Thursday, August 23, 2018

Not There Yet

I would like to think that in a sane and just world, having a president who hired people who were actively committing tax fraud before, during, and after their tenure with your campaign and hired a lawyer who would willingly pay hush money to women to buy their silence about committing adultery would raise serious questions about their fitness for office.  And that’s not even taking into account the ongoing investigation as to whether or not he or his advisors worked with a hostile foreign autocrat and his government to throw the presidential election.

But that’s in a sane and just world, and we’re not there.  We haven’t been for quite a while.

After the events of Tuesday — and adding in all the other considerations and previous antics — naturally the call is coming from some quarters along the lines of “What more does Congress need to start impeachment proceedings?”  The answer is pretty simple: a Democratic majority in both houses of Congress and a smoking gun.  Right now we don’t have either.

Impeachment is hard to pull off.  The framers made it tough for a reason: they didn’t want it to be used for superfluous or political reasons.  In the three times Congress has tried it on a president, it has never been successful in removing him from office through the whole process.  Andrew Johnson survived the trial, Nixon resigned before the House could even vote on all the articles, and Bill Clinton beat the rap in the Senate.  Not only did he beat it, the process backfired spectacularly on his accusers — Newt Gingrich was forced out as House Speaker — and Mr. Clinton ended up more popular with the electorate than before the whole thing started.  So despite the mountains of lies, pettiness, and outrageous tweets spewed by Trump, until there’s rock solid evidence, provable in a court of law, that he committed the Constitution’s requirements for impeachment, we’re going to have to bear with it.  (And even if he were to, as he once boasted, shoot someone on Fifth Avenue in broad daylight, there will be the 27% — and Fox News — that say the person who got shot had it coming.)

New York Times conservative columnist Bret Stephens follows my trail but ends up making the case for impeachment now, basically saying Trump’s actions reach the level of removal, holding up the Clinton case as the bloody shirt to the Republicans.

If breaking the law (by lying under oath) to conceal an affair was impeachable, why is breaking the law (by violating campaign-finance laws) to conceal an affair not impeachable?

If “cheating the electoral system” (by means of a burglary) was impeachable, why is cheating the electoral system (by means of illicit hush money) not impeachable?

If cheating “our institutions” (by means of an “assault” in “every way” on the legal system) is impeachable, why is cheating those institutions (by means of nonstop presidential mendacity and relentless attacks on the Justice Department and the F.B.I.) not impeachable?

Pragmatists will rejoin that there’s no sense in advocating impeachment when the G.O.P. controls Congress. I’m sorry that so many congressional Republicans have lost their sense of moral principle and institutional self-respect, but that’s a reason to seek Democratic victories in the fall. The Constitution matters more than a tax cut. What the Constitution demands is the impeachment and removal from office of this lawless president.

I’m sure he’s sincere in his outrage, but shaming the Republicans into doing the right thing is a fool’s errand.  When it comes to choosing moral principles and self-respect over winning an election, we all know where that’s headed.

So we need to elect a majority of Democrats in both the House and Senate so that they will be able to methodically and with due diligence look into this president and his actions.  Going off on a banshee screed about locking him up will only harden the hearts of his defenders and provide them with soundbites for their witch-hunt memes.  And we need to hear all of the evidence — solid and irrefutable — of the alleged crimes.  Whether or not that comes from the Mueller investigation is yet to be known; it may or may not.  But until that happens, we’re going to have to wait for both the election in November and the report from the investigation.

Trump and the Republicans have so mangled our senses that it seems impossible to think that we can wait much longer without causing permanent damage to both our lives and the future of this form of government.  But we survived a civil war, a depression, and numerous acts of venality and criminal acts by people in high places of power and yet survived.  If we could get through those, we can get through this now.  And if we’re going to take action to get him out of office, it has to be done right.  Miss or mess it up and we’ll be worse off.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Looking Back/Looking Forward

Here we go with my annual recap and prognostication for the year.  Let’s see how I did a year ago.

  • I have no earthly idea what will happen with Trump in the White House.  But I can say that for the first time in my life — and I will hit 65 this year — I am frightened both for myself and my country.
  • At some point in 2017 elements of the electorate will realize that they got conned into voting for Trump and that they were played for fools.  The backlash will begin when they find out he can’t follow through on his bullshit promises, and reach a peak when they find out that repealing Obamacare and deporting 11 million people effects them personally.  When it happens, it will not be pretty.

