Thursday, June 02, 2005

Debating the "I" Word - Part One

Ralph Nader and another dude have an editorial in the Boston Globe calling for a debate on the impeachment of President Bush.

As I have a longstanding relationship with the president which has been characterized by my calling for various bad things to happen to him, I suppose I am a suitable candidate to fire an early salvo in this discussion.

Unfortunately unlike many ideologues, given my fairly strict reading of civic traditions and their application to political dialogue and discourse, I will begin at a level far more basic than many of my compatriots on the left will want to bother with, as indeed many on the right skipped over these sorts of niceties so easily when another president was in office.

In any event, we begin at the beginning: What is impeachment? Why does it exist? What are the legitimate reasons for resorting to impeachment, and what burden of proof is rightly incumbent upon those who would bring such an action against a sitting president? The former two questions will hold in any general case, of course, while the latter two must be answered at every step of the impeachment process.

The reason impeachment exists is because the president, being at the head of the executive branch of the federal government, cannot properly serve as president if he is under indictment by any court in the Unites States, state or federal. For a sitting president to be in court defending himself in a criminal case would make a travesty of American government.

For this reason we make a provision in Article II, Section 4 that

The President, Vice President and all civil officers of the United States, shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.

The key phrase, "on impeachment for," brings us back around to the first question. What is impeachment?

Impeachment is the process by which a provisional apparatus is created to try an executive for a crime that would normally be tried in a court within the executive branch itself.

"Articles of Impeachment" are therefore brought to create such a provisional apparatus and to enter an indictment against the executive. This is done in one step - the apparatus is not created until prima facie evidence is presented implicating the president in "high crimes and misdemeanors," a phrase tantalizingly left to our own interpretation. It is to this question, of what constitutes an impeachable offense, that we will return if and when we determine that President Bush is implicated in the commission of a criminal act.

First things first. Clearly the main publicly voiced accusation against Bush, and the one that seems most loudly to cry for investigation and exposure, is the allegation that President Bush deliberately and materially lied to Congress about the deliberations taken by his administration in the months and years before the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

[more to come, baby waking]


RBP said...

The Other Bomb Drops
[posted online on June 1, 2005]

[It was a huge air assault: Approximately 100 US and British planes flew from Kuwait into Iraqi airspace. At least seven types of aircraft were part of this massive operation, including US F-15 Strike Eagles and Royal Air Force Tornado ground-attack planes. They dropped precision-guided munitions on Saddam Hussein's major western air-defense facility, clearing the path for Special Forces helicopters that lay in wait in Jordan. Earlier attacks had been carried out against Iraqi command and control centers, radar detection systems, Revolutionary Guard units, communication centers and mobile air-defense systems. The Pentagon's goal was clear: Destroy Iraq's ability to resist. This was war.

But there was a catch: The war hadn't started yet, at least not officially. This was September 2002--a month before Congress had voted to give President Bush the authority he used to invade Iraq, two months before the United Nations brought the matter to a vote and more than six months before "shock and awe" officially began.]

When I read your post, this article immediately sprang to mind. I recommend everyone read the whole thing, but it goes on to point out the grounds, lying to Congress about the US conduct towards Iraq, for impeaching President Bush. It goes on, rightly I believe, to point out the Democrats own Iraq problems dating back to the Clinton administration.

At the risk of gross oversimplification, impeachment is a political process. One side will use it to their advantage if they think they can. But the American people won't go along with just a political impeachment. Unless there is a dead body, of a live boy, the American people won't stand for a presidential impeachment, even if the president is proven a liar, about Iraq or otherwise. I think the general consensus is, "will the country be better off if we go through with this?" I believe a majority would say no.

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