On impeachment, again

I'm pretty sure I've diaried on impeachment before (on second thought, I'm sure I did, here), and I recall saying Speaker Pelosi could not, and would not be leading any movement for impeachment if only to avoid the inevitable implication of ambition before all else.  Or something similar.

Well, she's about to get a real sticky wicket to deal with.  As is being reported all over the web, prominently here, the Vermont Senate has voted 16-9 to ask the US House to start impeachment proceedings against Bush and Cheney.  The vote, without debate, took 15 minutes or so.  The issue now moves to the Vermont House, where the Democratic Speaker has been trying to stymie the issue, so far with some success.  The resolution moved through the Senate, BTW, after a lot of direct, personal pressure from his constitutents upon the Democratic Senate President, who'd been holding up the resolution, too.

For those of you who either forgot or never knew, the Manual of Procedure written by Thomas Jefferson for the Congress does provide for State Legislatures to initiate impeachment proceedings in situations where the Congress is unable, unwilling or not so disposed.  They're following that procedure in the Vermont Legislature;  locals tried it in New Mexico (the matter was shunted off to committee) and in Oregon or Washington (a lot of pressure from Federal-level Dems put that initiative on ice there).

I don't know whether the resolution will pass the Vermont House, and I don't have a vote or a voice in that.  But I have one thing to say, in two parts:

In deciding whether Bush and Cheney should be impeached, any person holding a vote in the matter (and their constitutents seeking to exercise their petition rights, in one direction or the other) has to answer the following questions:

(a) Do you think the conduct of Bush and Cheney in their respective offices has been and is acceptable?

(b) Are you willing to say, as a matter of eternal precedent*, that conduct like Bush's and Cheney's should be considered as surmounting the threshold for acceptable conduct (or, said another way, that their conduct has not found the bottom of what's acceptable)?

As to each of these office-holders, if you answer "Yes" to both questions, then you must vote against impeachment.  If you answer "No" to either (a), (b) or both, then you must vote for impeachment.  

It's that simple.

Oh, and as a matter of (I suppose you'd call it moral philosophy), if you vote/stand against impeachment, you're equally complicit with Bush and Cheney in all they've done - you've ratified their conduct.

Choose wisely.


* All precedents are eternal, and don't you forget it.  I've cited obscure cases from 1790-something and 1800-something to good effect in non-constitutional cases, if, as and when the occasion arose.

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    Great diary scribe. (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by Edger on Fri Apr 20, 2007 at 01:58:34 PM EST
    Vermont isn't the only one.

    Resolutions Supporting Impeachment - A Kit for Political Activism

    Here is a two-page citizen's guide to impeachment.

    Here is a 10-page PDF booklet called A Guide to the Impeachment of George W Bush and Richard Cheney.

    Thanks (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by dutchfox on Fri Apr 20, 2007 at 02:49:14 PM EST
    scribe - I've shared your post with the organisers and participants who attended the Tuesday's protest and today's vote in Montpelier.


    Americans Stuck On stupid (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by KJay85 on Tue Jul 03, 2007 at 04:06:32 PM EST
    When will the american public stop this administration from making the united states look like a nation of imbeciles ?

    scribe, I have a question (none / 0) (#3)
    by dutchfox on Fri Apr 20, 2007 at 03:23:56 PM EST
    I want to present a. and b. above to my Vermont state representativs. But what does eternal precedent mean? Would they understand what I meant? (one of the rep's is the mother of our county State's Attorney, the other is a good ol' boy Vermonter, not a legal person at all.) Thanks.

    "eternal precedent" means (5.00 / 3) (#4)
    by scribe on Fri Apr 20, 2007 at 07:29:39 PM EST
    (When I write it) that the acts or words which comprise the precedent last forever.  But there's a lot more, and a lot more which is quite subtle, to it.

    Look at it this way:  when a case is reported in whatever volume of case reporter volumes a court might publish, that case becomes precedent.  It stands forever as a public record of what people involved in that case did, said, and what the court decided about their acts and words.

    When I counsel attorneys (I occasionally get ethics and malpractice cases) about whether to do or not do something, I pull an attorney discipline case from the shelf and say:  "Look at [name] and what the judges say he did.  You know the worst part?  It's in the books that [name] did [X].  Forever.  Do you want to go down in the books such that, two hundred or more years from now, all they'll know about you is that you did [whatever]?"

