by Milt Shook
There is something I don’t understand about the current crop of Democrats in
Congress. Why are they so reticent to discuss impeachment? And honestly, I think
we’re way past the point where discussion of impeachment would be useful. It’s
time someone put forth serious articles of impeachment against George W. Bush
and Dick Cheney, and brought them to a vote.
Under normal circumstances, their reticence would make some sense, because
impeachment trials reduce the effectiveness of the Senate for the time of the
trial. But at this point, does it matter? Senate Republicans have made it
crystal clear that they will refuse to allow anything important through to the
floor for a vote, anyway; if the Senate is going to be relatively ineffective
for a while, why not put the time to good use? Let’s use the opportunity to
demonstrate just WHY the Founding Fathers put impeachment into the Constitution
Honest to God, what does someone have to
do to be impeached by these Democrats? The Republicans made up something out of
whole cloth in order to bring charges against Bill Clinton, and continued with
it, even though three-quarters of the country sided with Clinton. Yet, with a
list of potential charges at least a mile long against the two current occupants
of the White House, are we supposed to believe there isn’t a political will to
salvage our democracy and preserve what’s left of the Constitution?
And don’t give me that "we don’t have the time" crap, either. I keep hearing
that argument, too. It doesn’t have to tale that long. I know the impeachment of
Bill Clinton seemed to take forever, the
fact of the matter is, the articles of impeachment were passed on December 19,
1998, and he was acquitted on February 12, 1999. That’s less than two months
from the impeachment vote to the end of the trial. Think back over the last two
months; did anything happen, legislatively speaking, that we couldn’t have done
without? They can’t even pass bills dealing with the Iraq occupation or
immigration. We’re in the middle of a so-called "war on terror," and we can’t
even pass a bill to try to identify 12 million people who are here illegally.
But I digress.
This is not about right and left, although the right wing wants you to think it
is. This is about right and wrong. We
need an impeachment trial for no other reason than to expose the Bush
Administration’s sins to the entire country, and the world, and to show to the
rest of the world how a truly great country does to get rid of scumbags when
they occupy the most powerful positions in the government.
we have the votes to convict? Not at the moment. But I have a sneaking suspicion
that if you manage to lay the evidence before the people and show them
everything the Bushies have done for the last seven years, many Republican
Senators — especially the 22 up for reelection next year and the 19 up for
reelection in 2010, will sit up and take notice.
The purpose of impeachment, of course, is to remove anyone in the government who
is committing a crime, or who is found to be corrupt. That part is obvious;
corruption cannot and should not be tolerated in the government, and the
Founders knew and understood this. But just as important to the people who
created the Constitution, was the desire for a mechanism for getting rid of
people who were incompetent, and incapable of acting in a way beneficial to the
nation as a whole.
Let’s face it, folks; with the Bushies, we’ve hit the jackpot with regard to
impeachable offenses. I mean, it’s like the world’s largest dartboard; two blind
people could make it a game with everything the Keystone Kops in the White House
have been up to.
You want corruption? How about their collusion with the oil companies to keep
energy supplies low and prices high? How about their conflicts of interest with
What? You mean you can’t prove they did that? Well, of course, you can’t,
because they’ve kept everything they do secret, even when it’s illegal for them
to do so. You see, another impeachable offense. They do have quite a bit of
latitude with regard to secrecy regarding national security, but domestic energy
policy rarely falls under the "national security" umbrella.
And how about those signing statements? Are Congressional Democrats going to sit
there on their corpulent asses and say that there is absolutely nothing wrong
with a president who signs the bills that come across his desk, but adds signing
statements to almost all of them, many of which indicate his intention to carve
out an exception for himself under the law he’s signing?
Here are a few examples of Bush signing statements:
March 9, 2006: Justice Department
officials must give reports to Congress by certain dates on how the FBI is using
the USA Patriot Act to search homes and secretly seize papers.
