Originally published on OpEdNews on September 4, 2008.
On July 28th, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was asked on ABC’s The View why she insists on “not impeaching” Bush and Cheney. She responded: “If somebody had a crime that the President had committed, that would be a different story.” She finished her rationalization by implying that no-one yet had “the goods”, as she put it, on the President. However, Pelosi has yet to address the substance of – and perhaps even to read, if her off-hand comment is to be believed (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LUlhmOQEI_M), the 35 Articles of Impeachment against Bush which Rep. Dennis Kucinich proposed to the House on June 9th. Yet Kucinich isn’t giving up. His speech at the DNC was so rousing, the amazed crowd cheered incessantly through most of it and continued for some time after:http://www.opednews.com/articles/Dennis-Kucinich-s-Rousing-by-Meryl-Ann-Butler-080826-755.html. And he wants 1 million signatures for impeachment by Sept. 10th. Sign his petition to Congress at: http://kucinich.us/
Since “the goods” on Bush are already there, in the documentation Kucinich gave Congress (as well as many other places), much more attention should be paid to these 35 Articles.
"But isn’t it too late? The 110th Congress is almost over..."
Congress reconvenes Sept. 8 for a mere 3 weeks with a “target adjournment” date of Sept. 26. Then they will likely focus on campaigning; 1/3rd of the Senate and the entire House are up for re-election. However, even if they do adjourn on schedule, that break may not have to be the final story. Some members did return to Capitol Hill over the summer – Republicans with their sudden election-year concern for gas prices, and, more importantly, the House Judiciary Committee, which Chairman John Conyers, Jr. called back to investigate the allegations by reporter Ron Suskind that Cheney’s office, with the CIA, forged a pre-invasion letter implying a link between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. I think this shows the Judiciary Committee could begin impeachment even if Congress is not in full session. And in that case Pelosi’s canard, that impeachment is too distracting from the work of law-making, would be completely inapplicable.
Moreover, the investigations have already happened. We’ve been at it for years. Bush’s crimes are public record. You don’t need FBI agents snooping around for months; you just need the word ‘impeachment’ and the website ‘Amazon’ and the whole case could be made. Impeachment movement leaders keep trying to tell people: it could take only a few days.
Recent House Judiciary Committee events have energized the impeachment movement: the testimony of Scott McClellan, the HJC vote to hold no-show Karl Rove in contempt of Congress, the July 25th hearing on the limits of executive power at which the word “impeachment” came up countless times, (watch over a dozen of the speakers at: http://www.afterdowningstreet.org/node/35061 and also http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8chOuPZaIkQ and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HJW5WTs3yT4), the July 31st ruling by District Court Judge John Bates that the White House cannot ignore congressional subpoenas, and the subsequent Aug. 26th refusal of Bates to grant the White House a stay on that decision http://judiciary.house.gov/news/080826.html. Re-invigorated, Veterans for Peace, Democrats.com, and National Impeachment Network activists will lobby in D.C. for 2-3 weeks this month. Kucinich’s champion Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL, 19th) and other pro-impeachment HJC members, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA, 35th) and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN, 5th), have told activists not to quit. Also, at the July 25th proceeding, HJC member Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI, 2nd) gave a clarion call for impeachment hearings as the next step.
There is another point. As Jon Ponder remarks in The Pensito Review, Pelosi took impeachment “off the table” for the 110th Congress, not the 111th.
“But there isn’t enough time to impeach Bush before he leaves office…”
Tobi Dragert of the L.A. Area Impeachment Center told me that impeachment historian John Nichols (also Washington Correspondent for The Nation) informed the Progressive Democrats of America forum in Denver last week that post-term impeachment is possible, and that it would follow the same path as the regular kind: from the House Judiciary Committee to the Senate. This surprised me, so I did some research.
Ironically, it’s the Republicans who argued for post-term impeachment last. Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA), who voted ‘not proven’ during Clinton’s impeachment trial, told FOX in early 2001 that Clinton could still be impeached even though he had left office--this time for allegedly taking bribes to grant pardons. "President Clinton avoided a conviction on impeachment the last time around because he had not lost the confidence of the American people, and we didn't want to shake up the government,” Specter said. He added, “but he's not in office anymore"; as if conviction is easier – and justified -- after a term is up. http://www.prospect.org/cs/articles?article=get_over_it Around the same time, Congressman Dan Burton (R-IN) also called for an investigation of Clinton’s pardon of Marc Rich. And then-Senator Don Nickles wanted to see Clinton's pension and other benefits cut.
