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Like many others, I have grown increasingly frustrated with the refusal of the Democratic party leadership to impeach our beloved alleged president and his cronies for their many blatant violations of our constitution, our laws, international law, and the Geneva Conventions.
It’s not as if these guys have been terribly subtle about all their law-breaking, after all. They’ve flat-out admitted things that are clear violations of one or more of the above, all the while maintaining that the laws somehow do not apply to them, and their arrogance has been exceeded only by the egregiousness of their crimes.
And yet, despite having a clear majority in the House, and a theoretical majority in the Senate, Democratic leaders like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have made it clear that impeachment is off the table.
This has outraged many, myself included. Forget about justice, what does their failure to impeach tell future holders of that office? That they can do what they want and get away without real repercussions.
Lately, though, I’ve started thinking about it like a lawyer, instead of like an outraged citizen, and I’ve come up with a plausible explanation that, if true, would excuse their current inaction, or at least explain it.
If true. And only time will tell us that.
If you think about all this like a prosecuting attorney planning out the strategy for taking down a big criminal kingpin, the current inaction makes sense. Better to delay a bit so you can be sure of a conviction – at least, as sure as it is ever possible to be in our justice system – than to tip your hand too soon and blow your chance forever.
Let’s say the House of Representatives does decide to bring impeachment proceedings against Bush and Cheney, and successfully impeaches them both for their various high crimes and misdemeanors. What’s the next step?
Trial in the Senate.
The Senate where the Democrats can only be said to hold a majority because Lieberman is still caucusing with them.
You can impeach a president with a simple majority vote, which could be easily done. But actual conviction and removal from office requires a supermajority of 2/3 of the Senate.
There is no way the Democrats could be assured of getting that kind of support in the Senate. Hell, they’d be lucky if they could get all the Blue Dog Democrats to vote to convict, forget about persuading enough Republicans over to their side of the aisle.
Now let’s say you play the waiting game until Bush is out of office. Then where is the trial held?
I don’t know the answer to this one for certain, because there has never been an un-pardoned president whose crimes were on the scale of current chimp-in-chief. But ordinarily, when you have someone accused of serious violations of the federal laws and/or constitution, you have a trial in a federal district court. (Note: see update at end of post)
Now things suddenly get interesting. Because instead of having to convince enough Senators – many of whom have been bought and paid for by the corporate interests who are really calling the shots right now – you instead only have to convince either one judge or a jury of American citizens that Bush and his buddies have committed all these crimes beyond a reasonable doubt.
This strategy makes things very dicey, particularly in the case of a bench trial (judge only), because so many current members of the federal judiciary were appointed by Republican presidents.
I think that anyone who was actually appointed to the bench by the current administration would have to recuse himself or herself from the trial to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interests. Most judges don’t want to appear to have a blatant conflict of interest, particularly in high-profile trials (except in Texas, where they don’t seem terribly troubled by such matters). But if a Bush appointee was tapped to be the trial judge and refused to recuse himself or herself, the prosecutor could still seek recusal of the judge from a higher court.
That still leaves a lot of Reagan and George H. W. Bush appointees as potential judges, with a fair number of Clinton judges and a few left over from the Carter administration to balance the odds a bit. But even if the judge was appointed by a Republican, you would probably stand a far better chance of getting a conviction in that judge’s courtroom than in a Senate full of people who are more concerned with getting re-elected than with seeing justice done.
Frankly, most judges have a deep and abiding belief in the rule of law. They may differ in how they interpret things, but most who are good enough to be appointed to the federal bench won’t engage in or tolerate blatant partisanship in their courtrooms, at least not in a criminal trial. And federal judges don’t have to worry about losing their jobs if they make a politically unpopular decision, which gives them a lot more freedom to act according to their conscience and principles of justice than your average Senator enjoys.
There is another advantage to waiting until the bastards have left office before you begin prosecuting them: you would be able to go after all of them, including Cabinet members and high level staffers, without fear of having the convictions overturned by a presidential pardon.
Just think: you could go after Karl Rove, Alberto Gonzales, and a host of others.
You can’t force them to take the stand in their own trials, but you can at least force them to testify at each others’ trials. And here’s a fun fact: under the fifth amendment, a criminal defendant can just flat-out refuse to testify at his or her own trial. But for anyone else’s trial, the person must sit up in the witness chair, and respond “I refuse to answer that question because the answer may tend to incriminate me,” if he or she wants to hide behind the fifth amendment. Which is as good as an admission of criminal behavior, at least in the public eye.
Of course, this strategy will only work if Obama wins the election in November, because I think it’s a safe assumption that McCain would use the presidential pardoning power to keep any of the key people from even going to trial, just like Gerald Ford did with Nixon.
Still, it is a possibility.
Of course, this assumes that the Democratic leaders in Congress can actually get their acts together enough to come up with a plan like I’ve described here and follow through with it. Their current actions in the face of the alleged president’s demands for a new FISA bill with telecom immunity makes this seem less likely than one would hope.
Still, I can dream, can’t I?
And in case you were wondering, yes, I still think the bastards ought to be impeached.
Update: One big caveat here: the Supreme Court could decide to intervene and conduct the trial(s) themselves, I suppose. It would be to my knowledge unprecedented, but then again, that’s never stopped the current cohort of justices.
Second update: On looking back over this, I think there’s another possible option, which is that some sort of special court or panel could be assembled to hear the charges and cases against various members of this administration, in which case all bets are off. Also, I should note that it’s been a long time since my Federal Courts class in law school, and this was not the sort of thing I ever dealt with as a lawyer, so I could be completely wrong on all this, in which case I do hope some other lawyer with more knowledge in these matters will set me straight.
