Thursday, March 20, 2008

Five years + one day

In a discussion about five years of war, permanent bases, and impeachment appended to my cross-post over at The Seminal, I wound up adding a rather lengthy addendum. Since I don’t think that I have a lot of crossover readers, I am going to take the liberty of posting the comment here.

I was at a talk about impeachment that included, among others, Liz Holtzman and Bruce Fein, and Fein, a veteran of the Reagan administration, is, as you might know, apoplectic about this issue. He has a list of impeachable offenses a mile long, but chose at this event to cite the Bush/Cheney pursuit of permanent bases in Iraq, as outlined in a signing statement, in direct defiance of the law passed by Congress and signed by the president.

What’s amazing is that Congress passed this law, but it is a retired Reaganite that’s doing the screaming.

The Democratic leadership still doesn’t seem to understand that impeachment hearings—and it starts with hearings, not a vote—are a great teaching opportunity. America needs to hear about all the ways the Bush/Cheney Administration subverted the Constitution and broke US Criminal Code, or the very next president will feel free to do some of the same things (and we will have to hear for the rest of our lives about what a saint and hero GWB was as we name every airport after him and carve his face into Mount Rushmore).

Further, Congress needs to reassert its role in our tripartite system. No president is going to willingly give up power—not even a Democratic one; it is up to Congress to take back the authority granted it under the Constitution and affirmed in the courts from the earliest days of our history.

As Holtzman, an HJC member in 1974, noted, the Nixon impeachment hearings were completed in three months. This summer would be a perfect time for our Congress to start the process. Former presidents and vice presidents receive all kinds of perks and big federal pension that would go away with impeachment (one of the reasons that Nixon resigned before a Senate impeachment vote was to save his pension), so even after November/January, impeachment hearings would still be a practical exercise of Congressional power.

Congress must publicly dispel and destroy the myth of the “unitary executive.” If we are to form a more perfect union, to borrow a phrase, then we have no choice. If this administration is allowed to go gently, then we have likely cemented our transition from republic to empire.

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