Impeachment of the worst White House administration in history comes up every day in the blogosphere -- and not without its skeptics. I've been rather skeptical about it all myself. What with how the Republicans trivialized impeachment in the '90s, it's hard to take impeachment with any sort of Constitutional seriousness. (And do we really want to follow their lead, anyway?)
However, it took a Republican to convince me that the question is not at all trivial. Especially not today.
Bruce Fein was Ronald Reagan's Justice Department official, and general council to the FCC. Hardly a shill for MoveOn. And yet he made the most powerful argument for impeachment of Bush and Cheney a couple of weeks ago, on Bill Moyers Journal. And his words still haunt me.
Well, this is an unusual affair of president/vice-president, where the vice-president is de facto president most of the time. And that's why most of people recognize that these decisions, especially when it comes to overreaching with executive power, are the product of Dick Cheney and his aide, David Addington, not George Bush and Alberto Gonzalez or Harriet Miers, who don't have the cerebral capacity to think of these devilish ideas. And for that reason, they equate the administration more with Dick Cheney than with George Bush....
...It means asserting powers and claiming that there are no other branches that have the authority to question it. Take, for instance, the assertion that he's made that when he is out to collect foreign intelligence, no other branch can tell him what to do. That means he can intercept your e-mails, your phone calls, open your regular mail, he can break and enter your home. He can even kidnap you, claiming I am seeking foreign intelligence and there's no other branch Congress can't say it's illegal--judges can't say this is illegal. I can do anything I want. That is overreaching. When he says that all of the world, all of the United States is a military battlefield because Osama bin Laden says he wants to kill us there, and I can then use the military to go into your homes and kill anyone there who I think is al-Qaeda or drop a rocket, that is overreaching. That is a claim even King George III didn't make--
....Opening your mail, your e-mails, your phone calls. Breaking and entering your homes. Creating a pall of fear and intimidation if you say anything against the president you may find retaliation very quickly. We're claiming he's setting precedents that will lie around like loaded weapons anytime there's another 9/11.
Right now the victims are people whose names most Americans can't pronounce. And that's why they're not so concerned. They will start being Browns and Jones and Smiths. And that precedent is being set right now. And one of the dangers that I see is it's not just President Bush but the presidential candidates for 2008 aren't standing up and saying--
--"If I'm president, I won't imitate George Bush." That shows me that this is a far deeper problem than Mr. Bush and Cheney.
A deeper problem.
[The Democrats in Congress] have basically renounced-- walked away from their responsibility to oversee and check. It's not an option. It's an obligation when they take that oath to faithfully uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States. And I think the reason why this is. They do not have convictions about the importance of the Constitution. It's what in politics you would call the scientific method of discovering political truths and of preventing excesses because you require through the processes of review and vetting one individual's perception to be checked and-- counterbalanced by another's. And when you abandon that process, you abandon the ship of state basically and it's going to capsize....
...This is something that needs to set a precedent, whoever occupies the White House in 2009. You do not want to have that occupant, whether it's John McCain or Hillary Clinton or Rudy Giuliani or John Edwards to have this authority to go outside the law and say, "I am the law. I do what I want. No one else's view matters."
What about Bush's claim that these are extraordinary times?
Cheney and Bush have shown that these measures are optical. Take, for instance, these military conditions that combine judge, jury, and prosecutors. What have they done? They tried the same offenses that are tried in civilian courts. American Taliban John Walker Lindh got 20 years in the civilian courts. And then we have the same offense, David Hicks, he gets nine months in military prison. Why are you creating these extraordinary measures? They aren't needed....
...They're trying to create the appearance that they're tougher than all of their opponents 'cause they're willing to violate the law, even though the violations have nothing to do with actually defeating the terrorism. And we have instances where the president now for years has flouted the Foreign Intelligence Act. He's never said why the act has ever inhibited anybody....
...Certainly in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 we were in a fog. There could have been hundreds of thousands terrorist cells. You could understand the president, "I've got to take any action I need right now to uncover a possible second edition of 9/11." And, of course, as soon as I do that, I will go to Congress as soon as possible. I will seek ratification. That's an immediate aftermath of 9/11. We know a lot more in 2007, in July. We know this is not 100 or 1,000 terrorist cells.
We know this is not the danger of the Soviet Union or Hirohito or the Third Reich. And yet the president continues to insist. That's why we need military commissions. We need to say you're an enemy combatant and stick you in prison forever without any judicial review and otherwise.That is a total distortion of what the genuine nature of the problem is and our ability to fight and defeat these terrorists with ordinary civil-- the criminal proceedings....
...But it's saying no, it's the Constitution that's more important than your aggrandizing of power. And not just for you because the precedent that would be set would bind every successor in the presidency as well, no matter Republican, Democrat, Independent, or otherwise