More significantly, Detroit College of Law professor Brian Kalt argues in a March 1st, 2001 column how a Clinton post-term impeachment could be justified by constitutional history http://jurist.law.pitt.edu/pardonop3.htm. Kalt makes a fascinating point that English practice, which was the Founders’ starting point, included it. If they had intended to outlaw it, Kalt writes, they would have codified that, since they did explicitly correct several other facets of English impeachment practice for our constitution. Kalt also unearths debate from the Constitutional Convention over impeachment: did congress deserve to remove a president or veep even though terms of office would be limited? The Convention decided Yes--in other words, I think, they seem to have felt all civil officers need to be accountable even if their high crimes or misdemeanors end within 8 years. They placed the urgency of justice in the fore. And if they didn’t think justice should wait for 8 years, how could they possibly have wanted it to wait for a lifetime?
Those who assume, as I had, that only a sitting president can be impeached may recall that Article I, Sec. 3 of the Constitution states “Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office.” But that phrase ends with a comma, not a period. The original quote is: “not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States”. (It also goes on to make clear that any civil officer who is impeached could still be “subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment” – criminal prosecution. Probably few people who’ve called for Bush’s impeachment would oppose that! But criminal prosecution will be a lot harder to instigate if Congress continues to pretend that everything Bush has done is legal. Prosecutors would be unlikely to feel they have as much power as Congress.)
Disqualifying Bush from post-term perks – like the honorific “President” in front of his name, maybe? – is not revenge, it’s justice. And it’s taking precautions against One Who Cannot Be Trusted. I personally don’t want Bush going abroad as any kind of ex-presidential ambassador; he wouldn’t have Jimmy Carter’s altruistic intentions. It would probably be too hard for Bush to give up scheming like he did with the Brits to lure Hussein into shooting at aircraft painted in fake UN colors. http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/27/international/europe/27memo.html?_r=1&pagewanted=2&oref=slogin And if he gives speeches in the U.S., I don’t want the Secret Service to enforce ‘free speech zones’ (i.e. perimeters of non-free speech) for him. Since he’s never had much of a work ethic, he’s probably not going to want another federal office like William Taft did—Taft was Chief Justice after the presidency—but we should never underestimate what lucrative or influential job title he and his buddies might finagle, nor overestimate how much work he would believe any post would entail. Besides, it would just be a tremendous boost for how America is perceived if we formally recognized that he is not fit to hold federal office. And after he’s swindled Americans out of trillions for the war and trashed the economy, does he deserve a pension?
Alan Hirsch, a constitutional scholar and J.D. from Yale Law School, per the website for his book A Citizen’s Guide to Impeachment, also believes that a president’s departure from office does not mean he can no longer be impeached. http://essential-book.org/books/impeach/#nine He and law professor Kalt both separately cite the precedent of the 1876 impeachment of General William Belknap, the only Cabinet member to be impeached by the House. (So far. Hear that, Rummy and Condi? So far.) Belknap was Secretary of War until he resigned a few hours before the House was to debate articles of impeachment. He was accused of accepting a bribe. (Ah, how innocent the crimes of yesteryear seem.) He was impeached by the House anyway. Unanimously. Note the absence of the partisanship those blocking Bush’s impeachment keep warning against -- it’s amazing what happens when you actually air the evidence. The impeachment (which equals an indictment) moved onto the Senate for trial. The majority of the Senate did not think the Secretary’s resignation got him off scot-free: they voted 37-29 to hear the case. Then came the trial. He was acquitted - by my math, to get the 2/3rds required to convict, they would have needed 44 votes. But to an entire House and 56% of the Senate, leaving office was not a get-out-of-jail-free card.
And why should it be? Kalt notes that scholars during the Nixon era believed he could have been tried even after he resigned. And Jon Ponder argues if he had been, that might have deterred Bush and Cheney. (After all, deterrence is one of the reasons we have a criminal justice system.) Imagine if the Enron principals had left to head up Halliburton, and that erased all responsibility for previous fraud. Or to use an analogy even Bill O’Reilly should like: imagine if a camp counselor molested a child but, because camp was only two weeks, the authorities just said in Sept., “well, what’s done is done.”
Now, there’s always the risk that Bush could be tried and then acquitted. Well, he’s a free man right now – and the country is not – so it wouldn’t be a step backward. It would at least revive a little public faith in Congress. And the Republicans, if they are to teach us anything, should teach us that the odds don’t need to stop anyone. They didn’t care about the odds or even the polls when they impeached Clinton. This time, the polls are on the other side: Bush is so unpopular he was even a liability at the RNC. Moreover, the case against Bush is completely different. The proof is overwhelming - if only the Democrats would stop fleeing it.
The trial itself would be a huge event. The media would carry the proceedings live. People who’ve been out of the loop (because they don’t follow alternative media) would hear the damning facts for the first time. As Joy Behar said to Pelosi on The View: impeachment would mean“that the world and America can really see the crimes that [Bush and Cheney] committed.” And that, regardless of prosecutorial outcome, would be a victory for Truth. After 8 years of being trampled, Truth deserves a hand up.