About impeachment

I'm expanding on a comment I posted last night which, in the rush of March Madness and intra-Democrat catfighting, seems to have gone over the "next 15" boundary.  Anyway.

The point I think we need to make, and to make clear, is that impeachment of incompetent, dishonest, untruthful, or malefactory Administration officials should not be treated as the precious object displayed under glass, never to be taken out.  In such cases, impeachment, trial and removal (with subsequent debarment from future government work) should be readily available and, more importantly, used.

As we sit here today, we have before us a brewing scandal of high proportions.  It seems quite clear that, if he didn't actively lie and perjure himself in sworn testimony to Congress, the Attorney General was very misleading.  And, intended to be so.  Indeed, under this Administration has raised dissembling and partial honesty designed to mislead into an art form.  So much so that I'd suspect they don't even do it consciously anymore, it's so ingrained.

As in the old Doobies album title:  "What were once vices, are now habits."

I'd suggest a highly appropriate question for every Senator and Congresscritter interrogating him would be:

"Given the history of your performance (and non-performance, if your denials of knowledge are to be believed) in this Administration, why should you not be impeached, convicted, and removed?"

Said another way:  

"You've done a bad job.  What do you have to say that you think might persuade us to let you keep it?"

and the next question:

"Given the fact that the veracity of your prior testimony has been, if not explicitly contradicted (by the documents produced/ other witness' testimony) then seriously called into question, what can you tell us which will allow us to suspend disbelief and accept that, this time, you are telling us the truth?"

and the follow-up to that:

"What have you not told us about [insert topic of current scandal here]?  What documents have you withheld?"

It is long since past time to reverse the presumption they've enjoyed - the presumptions that these folks are competent, that they get a (or the) benefit of the doubt, that they're working for the good of the nation, that they operate in good faith.  

  • They aren't competent (in the normal sense;  they are highly competent as political power-grabbers and have absolutely no scruples about it).  
  • They aren't entitled to the benefit of the doubt - they wore that out.  
  • They aren't working for the good of the nation - all they want is power, now and forever.  
  • They are devoid of good faith.  Some of the emails released this week explicitly made clear their intention to appear to operate in good faith (and claim it) while operating from purely political motives.  

And, last, They Are Not Your Friends.  They and you might be "friendly", but that's just good manners working to lubricate necessary interaction.  They may try to cozen you into believing their friendship means they'd never do anything to hurt you, but leopards don't change their spots and neither will Repugs.

It is long since past the time for Congress to reverse the burden of proof and persuasion when dealing with the Administration - it is time to make them justify their continued existence.

The presumption ("frame", if you will) everyone seems to have been viewing impeachment through, has been that it is like climbing Everest.  The absolute last resort.  A superhuman endeavour.  Almost beyond the reach of ordinary mortals.

We've seen this in the pronouncements of Speaker Pelosi, by taking impeachment off the table even before the election.  While there was some sense to that (reasons below), it also smacks of Teddy Roosevelt on the night of his re-election, telling reporters in confidence that he was winning his last election.  Under the rules of the day - where there were no term limits on presidents (U.S. Const., amend. XXII) -  he made himself into an instant lame duck and vitiated a lot of his power.

Pelosi's approach had the merits of:

(a) keeping the Dem activists from getting their hopes up too high;

(b) signaling the main part of the electorate that a vicious reprisal was not in the cards, so it was safe to vote Dem.;

© giving the scandals with which this Administration has been gravid, a chance to develop to full term and in full light of investigations;

(d) keeping the Rethugs from being able to use the threat of impeachment to get out their own base in the election - i.e., depressing their turnout and keeping them from uniting around a single message (e.g., "Save Bush from the Dems!" or something similar)

As to the first of these, (a), the Dem activists need to understand that Gingrich's attempted impeachment coup was the product of several years worth of work, beginning in earnest in '92 (to pick a year) when Bush I got really chapped because the US Atty in Arkansas didn't take seriously a Rethug activist (a/k/a a crank) working for RTC who was pitching a bad (and meritless) story about Whitewater.  And, the ground for that coup had been prepared (like one prepares a new garden) by Gingrich for years - taking the House floor late at night and using CSPAN to broadcast his speeches about the evils of Democrats and Liberals to his audience.  He didn't have a specific Democrat to target, so he went to work targeting their ideals generally, and building his own base's enthusiasm, too.  When Clinton came along, there was a ready cadre willing and hungry for blood.  It would have happened to any Democrat who happened to win in '92.  

