime.

Steve asserts that "there is not widespread support for impeachment -- calls coming from and echoes across vast stretches of the political landscape" and that "there is not fear of the governmental structure having lost its popular support."

This assertion is at best controversial. Two polls show wide support for impeachment:
By a margin of 50% to 44%, Americans want Congress to consider impeaching President Bush if he lied about the war in Iraq...

By a margin of 52% to 43%, Americans want Congress to consider impeaching President Bush if he wiretapped American citizens without a judge's approval...
In any event, this consideration is meaningless. It's preposterous to suggest that we shouldn't support impeachment because impeachment isn't supported. The case for impeachment, if persuasive, should build support; if unpersuasive, the case should diminish support.

The Impeachment Process Has Been Injured

This consideration is irrelevant. The case ought to stand on its own; we don't stop prosecuting people for murder just because O. J. Simpson's murder trial was botched. Regardless of historical context, however, the way to heal an injured process is to exercise it correctly, not abandon it.

Steve asserts that "any use of the mechanism would be easily cast as merely retaliatory..." Well, duh. That's how propaganda works, especially right-wing propaganda. We can't allow ourselves to be intimidated by propaganda, especially when the facts are on our side.

He concludes that such propaganda "would only injure [the impeachment mechanism] further." But would it? Absent rational and legal grounds for impeachment (a question on which Steve seems blissfully ignorant), such propaganda would be factually correct; it would be the groundless impeachment itself, not the propaganda, that would injure the process further. On the other hand, if there were grounds for impeachment, opposing it from fear of opposition propaganda would be nothing but cowardice.

Impeachment is Politically a Bad Move

This consideration is utterly irrelevant. The function of those in government is not just to win elections, and the function of the voters is not to "root for the shirts" and support an arbitrarily chosen party regardless of their policies. At some point, the government has to actually govern. The considerations of enforcing the law, and ensuring that we have good laws to enforce, has to come up somewhere, and it is precisely on this criterion that those of us appalled by the blatantly illegal and monstrously immoral acts of the Bush administration.

As Steve himself notes, political weakness and passivity is a bad strategy. Impeachment is a strong, active move; forswearing it is passive and weak.

6 comments:

  1. Couldn't agree more. A lot of nonsense is spoken by Pelosi amongst others that there's bo point impeaching Bush because we'll just end up with President Cheney. That should be irrelevant to any decision over whether or not to impeach.

    It should come down to whether or not a crime has been committed. I love how no other form of lawbreaking is subject to so many caveats as to when the law should be applied.

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  2. Indeed. Frankly, I think we should impeach the whole administration, down to the secretary of Health and Human Services as well as that rat bastard Gonzales.

    However, the comedic possibilities in a ::chortle:: Cheney ::giggle:: administration ::guffaw:: make the prospect attractive in itself.

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  3. I agree. You really want to see the GOP self-destruct, I give you: President Cheney.

    I also agree we should impeach the whole sorry lot. The sad thing is that probably every single one of them has done something significant to deserve it, from subverting science with politics to giving bogus legal advice to advocating torture, to lying us into a war (to just plain lying about everything under the sun as a matter of policy and then stonewalling all inquiries).

    But let's start with Bush.

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  4. This is simply a further demonstration that our Constitutional structure, good as it is and revolutionary as it was, contains sometimes fatal flaws. A parliamentarian ability to cast a vote of "no confidence" in the president would be immensely helpful. Unfortunately, Congress lacks a meaningful way of rebuking the president short of impeachment.

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  5. I don't know. I don't see the need for the ability to vote no confidence per se. The parliamentary system has its pluses and minuses, but it does not feature a clear separation of powers between the executive and the legislature.

    Even stipulating arguendo that we should not use impeachment as a vote of no confidence, I think the case for impeachment remains very strong.

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  6. Any system is only as good as the people who are in it, ultimately. If enough are bad apples, then the system won't save you.

    I've seen it in certain court opinions - the law as written is great and makes perfect sense, but that won't stop ideologue judges from voting in a case for a result that not only doesn't follow the law, but blatently does not, usually while mouthing platitudes about how they are "strict constructionists" - the fact is, all the good rules and systems in the world don't work if people are corrupt and only pay lip service to them. That is what is so bad about the Bush administration - they are all such bad apples (from the top down) that nothing in place to deal with that in the system has stopped them. This was made worse by a GOP congress that did zero oversight. So there was no pressure from within, no pressure from without, and the courts were avoided as much as possible with stupid stunts to "moot" things at the last minute whenever a case was getting close to a SC decision.

    They need to be out of there. Yesterday.

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