|Pelosi and the Democrats: Partisan Advantage,
By David Fairley
Unlike millions of angry and disgusted Americans, top Democrats
don't consider the impeachment of George Bush and Dick Cheney
a goal worth pursuing. Winning the White House in 2008 is
much more important, they say. But is their stance based on
principle or narrow partisanship? Is impeachment "off
the table" for the good of the country or for the good
of the Democratic Party?
There are not one, but two powerful arguments in favor of
impeachment: abuse of power, and atonement for crimes against
Usurpation of Power
Although many presidents have stepped over the legal line,
George Bush has abused his power as President far more than
any other in American history. He has issued hundreds of "signing
statements" that say, in effect, that he will not obey
the will of Congress; in other words, he will not obey the
laws that he has sworn to uphold. Among the laws the Bush
Administration refuses to obey are those against spying on
Americans, those against torture, and those requiring disclosure
of what the Administration is doing.
Not to impeach Bush and Cheney is to legitimize this unconstitutional
usurpation of power, to hand the reins of government over
to the President, and to place a time bomb of a precedent.
Consider this thought experiment. What would happen if terrorists
were able to detonate an atom bomb in New York, killing hundreds
of thousands or millions of Americans. Given the hysteria
the Bush Administration was able to generate after 9/11, it
seems eminently possible that such a catastrophe would give
Bush or some future power-hungry President the opening to
declare a "state of emergency" where the Constitution
was suspended. Once suspended, it's conceivable if not likely
that it would never be reinstated.
One unremarked irony was a passage from the President's
speech soon after 9/11 that the terrorists "...hate our
freedoms -- our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech,
our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other."
The President has used 9/11 to undermine those very freedoms
along with Constitution's 4th Amendment right to freedom from
unreasonable searches, exactly what Osama seems to wish.
Terrorists who would commit an act as despicable as 9/11
would be delighted if their actions resulted in the effective
destruction of what makes America America, and a "State
of Emergency" could do just that.
Atonement for War Crimes
The Nuremberg Tribunal at the end of World War II declared
a war of aggression as the "supreme international crime"
because it creates the conditions for all of the intendant
evils of war. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aggression_(war_crime))
The US war on Iraq is such a war. Iraq posed absolutely no
threat to the US before the US invaded in 2003. Such an invasion
is a crime under the UN Charter to which the US is a signatory.
(http://www.un.org/aboutun/charter/) Daily we see the evils
that this war has unleashed: the now tens if not hundreds
of thousands of Iraqi dead; the literally millions of Iraqi
refugees; the use of torture; the use of horrible weapons
such as phosphorus, napalm and depleted uranium.
Impeachment and criminal prosecution won't bring the countless
Iraqi and American dead back to life, it won't undo the renderings,
torture and barbaric imprisonment that our country has engaged
in, but it would serve to restore some of America's lost reputation
as a country that values peace, freedom and justice.
What do the American People Say?
Dozens of communities around the US have voted for impeachment.
A recent poll found a majority of Americans in favor of the
impeachment of Dick Cheney, and a tie vote for the impeachment
of George Bush. (http://www.americanresearchgroup.com/) Given
that no prominent American leaders are promoting impeachment,
this is an impressive result. One wonders what the poll numbers
would be if prominent Americans did support impeachment, laying
out arguments like those above?
What do the Democrats Say?
Given the powerful motivation to impeach Bush and Cheney,
how do the Democrats argue the contrary? Here is what Nancy
Pelosi had to say in a recent interview http://bravenewfilms.org/blog/3472-speaker-pelosi-on-the-war-impeachment-and-accoun
Pelosi: "I made a decision a few years ago, or at least
one year ago, that impeachment was something that we could
not be successful with and that would take up the time we
needed to do some positive things to establish a record of
our priorities and their short-comings, and the President
is…not worth impeaching. We've got important work to
do… If he were at the beginning of his term, people may
think of it differently, but he's at the end of his terms.