That late-night speaking from the House floor on CSPAN doesn't happen anymore - one of the first things Speaker Gingrich did was eliminate that opportunity to speak.

But, the expectations of the Dem base and activists had to be tamped down, to make them understand that this is going to take time, effort, and building a case.  The best motivator is sometimes frustration, so the activists are being frustrated and that just makes them more hungry.  Any attempt to really take out the Rethugs will take time, investigations, hearings, and red-faced appointees trying to brazen their way out, in the glare of klieg lights.  And a detailed assembly of the facts.  All that will take place as the calendar pages slowly fall off, each day one less until the next election, and every cut another cut on the Rethugs.  At some point, probably next winter, the internal poll numbers of the 21 Rethug senators up for election in 2008 will tank (or will have tanked) so badly that even Deadeye Dick can't frighten them into line any more.  By that time, the factual record will be there, and the public will be there.

That's when things will really get interesting - you thought they were already?

As to the last of these, (d), we saw the RWNM Wurlitzer crank up last week with the whole "Pardon Scooter" nonsense, then get drowned out in this cascade of US Attorney scandal.  That's going to happen again, and again.  

As to ridding ourselves of Bush and Cheney, it's often said the reason for not impeaching Bush is "then you get Dick Cheney".  I'd suspect the first of that pair to get it would, and should, be Cheney.  Usurpation of power, etc.  Nice political transgressions done by someone with an 18% approval rating.  The whole "Office of the Vice President" shadow government thing is a prime target for investigation, but the current AG scandal (and next week's testimony by Condi Rice about the 23 requests from Waxman she ignored) will make two inroads into the wall the Admin's sought to build.  I suspect a couple more threads - things like Deadeye's son-in-law thwarting chemical plant security improvements, the NSL abuses, the NSA investigation thwarted by the Preznit (after Gonzo, knowing the investigation would go through his office, went to The Unit and got him to deny security clearances), etc., will help.  

It's a lot harder to fight off two dogs at the same time than it is in succession.  Take it from someone once attacked by a pair of rotties (they lost;  one, I beat senseless).

I suggest that the better frame for considering impeachment of high government officials is along the lines of:

You are in a highly responsible job.  

You would not have come to hold this position if you had not previously demonstrated some level of competence, intelligence and a pretty-deep understanding of the subjects taught in 8th grade Civics, not to mention probably having passed the bar, gotten an advanced degree, and so on.  

You have no entitlement to this job and, if you come before us and hold out your hands in the pose of an incompetent, you should be impeached.

Why should you not have every word held against you, and why should we even think about allowing you to stay in your current job and have the chance for future government employment?

You screwed up.  Get out.

In questioning, we have to take an aggressive attitude and, as I said above, proceed from the point of view that the Admin folks are Wrong.  A colleague, now departed, used to love trying plaintiff's personal injury/defective products liability cases.  He had a stock leadoff question for deposing the expert engineer whom the defending company would put forward to tell how good and non-defective the offending product was:

What is more important:  safety or profit?

There was no "right" answer for the expert.  

Choosing "Safety" meant the company had obviously failed - there was an injured person there, and no dispute it was the product at fault.  

Choosing "Profit" meant the company deliberately chose to sacrifice consumers' bodies to line their pockets.*

It's time to start treating Rethugs the same way.

Make impeachment for asserted (or actual) incompetence the default - not the ultimate.


*One time, he managed to get a young "expert" to give an answer that took almost five minutes, and in which he went from "safety" to "profit" and back, twice.  I watched that twirp - and the defense - fall apart.

< Fifth comment claim report | Primary Concerns >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort: