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January 16, 2006

Taking Serious Abuse of Power Seriously

As I prepare to head down to the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) Constitution Hall for Gore's speech later today, I'm thinking about the big I-word—Impeachment—and found a few minutes of interesting reading. From a couple of weeks ago, the blog Ahistoricality pointed to some good links on the subject, including an argument that the way the Bush administration took us to war constituted a criminal conspiracy, and a good summary of the many conservative voices that brought up the possibility of impeachment fairly early after learning that the NSA has been spying on us. More recently, Jonathan Alter has asked, “What if we faced a constitutional crisis and hardly anyone noticed?” Speaking of SCOTUS nominee Samuel Alito's views of presidential power and the current crisis, Alter puts the issue concisely:

The “momentous” issue (Alito's words) is whether this president, or any other, has the right to tell Congress to shove it.

Those who are talking about impeachment obviously think the answer should be “No.” Unfortunately, though he's right about the seriousness of the current state of legislative/executive imbalance, Alter goes on to call impeachment a “pipe dream and a distraction.” So what's his suggested remedy for this horrible imbalance? He doesn't have one.

That's why people are considering impeachment more closely—what else can be done? By far my favorite recent article on the subject is entitled simply “The Impeachment of George W. Bush” by Elizabeth Holtzman:

Finally, it has started. People have begun to speak of impeaching President George W. Bush--not in hushed whispers but openly, in newspapers, on the Internet, in ordinary conversations and even in Congress. As a former member of Congress who sat on the House Judiciary Committee during the impeachment proceedings against President Richard Nixon, I believe they are right to do so.

Holtzman goes on to lay out the case, citing as grounds for impeachment:

  • warrantless wiretaps,
  • subverting our democracy (lying to take us to war),
  • failure to take care (for failing to provide troops w/necessary armor and other gear and for failing to have any real plan for getting out of Iraq once we'd gone in), and
  • torture and other abuses of power.

Gore is not expected to call for impeachment today, but that's ok. He'll be calling for accountability, and that's what impeachment will be.

Finally it has started.

Posted January 16, 2006 08:03 AM | general politics

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All I can say is that I firmly and sincerely hope you're right, and that Democrats call loudly for articles of impeachment before the November elections.

Posted by: A. Rickey at January 16, 2006 12:28 PM

Hm. So you believe the Democrats will look bad and therefore do poorly in November's elections if they call for impeachment? That may be; I have no idea. But politics aside, do you really think we, as Americans, are better off with an executive branch that plays so fast and loose (if not illegally) with the Constitution and duly passed laws and treaties?

Posted by: ambimb at January 16, 2006 05:08 PM

As I've mentioned to you before, the Clinton era saw ECHELON, and Gore was the man behind the Clipper Chip. On the one hand, I don't share your panic about the erosion of civil liberties because I do suspect that Bush is restricting its use to the prevention of domestic terrorism. But even if I didn't I wouldn't see this as a sign of a wild departure from past practice: if anything, I welcome the idea that we might use this to bring FISA into the 21st century.

In other words, even if illegal, probably not immoral; if immoral, probably a venal sin, and not grounds for moral crusade.

Posted by: A. Rickey at January 18, 2006 06:07 PM

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