The first two years of his term, if we came in as the majority,
there might be time to do it all…"
Follow-up question: "Respectfully, that's not the question.
Respectfully, the question is whether or not the Constitution
is worth it."
Pelosi: "Well, yeah, the Constitution is worth it if
you can succeed. But I think that we are, in asserting the
checks and balances that were missing, are honoring the Constitution.
I take very seriously the pledge, the oath of office that
we make to the Constitution - as does every person in our
Congress. Our Democratic Congress is their worst nightmare
because of the power of subpoena. I think that the President's
credibility now, whether its immigration - whatever it is
- is so low because of a great deal of the oversight that
we have done. But we are in disagreement - I'm not going to
try to budge you on that - on whether the President should
have been impeached. That's a different question from 'Are
there grounds for impeachment?' But should he have been impeached?
Should we have gone down that road? I don't think it would
have resulted in a Democratic victory that would have - in
a campaign that would have resulted in a Democratic victory
that would (unintelligible) the oversight that we have now
that will build the record that will allow us to get rid of
them in a major way. So I believe that we are on the verge
of an election that will be a decision for greatness…"
The logic seems to be that impeachment can't succeed, so
it's not worth it. It wasn't pointed out that the impeachment
process was used against Richard Nixon midway through his
second term. Initially, there were only 25 members of Congress
who supported the idea of impeaching Nixon.
The implication is that the Democrats can and will do something
if they win the White House in 2008. But what?
It's fair to look at Congress' record since the Democrats
captured both houses in 2006. Pelosi claims she needs her
hands free to establish a positive record. What's that record
been? Well...There's the raising of the minimum wage, by so
little that it doesn't bring full time, minimum wage workers
out of poverty. A raise so puny that even George Bush agreed
to it. A raise so puny, it won't come close to reverse the
growing gap between rich and average Americans - a gap that's
wider than it's been in 80 years! What about the "mandate"
to do something about the war? Congress has continued to give
George Bush everything he wants. What about health care? What
about the deficit? Even the issue of pork - namely Congressional
"earmarks." Well, the Democrats are wallowing in
the Republican pigsty. (http://www.onenewsnow.com/2007/06/house_democrats_to_shield_earm.php)
, (http://www.counterpunch.org/wheeler06282007.html) Even
the issue of lobby reform: (http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2007/05/14/1194/)
What do front-running Democrats say about the issues raised
above - excessive presidential power and atonement?
On Hillary Clinton's website there is a promising page titled
"Restoring America's Standing in the World." It
does mention talking to our "enemies", and "building
alliances", but says nothing about abiding by international
laws. It says nothing about prosecution of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld
and others who have violated those laws. There was nothing
on the need to reverse the Bush Administration's arrogation
of power. Nothing about atonement. Barack Obama's website
yields a similar vacuum. John Edward's website has an issue
with the encouraging title "Restoring America's Moral
Leadership in the World." But the prescription is for
the US to leave Iraq to the Iraqis and "leading on the
great challenges before us like the proliferation of weapons
of mass destruction, the genocide in Darfur, extreme poverty,
and living up to our ideals in the fight against terrorism."
Again, nothing about adherence to law, nor the prosecution
of the Bush Administration for crimes against humanity, nor
recompense for the crimes we've committed as a nation.
None of the leading Democratic contenders says a word about
restoring the Bill of Rights, putting an end to government
spying on its own citizens, or putting an end to the abominable
practices of rendition aka "disappearance" or torture.
So When Will the Crimes by Punished?
It's hard not to conclude that the leading Democrats have
no plan to prosecute Bush and Cheney after they leave office,
nor to reduce the excessive power of the President, nor to
restore the rights that have been chipped away under the pretext
of "fighting terrorism," nor to put adherence to
law as a centerpiece of our foreign policy, nor to provide
just compensation to the literally millions of innocent victims
of a cruel and misguided administration in charge of the most
powerful military force in human history.
It's hard not to conclude that the leading Democrats, unlike
the majority of the American people, are putting narrow partisan
political triangulation ahead of the good of the country and