I’m still frightened.  Nothing — not the Mueller investigation, the revelations coming from various sources, or chatter about impeachment or invoking the 25th Amendment — has calmed my fear that he is still capable of doing something that puts us and the rest of the world in peril.  As for the second bullet point, we are seeing faint glimmers that disillusionment is happening in the nooks and crannies of America where he can do no wrong, and no amount of tweeting and bullshit from Fox News can turn around his dismal approval numbers.  But that just means that fully 1/3 of the electorate still approve of him.  Even his failures — Obamacare yet survives and the deportations haven’t happened — haven’t dimmed the hopes of the dim.

  • There will be a downturn in the economy thanks to the cyclical nature of economics and the instability in the market by the Twitter-In-Chief. He will, of course, blame it on Barack Obama.

Obviously I’m not an economist because if I was I would have known that the economy lags behind and the continued growth and low unemployment rate are a result of Obama’s policies.  Of course Trump is taking credit for it.

  • A year from now the Syrian civil war will still be dragging on.  ISIS will still be a factor, and if Trump does what he says he will do with the Iran nuclear deal, expect to see them re-start their nuclear program.  “Dr. Strangelove” will be seen by historians as a documentary.
  • The refugee crisis will continue and fester once nativists and right-wing elements win majorities in western European countries.

The Syrian civil war goes on but it’s not dominating the news cycles, and ISIS is a lessening factor.  I don’t know if it’s sheer exhaustion.  The refugee crisis goes on but with a lesser magnitude.

  • Our diplomatic thaw with Cuba will freeze as the attempts to end the blockade will not get through Congress. Only until Trump gets permission to open a casino in Varadero Beach will there be any progress.

Trump rescinded some of the Obama administration’s changes in our relations with Cuba but not enough to return us to Cold War status.  The blockade, such as it is, enters its 57th year.

  • Violence against our fellow citizens will continue and take on a more xenophobic tone as the white supremacists think they are now in control. The attorney general will do nothing to put an end to it because, in his words, “they had it coming.”

Charlottesville and Trump’s tacit support of the Nazis proved that to be true, more’s the pity.

  • We will lose the requisite number of celebrities and friends as life goes on. 2016 was an especially painful year. As I always say, it’s important to cherish them while they are with us.

I lost two uncles and a nephew since I wrote that.

  • The Tigers will finish second in their division.

They traded Justin Verlander.  Yeah, he helped the Astros win the World Series, but…

Okay, now on to predictions.

  • There will be indictments at a very high level in the administration as the Mueller investigation rumbles on.  Plea bargains and deals will be made and revelations will come forth, and by summer there will be genuine questions about whether or not the administration will survive.  But there won’t be a move to impeach Trump as long as there are Republican majorities in the Congress, and invoking the 25th Amendment is a non-starter.
  • The Democrats will make great gains in the mid-term elections in November.  This is a safe bet because the party out of power usually does in the first mid-term of new president.  The Democrats will take back the Senate and narrow the gap in the House to the point that Speaker Paul Ryan with either quit or be so powerless that he’s just hanging around to collect pension points.  (No, he will not lose his re-election bid.)
  • There will be a vacancy on the Supreme Court, but it won’t happen until after the mid-terms and Trump’s appointment will flail as the Democrats in the Senate block the confirmation on the grounds that the next president gets to choose the replacement.
  • There will be irrefutable proof that the Russians not only meddled in the 2016 U.S. election, but they’ve had a hand in elections in Europe as well and will be a factor in the U.S. mid-terms.  Vladimir Putin will be re-elected, of course.
  • Raul Castro will figure out a way to still run Cuba even if he steps down as president, and there will be no lessening of the authoritarian rule.
  • The U.S. economy will continue to grow, but there will be dark clouds on the horizon as the deficit grows thanks to the giveaways in the GOP tax bill.  If the GOP engineers cuts to entitlement programs and the number of uninsured for healthcare increases, the strain on the economy will be too much.
  • This “America First” foreign policy will backfire.  All it does is tell our allies “You’re on your own.”  If we ever need them, they’re more likely to turn their backs on us.
  • The white supremacist movement will not abate.  Count on seeing more violence against minorities and more mass shootings.
  • A viable Democratic candidate will emerge as a major contender for the 2020 election, and it will most likely be a woman.  Sen. Elizabeth Warren is considered to be the default, but I wouldn’t rule out Sen. Kamala Harris of California or Sen. Kristen Gillibrand of New York just yet.  (Sen. Gillibrand would drive Trump even further around the bend.  She was appointed to the Senate to fill Hillary Clinton’s seat when she became Secretary of State in 2009.)
  • On a personal level, this will be a busy year for my work in theatre with a full production of “All Together Now” opening in March and several other works out there for consideration.  I will also be entering my last full year of employment in my present job (retirement happens in August 2019) but I’ll keep working.
  • People and fads we never heard about will have their fifteen minutes.
  • I’ll do this again next year.