    The same obtains in politics.  The Founders and the Drafters of the Constitution were well acquainted not only with Enlightenment political thought, but also with what the ancients did.  Remember, by way of example, that Gibbon's "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" was the bestseller of the English-reading world for several years beginning in 1776.  If one sits down and reads even the abridged paperback edition (which I started on my fishing vacation last summer - always take at least one thick book, for bad-fishing days), it is inescapable that many of the same schemes and connivances in ancient Rome and the names of those on whatever side of them were familiar to the Founders and the Drafters.  Moreover, and a fortiori, the Founders and Drafters designed the checks and balances into the Constitution having been enlightened by the flaws in the systems of governance in ancient Rome, and in other places, too.

    What we do, and what we vote and say, today, will ring down through the centuries.  And those who stand with Bush and Cheney, or oppose removing them, will do so at the peril of being on the wrong side of history.

    I wonder what it will be like to live, say a century or two in the future, when people may well look back at these days, shake their head and wonder "what ever possessed them, that they discarded all the rights they'd won, defended, and brought into other nations, merely for the illusory promise of 'security'?"

    Every now and again, when I listen to Austrian radio, I'll hear them refer to the "Grossdeutsche Wahn*" - that's the mass hysteria which accompanied the bullsh*t Hitler and his cronies sold the German-speaking (and a lot of the rest of the) world.  Sixty years on, they're still shaking their heads wondering "what the hell were we thinking".

    *"Wahn" means, roughly, "Craziness", "insanity" or "Hysteria".

    On the other hand, in a century or two, torture, degradation and authoritarianism may, because of Bush, Cheney and their henchmen, be as normal and accepted as breathing, eating and drinking.  After all, in ancient Rome, not only were there multitudes of slaves, but a slave could not testify without having been tortured first.  And everyone thought that normal.

    The paradigm for the future - for the descendents of those who may have kids today - is what the choices made today will decide.  And that is why the precedent we set today is eternal.  Once that choice is made, or ducked, it's done and the alternative path now available, is gone and can't be gotten back.


    I commend to readers the following remarks, posted over at Balkinization about a week ago, entitled "Torture, Secrecy and the Bush Administration".  It's too long to crib over to here, and digresses some from my main point, which is answering "What is eternal precedent?"  But, one of the most noteworthy points it makes is that a lot of the machinations and wrongdoing by the present government stem from (although he doesn't label it as such) a bit of a flaw in our Constitutional structure.

    After discussing the 1642 case of John Liburne, which really set forth a lot of what we took for granted as the "liberties of Englishmen" (in other words, set the paradigm), the speaker stated:

    The Lilburne case sums up the most significant of what may be called the "Commonwealth reforms" of criminal procedure - one of the few legacies of the revolution to survive the restoration of the monarchy.

    Secrecy was what the Roundheads found most odious about the Stuart monarchs' justice. Certainly unjust practices accompanied some of our Puritan forefathers to this country; we can't forget the Salem witch trials, for instance. But so too, did a healthy contempt for the abuses practiced by the Stuart monarchs, starting with the notions of torture and secret courts with secret evidence. The contempt was reciprocal of course - they say that King Charles' lip would curl at the very mention of the word "Massachusetts," ... The practice of secret courts. The use of torture to secure confessions. The receipt of secret evidence. The exclusion of the public from proceedings. The offering of evidence in the form of summaries delivered to the judges, without the defendant being able to confront the evidence or conduct a cross-examination. These practices were the definition of tyrannical injustice to the Puritan fathers and the Founding Fathers. We thought them long banished, indeed, a hundred years and more before our own revolution. And now suddenly here they are again.

    Secrecy has reemerged just as torture has made its comeback, being justified on the public stage, by government officials for the first time since the famous gathering at the Inns of Court in 1629 at which the judges declared "upon their and their nation's honor" that torture was not permitted by the common law.

    The two fit together, hand in glove: torture and secrecy. Torture and secrecy. Where one is used, the other is indispensable.

    Torture is no longer a tool of statecraft. Today it is a tool of criminals, though sometimes of criminals purporting to conduct the affairs of state. Having resorted to these "dark arts," to quote Dick Cheney, the torturers now have the dilemma faced so frequently by criminals. They seek to cover it up. And so the path flows from torture to secrecy, the twin dark stars of the tyrannical state.

    The flaw being, that the lessons of the English Revolution and the reforms instituted which survived the Restoration were both so strong in the minds and common understanding of the Founders, that they likely thought it unnecessary to do things like, uh, prohibit torture.  It was so anathema, and so universally so, they thought it unnecessary, because no one (At least no one civilized) would engage in such conduct.

    Now, those who would engage in such conduct today, rely upon the good manners of those in the past, who thought it unneeded to prohibit that which was anathema.  Silence, to Deadeye, is a license.



    thank you so much! this will help me and others... (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by dutchfox on Sat Apr 21, 2007 at 05:38:31 PM EST
    i'll share with them.