Bush’s signing statement: The president
can order Justice Department officials to withhold any information from Congress
if he decides it could impair national security or executive branch operations.
Dec. 30, 2005: US interrogators cannot
torture prisoners or otherwise subject them to cruel, inhuman, and degrading
Bush’s signing statement: The president,
as commander in chief, can waive the torture ban if he decides that harsh
interrogation techniques will assist in preventing terrorist attacks.
Dec. 30, 2005: When requested, scientific
information ”prepared by government researchers and scientists shall be
transmitted [to Congress] uncensored and without delay."
Bush’s signing statement: The president
can tell researchers to withhold any information from Congress if he decides its
disclosure could impair foreign relations, national security, or the workings of
the executive branch.
Aug. 8: The Department of Energy, the
Nuclear Regulatory Commission and its contractors may not fire or otherwise
punish an employee whistle-blower who tells Congress about possible wrongdoing.
Bush’s signing statement: The president
or his appointees will determine whether employees of the Department of Energy
and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission can give information to Congress.
Dec. 23, 2004: Forbids US troops in
Colombia from participating in any combat against rebels, except in cases of
self-defense. Caps the number of US troops allowed in Colombia at 800.
Bush’s signing statement: Only the
president, as commander in chief, can place restrictions on the use of US armed
forces, so the executive branch will construe the law ”as advisory in nature."
Dec. 17: The new national intelligence
director shall recruit and train women and minorities to be spies, analysts, and
translators in order to ensure diversity in the intelligence community.
Bush’s signing statement: The executive
branch shall construe the law in a manner consistent with a constitutional
clause guaranteeing ”equal protection" for all. (In 2003, the Bush
administration argued against race-conscious affirmative-action programs in a
Supreme Court case. The court rejected Bush’s view.)
Oct. 29: Defense Department personnel are
prohibited from interfering with the ability of military lawyers to give
independent legal advice to their commanders.
Bush’s signing statement: All military
attorneys are bound to follow legal conclusions reached by the administration’s
lawyers in the Justice Department and the Pentagon when giving advice to their
Aug. 5: The military cannot add to its
files any illegally gathered intelligence, including information obtained about
Americans in violation of the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable
Bush’s signing statement: Only the
president, as commander in chief, can tell the military whether or not it can
use any specific piece of intelligence.
Nov. 6, 2003: US officials in Iraq cannot
prevent an inspector general for the Coalition Provisional Authority from
carrying out any investigation. The inspector general must tell Congress if
officials refuse to cooperate with his inquiries.
Bush’s signing statement: The inspector
general ”shall refrain" from investigating anything involving sensitive plans,
intelligence, national security, or anything already being investigated by the
Pentagon. The inspector cannot tell Congress anything if the president decides
that disclosing the information would impair foreign relations, national
security, or executive branch operations.
Nov. 5, 2002: Creates an Institute of
Education Sciences whose director may conduct and publish research ”without the
approval of the secretary [of education] or any other office of the department."
Bush’s signing statement: The president
has the power to control the actions of all executive branch officials, so ”the
director of the Institute of Education Sciences shall [be] subject to the
supervision and direction of the secretary of education."
You see, anyone who’s read these could have predicted his actions last week,
when Congress asked for information from his Administration, and Bush decided
that he didn’t have to comply, because the law doesn’t apply to him. Every
single one of the signing statements above demonstrates a functional
misunderstanding of the role of the president in the federal government. In our
government, the Legislative Branch makes laws, or "legislates," and the
Executive Branch (wait for it…) executes those laws.
Now, I know a lot of wingnuts will see the word "executes" and get all excited,
but it does not mean "kills" in this case. It means that the purpose of the
Executive Branch is to put laws into action.
The Bush Administration thinks it’s a dictatorship, and Democrats in Congress,
by not holding them to account, is perpetuating the myth. Presidents are under
obligation to follow any law the Supreme Court doesn’t find to be
unconstitutional; the concept that a president can simply carve out an exception
that a deliberative body has debated and worked on for months or even years, is
Think about the corrupt, and possibly even criminal, practices that we can
prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, during an impeachment trial. We can prove,
for example, that our president — the President of the United States; our
country, our "land of the free and the home of the brave," actually gathered
people from rural Afghanistan, put them into secret prisons and had them
tortured for information. He has given himself the power to declare anyone he
wishes an "enemy combatant," despite the fact that we are not at war with any
nation at the moment. He continues to assert his claimed power to hold anyone he
wishes, for as long as he wishes, without benefit of counsel or trial, despite
court orders demanding that he stop.
Seriously, where do these people get the idea that the President has so much
power? They sure as hell didn’t get it from the Constitution. Here’s a little
quiz for you; can you guess who has the following powers, according to the
To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and
Offences against the Law of Nations;
To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning
Captures on Land and Water;
To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be
for a longer Term than two Years;
To provide and maintain a Navy;
To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;
To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union,
suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;
To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for
governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United
States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers,
and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed
you said the Executive Branch go back to school. Congressional Democrats, pay
attention; YOU have the above powers, and NOT George W. Bush. This is all the
Constitution says about the president’s powers with regard to the military
The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United
States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual
Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the
principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any Subject
relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have Power to
grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in
Cases of Impeachment.
He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make
Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall
nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint
Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court,
and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein
otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress
may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper,
in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.
Hmmm… I don’t see anything in there about carving out exceptions for himself
because he’s some sort of arbiter of all things "national security." That duty
falls on the CONGRESS, not the president. The president does have some special
powers during national emergencies, but only those granted to him by Congress.
And those powers can also be taken away by Congress at any time.
You see, signing statements have been used before, but never like this.
Traditionally, they have been used for clarification, not exception. In the
past, presidents have used signing statements to instruct Cabinet departments on
how to implement a law they have signed, not to tell Congress what they think
the law should be.
The signing statements are just the gargantuan tip of the iceberg, however. This
administration has continually, throughout its reign, seen the law not as a path
to be followed, but an obstacle to be jumped over or sidestepped.
Just this past week, Bush issued an Executive Order which declared that we are
apparently in a state of emergency of some sort, "due to the unusual and
extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United
States posed by acts of violence threatening the peace and stability of Iraq and
undermining efforts to promote economic reconstruction and political reform in
Iraq and to provide humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people…"
Were you aware of an extraordinary threat here
due to anything that’s going on in Iraq? I mean, I have seen no color coded
threat level changes, no extra police on the streets, and they’ve even loosened
the rules and allowed cigarette lighters on domestic flights, even though you
can’t smoke on any. And since when does a president have the power to just
declare an emergency out of thin air? But that’s not the most amazing thing
about this Executive Order. The most remarkable thing is that he has ordered the seizure, upon order of his Administration, without judge, jury or due process, of all
assets of anyone he doesn’t like, and who he decides is "threatening the peace
and stability of Iraq." No kidding. Can we at least have a definition? On second
thought, no; the president has no power to declare anything like that, without
Congress’ express permission. And there’s a new sheriff in town, so that’s not
Coincidentally, when Senator Clinton dared to submit a letter to the
Administration, and asked whether they had some sort of inkling as to when they
might be thinking of withdrawing troops, a snotty undersecretary at the
Department of Defense, Eric Edelman, sent her a return missive suggesting that
her "propaganda" was "boosting" the enemy somehow. Was this a preliminary step
by the Bush Administration to attempt to seize everything Senator Clinton has,
to keep her from winning election next year?
Who knows if it is or not? And that’s the point, folks. We live in an open,
democratic society, and everyone is expected to play by the same rules. The
biggest boy in the yard doesn’t get to remake all of the rules just because he’s
the biggest; everyone gets to pitch in, and we make the rules together.
And that is especially true when said "big boy" is just flat incompetent. Forget
the obvious deer-in-the-headlights look on Bush’s face every time he’s asked a
pointed question. Forget the obvious sense one gets just by looking at the man
that he really doesn’t know why he’s there, and that he wouldn’t even
be there if ventriloquist Cheney’s hand
wasn’t all of the way up his ass. Forget the fact that he’s quite obviously the
most ignorant boob in the history of the American presidency. Look at the
record. We’re not talking about a 20-minute lapse in judgment in which the
president allowed a female White House employee to get a little too close. We’re
talking about gross incompetence at pretty much every turn. Seriously; has this
administration done anything right in 6 1/2 years? Let’s list a few of the
biggest screw-ups in Bush Administration history, shall we?
hadn’t been in office six months when he took a two-month vacation, and despite
the repeated warnings about terrorist plots which were contained in his
Presidential Daily Briefing, which were read to him as he finished his Lucky
Charms each morning, he stayed on vacation, and passed on none of these
warnings to airport security authorities. No one in his administration
"could ever have imagined" that anyone could possibly attack the
United States, despite the fact that the president received at least one
briefing, entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Attack US" weeks before
he did just that, and at least one other describing a plot to fly planes into
the country was attacked on 9/11, rather than scramble fighters to bring down
the remaining hijacked airliners, Bush stayed in a kindergarten classroom and
tried with all of his might to NOT pee his pants. Then, when he finally left
the school, he flew away from Washington, to hide from the bad men, and to relieve his full bladder. He subsequently
promised first responders on 9/11 all sorts of things, and has yet to fulfill
any promise made at that time.
the terrorist attacks, Bush promised to bring in Osama bin Laden, and rout al
Qaeda, to prevent another attack from happening again, sent troops into Afghanistan, and then turned around and sent
them to Iraq. He then outsourced the job of catching bin Laden to people who were actually
more sympathetic to bin Laden than the United States.
there’s Iraq. Forget the faked pre-war intelligence; that’s obvious. And forget the conduct
of the actual war itself, which was over in less than two months. President and
Vice President Chickenhawk ignored — and I mean absolutely, positively ignored
— the recommendations of every military expert with regard to troop
levels and strategy. They failed in the most essential responsibility a
Commander in Chief has when planning to go to war, and that is to plan for what
to do when you win. The only plan for this war, obviously, was to bomb the hell
out of the country until the government just ran off, screaming, into the
desert. They didn’t have enough troops to secure the oil fields and the border,
so Bush secured the oil fields. They dismissed the Iraqi army — the only
people in the country actually trained to secure the country, outlawed
the Baath Party, and, um, forgot to secure a major weapons depot in Southern Iraq, which means the explosives that killed
many of our soldiers during the first couple of years came from us. This
occupation (it’s not a war) has been all about money — hundreds of billions of
dollars in contracts to Bush supporters and the oil industry. Iraq used to
have a competent infrastructure — plenty of competent engineers and
professionals capable of running the country, and the facilities to do so —
but that has gone by the wayside, in favor of private contractors
hand-picked by the Administration, and sanctioned by the now-defunct
we would be remiss in our duties as citizens if we did not mention the most
galling incompetence in the history of this Administration, which is Hurricane
Katrina. The entire Administration was on vacation that week, as Katrina
approached the Gulf Coast, and they stayed on vacation, despite the
multitude of warnings that serious devastation might occur in New Orleans, as well as parts of Alabama, Mississippi and the Gulf Coast. Now, when
they created the Department of Homeland Security, the Bushies got the states to
agree that, in natural emergencies such as hurricanes, the federal government
would take the lead. As soon as the president signed the order, state officials
were to step aside. So they did. And the Bush Administration did nothing. Well,
okay, that’s not fair; they didn’t do nothing. Bush stayed on vacation, for a
couple of extra days. Then, he went to Arizona
to play air guitar and eat cake with John McCain. Then, he held a
fundraiser in California, where he made a brief mention of the tragedy that people were watching live on television. For FIVE DAYS, Bush puttered around and did nothing, Cheney was
nowhere to be seen, Condi was seeing Spamalot and buying really nice shoes, and
Michaels Brown and Chertoff were screwing up the disaster, and making things
worse. I could continue recounting this, but let’s be serious here — if the
fact that the President of the United States did NOTHING for FIVE DAYS, while
thousands of citizens of the United States were drowning, and being forced to
live in a football stadium with no water isn’t grounds for impeachment in and
of itself, then we have given up on standards in this country.
