Let's Put Impeachment Back on the Table!
by Peter Mathews for CA 37, Fri Jun 15, 2007 at 11:50:41 PM EDT
Habeas Corpus is a fundamental cornerstone of our democracy, seven hundred years ancient. Without Habeas Corpus, without the right to challenge the government's charges against you in a court of law, we are sliding on the slippery slope to dictatorship.
If the executive branch stops recognizing the validity of the other two coequal branches of the government, the normal checks and balances of our government have failed. What use are the normal constitutional remedies of legislation or court challenges if the executive branch claims for itself the right to ignore such challenges? The president's new and self-serving interpretation of the Constitution makes just such an end-run around the rule of law.
This is why the issue of impeachment must be on the table. It is not an issue of personal vendetta or politics. It is an issue of Constitutional integrity that will be with us long after George W. Bush and his failed administration have slinked away into the historical dustbin.
Let's separate the two parts of the issue:
<1. The legal basis for impeachment>
The legal justifications for Constitutional impeachment don't generate that much dispute. For a good explanation of the legal basis, I recommend former Congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman's excellent book on the subject, <"The Impeachment of George W. Bush, a Practical Guide for Concerned Citizens.">
Want reasons? Take your pick: torture of prisoners, lying about a war of choice, the Valerie Plame mess, illegal wiretapping of Americans, the abysmal Katrina mismanagement, leaking classified information for political purposes, and the obstruction of justice that we are still uncovering in the DOJ investigation.
<2. Practical and political basis for impeachment.>
This part generates more argument than the first part. Why bother to impeach a president who has less than two years left? Wouldn't it be a distraction from stopping the war in Iraq? (This is Pelosi's argument.) Couldn't this backfire on Democrats as the Clinton impeachment backfired on Republicans? And isn't it a vain effort after all, with the Republicans having a sizeable enough minority in Congress to thwart it?
Those are all very good practical arguments, but this is more than just a political or tactical issue to me. As a professor of American Government and International Relations, I worry more about the precedent we set if we do not act at all. We may dismiss George W. Bush as an aberration, and
one with a limited shelf-life, but if the precedent he has set for extending executive authority is allowed to stand unquestioned, future presidents, Democrat or Republican, may claim similar authority with some historical justification to back them up. Above and beyond the continuing damage that George W. Bush's policies pose to our country in the remaining months of his presidency there lies the more lasting threat posed by his legacy.
We must revive Representative John Conyers' bill HR635, which "will establish a select committee to investigate the Administration's intent to go to war before Congressional authorization, manipulation of pre-war intelligence, encouraging and countenancing torture, retaliating against critics, and to make recommendations regarding grounds for possible impeachment."
This bill needs to be revived and brought out of committee and sent to the house floor so that we can begin the process of impeachment, if need be. I don't want to prejudge anyone, even the
President. But nobody is above the law. Not even the President.