Okay, friends; it’s your turn.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Impeachment Won’t Solve Everything

There’s a good piece by Jeet Heer in The New Republic about the Democrats’ dangerous obsession with impeaching Trump.

The practical problem is that for impeachment to be meaningful, Trump would not just have to be impeached by the House of Representatives (which requires a simple majority) but also removed by the Senate (requiring a two-thirds vote). It’s easy to imagine a scenario where the Democrats win the House of Representatives in 2018 and have the necessary votes for impeachment. But even in that best-case scenario, in which Democrats win every toss-up race for the Senate, they would still be well short of the votes they need in the Senate. Which means that kicking Trump out of the White House by necessity has to be a bipartisan effort with significant Republican buy-in.


The Republican Party has proven that they will tolerate just about anything from Trump. They continue to stand with him despite his demented tweeting, the political support he’s given to Roy Moore, his repeated expressions of contempt for the justice system, and his cavalier threats to launch a nuclear war. Unless Robert Mueller finds the possibly apocryphal “pee tape,” Republicans are likely to remain loyal to Trump. In fact, there’s a real possibility that even if the “pee tape” is real and widely viewed, Trump would still remain politically sacrosanct among his own party.

The most promising route for stopping Trump, then, is through the ballot box. Democrats need a convincing platform and effective organization to win elections at every level. If the party can win back Congress in 2018, it can immediately start hamstringing Trump’s presidency without resorting to the unlikely path of impeachment. Democrats can launch investigations into Trump’s many improper acts. They can stall his nominees, especially in the courts. They can also start laying down rules for reining in the imperial presidency, including the thermonuclear monarchy, so that no future commander-in-chief has the dangerous power Trump possesses.

Impeachment is hard to do and it’s a political act as opposed to a judicial function.  In my lifetime it’s been put in motion when the opposition party has held the majority in Congress, and that’s how it will play out.

The only way to truly rid the nation of the Trump effect is to vote him and every Republican who supports him and his policies out of office the next time around, which is eleven months from now in the midterms, and then come up with both a viable and impervious candidate in 2020 who can not just be the anti-Trump but someone with a vision that brings us back to reality.

Friday, July 21, 2017


Via the Washington Post:

Some of President Trump’s lawyers are exploring ways to limit or undercut special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation, building a case against what they allege are his conflicts of interest and discussing the president’s authority to grant pardons, according to people familiar with the effort.

Trump has asked his advisers about his power to pardon aides, family members and even himself in connection with the probe, according to one of those people. A second person said Trump’s lawyers have been discussing the president’s pardoning powers among themselves.

Trump’s legal team declined to comment on the issue. But one adviser said the president has simply expressed a curiosity in understanding the reach of his pardoning authority, as well as the limits of Mueller’s investigation.

“This is not in the context of, ‘I can’t wait to pardon myself,’ ” a close adviser said.

Yeah, I’ll bet.  Innocent people don’t look for ways to get out of legal trouble or scuttle the investigation.

Via the New York Times:

Trump’s lawyers and aides are scouring the professional and political backgrounds of investigators hired by the special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, looking for conflicts of interest they could use to discredit the investigation — or even build a case to fire Mr. Mueller or get some members of his team recused, according to three people with knowledge of the research effort.

The search for potential conflicts is wide-ranging. It includes scrutinizing donations to Democratic candidates, investigators’ past clients and Mr. Mueller’s relationship with James B. Comey, whose firing as F.B.I. director is part of the special counsel’s investigation.

The effort to investigate the investigators is another sign of a looming showdown between Mr. Trump and Mr. Mueller, who has assembled a team of high-powered prosecutors and agents to examine whether any of Mr. Trump’s advisers aided Russia’s campaign to disrupt last year’s presidential election.

Some of the investigators have vast experience prosecuting financial malfeasance, and the prospect that Mr. Mueller’s inquiry could evolve into an expansive examination of Mr. Trump’s financial history has stoked fears among the president’s aides. Both Mr. Trump and his aides have said publicly they are watching closely to ensure Mr. Mueller’s investigation remains narrowly focused on last year’s election.