I was just watching MSNBC, and they are reporting that alleged vice president Dick Cheney was discovered to have an irregular heartbeat this afternoon. I know many of my non-existent readers had the same thought I did when they heard the news:
Dick Cheney has a heart?
Seriously, though, best wishes to the man for a speedy recovery. Sure, I continue to believe that Bush and Cheney ought to be impeached, but that doesn’t mean I want either of them dropping dead.
That would be letting them off too easy.
Just wanted to let all my non-existent readers know that the folks over at AfterDowningStreet.org are selling Impeach Bush and Cheney bracelets (of the now-ubiquitous Live Strong type) in a seasonally-appropriate shade of orange. Order yours today!
Because, after all, Bush and Cheney really ought to be impeached.
I’ve said it before, and I say it again. Keith Olbermann is a god. Once again tonight he hit one out of the park with one of his special comments.
Keith was reacting to two things in this special comment: (a) the alleged president’s recent surprise trip to Iraq, during which he admitted to now being willing to (and I swear that I am not making this up) “speculate on the hypothetical” of removing some (not all, just some) of our troops from Iraq, and (b) this article in the New York Times (h/t to Nicole Belle at Crooks and Liars) which includes excerpts from a Dead Certain, a new book by biographer Robert Draper, who managed to get half a dozen one-on-one interviews with the chimp in chief by casting the book he was writing as essentially the first draft of how history would interpret Bush’s legacy.
I have not read the book yet (just ordered it from Amazon — I’ll post a review later), but judging from some of the excerpts in the Times article, Bush is every bit as appalling in person in unguarded moments as I had previously suspected. Speaking about the ongoing debate about troop levels in Iraq, he actually told the biographer, “I’m playing for October-November…To get us in a position where the presidential candidates will be comfortable about sustaining a presence.” Playing, as if this were some sort of game and not hundreds of soldiers and civilians dying and suffering life-altering trauma.
Keith did an admirable job of ripping Bush a new one this evening, as he has so often with his special comments in the past. Tonight’s was particularly scathing. Crooks and Liars already has the video posted. Here are a few particularly choice remarks, transcribed as always by yours truly:
“And so he is back from his annual surprise gratuitous photo op in Iraq, and what a sorry spectacle it was. But it was nothing compared to the spectacle of one unfiltered, unguarded, horrifying quotation in the new biography to which Mr. Bush has consented.”
* * *
“And there it is, sir, we’ve caught you. Your goal is not to bring some troops home, maybe, if we let you have your way now. Your goal is not to set the stage for eventual withdrawal. You are, to use your own disrespectful, tone-deaf word, playing at getting the next Republican nominee to agree to jump into this bottomless pit with you, and take us into it with him, as we stay in Iraq for another year, and another, and anon.”
* * *
“Everything you said about Iraq yesterday, and everything you will say, is a deception for the purpose of this one cynical, unacceptable, brutal goal: perpetuating this war indefinitely. War today, war tomorrow, war forever! And you are playing at it. Playing! A man with any self-respect, having inadvertently revealed such an evil secret would have already resigned and fled the country. You have no remaining credibility about Iraq, sir.”
* * *
“Just over five hundred days remain in this presidency. Consider the dead who have piled up on the battlefield in the last five hundred days.
“Consider the singular fraudulence of this president’s trip to Iraq yesterday, and the singular fraudulence of the selling of the
PetreusPetraeus report in these last five hundred days.
“Consider how this president has torn away at the fabric of this nation, in a manner of which terrorists can only dream in these last five hundred days.
“And consider again how this president has spoken to that biographer, that he is playing for October-November, that the goal in Iraq is, to get us in a position where the presidential candidates will be comfortable about sustaining a presence. And consider how this revelation contradicts every other rationale he has offered in these last five hundred days.
“In the context of all that, now consider these next five hundred days.
“Mr. Bush, our presence in Iraq must end. Even if it means your resignation. Even if it means your impeachment. Even if it means a different Republican to serve out your term. Even if it means a Democratic Congress, and those true patriots among the Republicans, standing up and denying you another penny for Iraq, other than for the safety and safe conduct home of our troops. This country cannot run the risk of what you can still do to this country in the next five hundred days, not while you, sir, are playing.”
Keith already said it, but just so there’s no doubt, allow me to state once again that I truly believe, based upon all the evidence to date of their various high crimes and misdemeanors against this country, that both Bush and Cheney ought to be impeached.
Addendum: There is a nifty extension that puts a countdown clock reflecting the number of days left in the Bush presidency (barring impeachment) right in that little status bar at the bottom of the browser window. It’s reassuring to see that number go down each day, I can tell you, though it is distressing to think how much more trouble Bush might cause in the time he has left in office. You can download the extension here.
This guy is my new hero.
And you know what? He’s right. Bush and Cheney ought to be impeached.
Roman statesman Cato the Elder was famous for (among other things) ending every speech before the Roman Senate, no matter what he was speaking about, with the above statement, which translates roughly as, “And furthermore I think that Carthage ought to be destroyed.” His goal, of course, was to keep that topic firmly planted in his listeners’ minds. And as those who follow history know, eventually Rome did get around to destroying Carthage and sowing the earth there with salt to prevent it from ever rising again.
It is with this in mind that I have decided to end each post in this blog from here until the statement becomes moot (or at least until I become bored doing it) with “And furthermore I think that Bush and Cheney ought to be impeached.” Because really, they ought to be. They have violated the Geneva Conventions and our own Constitution more times than I would care to count, practically eliminated the right of habeas corpus, instituted torture as an official government policy, and dragged us into a war of aggression under false pretences. They have repeatedly lied to the American public, shown their contempt for our laws and fundamental principles, and advanced their own (and Halliburton’s) interests to the detriment of us all. They should not continue to go unpunished for these crimes.
Thus I think that Bush and Cheney ought to be impeached.