None Dare Not Call For Impeachment

By James McCarty Yeager

In a kingdom famously having something rotten in it, a young man remarked in dismay, “O cursed spite, that ever we were born to set it right!” So too the American people in regard to their mangled, savaged and disregarded US Constitution. Something must be done, or by inaction a bad precedent will be set.

A moderate—even conservative—use of constitutional tools is needed to rebalance the disgracefully warped set of executive branch practices proudly indulged in by the Bush administration. Unfortunately for the conflict-averse, this means impeachment trials. Plural.

Nothing less will serve to repair the grave distortions so calculatedly introduced to our governing system by the late administration. The amount of stink left behind in these Bush-Augean stables of government is going to take Mount Olympus-skirting rivers’ force to cleanse them. Impeachment investigations are, in sad fact, the only things strong enough to do the job.

President-elect Obama should support, House Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Reid undertake and the American people demand such trials. No pusillanimity, no under-rug-swept.

The Bush administration committed a systematic assault on the plain words and meaning of the US Constitution. If they knew what they were doing, they are frauds; if not, imbeciles. Neither is a sufficient defense to impeachment.

From Cheney’s secret oil policy meetings to Bush’s otiose “signing statements,” from authorizing torture to practicing wiretapping, from spy-outing to US Attorney firings, from WMD-lying to starting the wrong war, from suspending habeas corpus to instituting military tribunals, from institutionalizing voter suppression to regularizing cronyism in contracting, these people deliberately assailed the fabric of our republic.

There is a misconception that the perpetrators cannot be impeached because they will be out of office. Not so. Nothing in the Constitution binds Congress from impeaching any high officer of state, current or former. Nixon was allowed to escape as if his resignation had altered his legal position; but it had not. Had Congress the will, Nixon could and should have been impeached even after fleeing Washington.

Additionally, impeachment by the House and Senate is the only process where pardon is irrelevant. Any presidential pardons fall uselessly by the wayside.

The fact that in US history no such trials have ever been conducted is not dispositive. Perhaps there has never been a need so great—no onslaught so deep-thrust, no ignorance so blatant, no shredding so callous.

The impeachment tool was misused against Bill Clinton by Gingrich Khan’s Groady Horde of lockstep Republican Congresscritters. I cannot for the life of me fathom the logic that says, because they misused the tool, we must not therefore use it properly. Attacks on the Constitution of a republic are the legal equivalent of “encompassing the death of the king” in a monarchy. Impeachment for such behavior is not personal—it is about the integrity of the nation as a whole.

Reluctance to take up this option may readily be detected in the corporate media. This might be explained by its squirming embarassment in the face of manifest gross omissions. Overall, it extensively underplayed the defalcations even as occurrences mounted, focusing instead on bright, shiny distractions.

Some say there are so many crises needing attention that the House and Senate cannot spend any time restoring our Constitution. There is also a fear of looking vengeful were fundamental, structural crimes brought home to their perpetrators.

Vengeance may indeed be a divine prerogative as the prophets say. But justice is ours—and, if not pursued, does not exist. Only the guilty regard justice as equal to vengeance, and we are not all guilty here.

The truly conservative view is that if we do not restore the Constitution, even a laboriously rejuvenated economy will merely form an episode in the decline of our democracy.

Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Ashcroft and Gonzales should all be investigated by the House. If the investigation substantiates the extant public record and the House indicts them, they must be tried by the Senate. (Before or afterwards their staffers—Rove, Libby, Meiers, Yoo, Addington, Feith and others who facilitated depredations of elected or Senate-confirmed officials—should come before a truth commission. In this legislative proceeding only full public confession would purchase immunity from contempt charges and subsequent brief, symbolic but inexorable imprisonment.)

We must take Constitutional violations as seriously as the violators took them lightly: meaning all the way. No limits. We owe this effort to the founding patriots, to our contemporaries, to our children, and to all who have ever died to protect our Constitution.

In Robert Bolt’s A Man for All Seasons Sir Thomas More says, “The maxim is ‘Qui tacet consentiret’: the maxim of the law is ‘Silence gives consent’.” Not to protest is to acquiesce. Do we really want it on our record that we not only let these things happen, but failed to correct them afterwards?

James McCarty Yeager of Washington, D.C., was a press secretary to the late Sen. Eugene J. McCarthy, DFL-Minn.

From The Progressive Populist, December 15, 2008

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