This, along with the sniffing around the pardon parameters, makes it pretty clear that Trump and his gang are really nervous about what Mr. Mueller might come up with.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

How Trump Gets Fired

Evan Osnos has a very good article in The New Yorker (subscription required) on the mechanics of getting a president out of office.

Basically there are two ways to get rid of a president: impeachment or through the Twenty-Fifth Amendment, Section 4, which allows for the Cabinet or other designees appointed by Congress to certify the president is incapable of fulfilling his duties.

How likely is it that either scenario will take place?  The Twenty-Fifth Amendment, Section 4 requires that the majority of the Cabinet — people appointed by the president — sign off on his disability.  That’s not going to happen without some medical emergency or state of unconsciousness; they all think that when he farts they’re hearing Tony Bennett croon.  This Congress will not pass any law that takes over that duty.  So unless Trump is struck by lightning, he’s safe.

Impeachment is another route, but history has shown that only happens when the opposition party is in control of Congress where the articles of impeachment are drafted and voted on.  With all due respect to Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), that’s not going to happen until the Democrats take over Congress again.  So the earliest that could possibly happen is in 2019 after the Democrats sweep the mid-terms.  (And how likely is that?)

The only other way out is through resignation when the president realizes that he no longer has the support of the people and Congress.  Given Trump’s propensity for delusion, that’s not even on the horizon; he’d think he’s doing great even as they handcuff him.

As Osnos notes, it requires a certain level of delusion to be president in the first place.

The history of besieged Presidencies is, in the end, a history of hubris—of blindness to one’s faults, of deafness to the warnings, of seclusion from uncomfortable realities. The secret of power is not that it corrupts; that is well known. “What is never said,” Robert Caro writes, in “Master of the Senate,” about Lyndon Johnson, “is that power reveals.” Trump, after a lifetime in a family business, with no public obligations and no board of directors to please, has found himself abruptly exposed to evaluation, and his reactions have been volcanic. Setting a more successful course for the Presidency will depend, in part, on whether he fully accepts that critics who identify his shortcomings are capable of curtailing his power. When James P. Pfiffner, a political scientist at George Mason University, compared the White House crises that confronted Nixon, Reagan, and Clinton, he identified a perilous strain of confidence. In each case, Pfiffner found, the President could not “admit to himself that he had done anything wrong.” Nixon convinced himself that his enemies were doing the same things he was; Reagan dismissed the trading of arms for hostages as the cost of establishing relations with Iran; Clinton insisted that he was technically telling the truth. In Pfiffner’s view, “Each of these sets of rationalizations allowed the Presidents to choose the path that would end up damaging them more than an initial admission would have.”

Law and history make clear that Trump’s most urgent risk is not getting ousted; it is getting hobbled by unpopularity and distrust. He is only the fifth U.S. President who failed to win the popular vote. Except George W. Bush, none of the others managed to win a second term. Less dramatic than the possibility of impeachment or removal via the Twenty-fifth Amendment is the distinct possibility that Trump will simply limp through a single term, incapacitated by opposition.

The most likely scenario for him leaving office before his term is up is that he will decide being president is for losers and he’d rather be playing golf.  The problem with that is the country can’t wait for him to figure that out.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Amendment XXV, Section 4

There is not much likelihood that Trump will be impeached.  In practical matters, it’s not going to happen as long as the Republicans are in control of the House, which is where articles of impeachment originate.  The last two times that a president was either impeached or got close to it — Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon — the opposition party to the president was in the majority in the House.  In addition, the bar for impeachment is “high crimes and misdemeanors,” which basically means the president has to commit a criminal act.  Tweeting outrageous garbage at 3:00 a.m. is not a crime; if it were, a lot of people — especially jilted boyfriends — would be under indictment.

So what recourse have we?  Well, there’s the part where we can genuinely question whether or not the current president is capable of fulfilling his duties due to mental disease or disability.

Martin Longman writes:

There was a period of time when it was at least in doubt whether Trump was a genuine Birther or just a cynical one using the slander as a shrewd ploy to win political support from the far right. That debate should be settled now that we see him in office embracing theories concocted in the fever swamps of Breitbart and the Alex Jones InfoWars radio show. He isn’t sophisticated enough to understand the difference between mercenary partisan propaganda and actual news reporting. This is why he repeats things like the story that New Jersey muslims were celebrating the collapse of the Twin Towers and that millions of non-citizens (all) voting for Clinton cost him the popular vote.

He doesn’t just repeat these stories that are intended to deceive the audience and enrich the author, but he asks that the government actively investigate them.