know Nancy Pelosi took impeachment "off the table" when the Democrats were
trying to take back the majority next year, but it’s time for someone to put it back on the
table. What I’ve mentioned here is little more than the tip of an iceberg that
threatens to sink the ship of state.
The purpose of the presidency is to provide leadership in putting into action
those laws which Congress passes. It’s not his choice as to which ones he wants
to put into action, and which he wants to put out to pasture. There is no
leadership in this government right now. Though everyone in the current
administration took an oath to support and defend the Constitution, they have
repeatedly and continually attempted to undermine the Constitution, by
unilaterally declaring extraordinary powers not outlined in the Constitution.
But worse than this, they have treated the government as their own personal
honey pot. They have populated the government with cronies carrying personal
agendas not in line with the needs of the American people, putting them in key
positions. And they have also hired an incredible number of people who are
unqualified for the positions they hold. No, I’m not just talking about Condi.
In the White House alone, there are at least 150 lawyers, all under the age of
35, with little or no legal experience, let alone government experience, whose
sole qualifications seem to be their graduation from Pat Robertson’s Regent
University law school (The un-Harvard), and their declared loyalty to George W.
Bush. Not the country, or the Constitution, mind you; but Dubya himself.
one of the most notorious examples, Monica Goodling made her way through the
ranks at the Justice Department based on her willingness to fire anyone who
showed less than stellar loyalty to Bush. Those she couldn’t fire, she simply
drove out of the job, including many career Justice Department lawyers. Think
about this; not only is the Attorney General of the United States; essentially
our country’s lawyer, a demonstrated liar and moron, but his second-in-command
is a arrogant little turd, who graduated from a third-rate law school in 1999,
and who achieved her lofty status through her willingness to fire career Justice
Department lawyers who upheld the rule of law, rather than Dubya’s view of it.
She’s just one example, folks; not two weeks ago, Sara Taylor, Bush’s Deputy
Assistant to the President and Director of Political Affairs until a couple of
months ago, testified that she swore an oath to George W. Bush, and had to be
reminded that the oath was actually to the Constitution.
Right now, we have a government full of Federalist Society types whose image of
government is that it’s incompetent at everything it does, and are doing their
best to prove their point. And if Democrats aren’t willing to do anything about
it, then who is, exactly? Who the hell is speaking for the people of this
country, when the body charged with getting rid of incompetent and/or dangerous
boobs like Bush and Cheney won’t do its Constitutional duty. And make no
mistake, Democrats; this is a duty. When something is wrong with our government,
it is your duty to fix the problem.
This is not about "getting" Bush and Cheney. It’s not about revenge on the
Republicans for what they did to Bill Clinton. This is about simple right and
wrong, and making sure our government serves its people, and not the other way
around. This is about establishing the rule of law once again, and returning
standards to our government; standards that force the government to again serve
the people, and not the other way around. Standards that preserve the democracy
that we so often take for granted, but which is both precious and fragile, for
George W. Bush, and Dick Cheney must be impeached, and the process must start
now. There are no excuses left. It doesn’t matter if the process gets dragged
out until we’re into the next election cycle; it doesn’t matter if Bush and
Cheney are thrown out on their asses on January 19, 2009, and Nancy Pelosi only
has one day as a caretaker president. This is no longer about process, and it’s
no longer about political expediency. This is about our Founding Fathers’ most
precious gift to us; it’s about the rule of law, and justice for all.