Is Impeachment Gone for Good?
By David Swanson
14, 2012 "Information
Kissinger's winning of the Nobel Peace Prize didn't, in the end,
eliminate satire from the earth (or peace prizes for war-makers,
for that matter). Conceivably, the impeachment of Bill Clinton
and the lack of impeachment of George W. Bush haven't eliminated
presidential impeachment from the Constitution.
I'll grant you, it looks pretty grim. Congress is dominated by
the two real branches of the U.S. government: the Democratic and
the Republican. Democrats obey Democratic presidents and fear
Republican ones. Republicans obey Republican presidents and
attack Democratic ones for imaginary nonsense rather than their
real abuses. These patterns seem firmly established and locked
into escalating feedback loops, as does the unending career of
Nancy "impeachment is off the table" Pelosi.
The public, for its part, seems increasingly convinced that
presidents should be kings, kings should serve the military,
citizens should volunteer for electoral campaigns instead of
activist campaigns, and a police state is necessary to protect
the freedoms sacrificed to the police state. One-third of the
residents of the Home of the Brave now approve of cavity
searches prior to airplane travel.
But consider: the U.S. public, unlike Congress, opposed the
Clinton impeachment and favored Bush's impeachment -- the latter
a rather remarkable finding by pollsters given the general lack
of impeachment discussion on corporate television during the
Bush years. Many Republicans hate Democratic presidents enough
to support their impeachment even for legitimate reasons. And
some Democrats could conceivably be brought around to supporting
an impeachment that was both Constitutionally solid and allowed
them to act like Republicans.
These presidents have faced impeachment or serious attempts at
impeachment as lame ducks: Andrew Johnson, Harry Truman, Richard
Nixon, Bill Clinton, and -- if we count popular movements
blocked decisively by Congress -- George W. Bush. While Barack
Obama was just reelected with 51% of the vote, Nixon got 61% and
was quickly thrown out on his ear.
And consider this: During the effort to impeach Bush, there was
virtually no debate over the validity of the charges against
him. Rather, our misrepresentatives in Congress told us that
impeaching Bush would give us Cheney or impeaching Cheney would
leave us Bush, or impeaching Bush and Cheney would hurt the
Democratic Party because the unpopular impeachment of Clinton
had supposedly hurt Republicans (never mind the disaster of the
Albert "I never met Bill Clinton" Gore presidential campaign).
Or, alternatively, we were told there was no point in impeaching
Bush when he only had a few years left, or Hillary Clinton was
running for president and preferred that impeachment not be
mentioned, or the Senate wasn't pre-committed to convicting Bush
so there was no requirement for House members to uphold their
oaths of office. None of the debate actually disputed that Bush
was clearly guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors -- that is,
severe abuses of power.
Now here's the interesting part: Obama has expanded upon those
In fact, if Bush had been known to keep a secret list of men,
women, and children, American and foreign, to be killed, and had
routinely killed them, support for his impeachment would not
have been the bare majority it was but almost certainly a good
deal higher and a greater priority.
We were told, when we tried to impeach Bush and Cheney, that we
simply hated those men. No, we replied, we want to prevent the
precedent that will make the next men or women worse --
guaranteed. That our gloomy prediction has proved right ought to
constitute grounds for being taken seriously now when we say
that further failure to impeach will result in still worse
abuses to come. The simple and obvious, but almost universally
uncomprehended, point is not that Joe Biden or Mitt Romney or
anyone else is a better human being than Barack Obama. The point
is that a President Biden entering office following the
impeachment and removal of his predecessor for particular crimes
and abuses would be less likely to engage in those crimes and
abuses, as would other presidents to come.
President Obama has
developed an assassination program, in violation of the Fifth
Amendment, targeting men, women, and children, but
overwhelmingly killing non-targeted victims who happened to be
in the wrong place. He has launched a war on
facilitated a war on Syria, sent so-called special forces and
drones and missiles into numerous sovereign nations, threatened
war on Iran, and given war-making powers to the CIA in violation
of Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, the
Kellogg-Briand Pact, the War Powers Resolution, and the United
Nations Charter. President Obama has seized the power to
imprison without charge or trial in violation of Article I,
Section 9 and the Forth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth
Amendments. He has claimed the power to torture and directed the
Attorney General not to prosecute the crime of torture, in
violation of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel,
Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. He has engaged in
widespread warrantless spying in violation of the Fourth
Amendment. He has escalated a war in Afghanistan and built
permanent military bases there. He has selectively revealed
classified information, even while falsely and vindictively
prosecuting whistleblowers under the Espionage Act, and while
holding accused whistleblower Bradley Manning in cruel and
inhuman conditions for over two years prior to any trial.
President Obama has abused claims of state secrets to block
judicial review of government abuses. He has created secret laws
through the Office of Legal Counsel. He has announced his intent
to violate laws with signing statements.
A full collection of what would in previous decades have been
considered obvious impeachable offenses would run for pages.
Standards have changed. As Daniel Ellsberg has pointed out,
Nixon's abuses have now been legalized. But can a president or a
secret office or a corrupted Congress legalize what is
unconstitutional? Clearly the answer is yes, if we let them.
David L. Swanson is an American activist, blogger and author.
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