And this is the stuff that actually does move Trump closer to being removed from office. Because, you can be sure that many, many Republicans are more than perturbed that they have to constantly apologize for or try to rationalize the president’s insupportable statements and theories. They know he’s a dangerous loose cannon. They know he can’t be trusted or even reasoned with. And they want to live to see their grandchildren.

There seems to be push back when anyone accuses the president of having a mental disorder or disability, as if to say so is to suggest that people with mental problems can’t be trusted to take positions of responsibility. People say it’s wrong to try to diagnose a person without having the proper credentials or the opportunity to closely interact with them as a patient.

This is taking things too far when it comes to the president of the United States who commands enough radioactivity to end sentient life on Earth. You don’t want me to say that the president has narcissistic personality disorder and is clearly insane?

Fine, how about this? It’s a bad idea to hand your three year old a loaded handgun. Saying so is not to disrespect three year olds or to dismiss all the wonderful things they’re capable of doing. If you hand your three year old a handgun and he pulls the trigger and kills someone, that’s entirely your fault. And if your see a three year old walking around with a loaded handgun, your responsibility is to immediately disarm them.

That’s the best analogy for our current situation. And it would be true even if the president were not ethically compromised beyond belief. It would be true even if he were not undermining the European Union, demoralizing NATO, and seemingly more interested in furthering Vladimir Putin’s foreign policy goals than the strength and unity of the West.

It’s not that Trump tweets and re-tweets wild and unsubstantiated stuff from conspiracy-theorists and hate groups.  It’s that he believes it.

There is a solution.  It’s not easy, and it will require the cooperation of people close to the president and who owe their current position to him.  But it’s there: Amendment XXV, Section 4.

Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.

The question remains, however, is what will it take to get them to use it.  By the time there’s a consensus among the principal officers, it could be too late.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

In This Corner

The House Republicans have trapped themselves with all this impeachment talk.

Boehner and other Republican leaders are now trying to walk an impossible tightrope. On one hand, they’re arguing that they have no interest in impeaching the president — they know that it would be a political catastrophe if they did — and any suggestion to the contrary is nothing but Democratic calumny. On the other hand, they’re arguing that Obama is a lawless tyrant who is trampling on the Constitution. If that contradiction has put them in a difficult situation, they have no one to blame but themselves.

Mr. Boehner says its all a “scam” started by the White House to raise money for Democrats and that no Republicans are talking about impeachment.  Well, except for these Republicans.  But that’s it.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Getting Out The Vote

Steve Benen on you-know-who’s call for Congress to impeach President Obama:

First, for a prominent Republican figure to use immigration as a rationale for presidential impeachment – just four months before the midterm elections – is pretty much the opposite the message the party establishment wants to convey. GOP lawmakers have already killed a popular, bipartisan immigration bill, alienating Latino voters nationwide, and now Sarah Palin is making matters worse, largely because her contempt for the president is unrelated to any kind of sensible electoral strategy.

Second, the more the party’s highest-profile personalities raise the volume on impeachment talk, the more it motivates the Democratic base to actually get in the game this fall (look up “1998, midterm elections”). Put it this way: who do you think is more excited about talking up Palin’s harangue this afternoon, the RNC or the DNC? I’m guessing the latter.


And so, with 118 days to go before the midterms, Republicans are increasingly positioning themselves as the anti-immigrant, anti-contraception, pro-impeachment party that shut down the government last year for no reason. The GOP, in other words, is practically begging the Democratic base to wake up, show up, and get engaged.

There must be some kind of psychosis in the G.O.P. that compels them to do everything they can to poison their own water and yet think they can get away with it at the ballot box.  Maybe it’s because they’ve rigged the system through gerrymandering congressional districts so that no matter how crappy Congress comes off to the electorate — right now a 10% approval score would be an upgrade — so many individual districts are in the hands of the hard-core base that a competitive election would be as rare as one in North Korea.  It gives them the feeling of invincibility, and all too often the Democrats have accommodated them by barely trying.

But now that the screaming reminder of G.O.P. incompetence (thank you, John McCain) is holding forth, perhaps the Democrats will seize the chance to exploit the fact that the threat of impeachment is no longer the mutterings of talk radio and the birthers.  She has laid this turd smack in the middle of the Republican salad bar.  Enjoy your lunch, Speaker Boehner.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Count On It

Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), soon to be retired, raised the possibility of impeaching President Obama over his immigration directive.

I’m kind of surprised it took this long for a comparatively balanced member of the GOP to bring it up. Of course, calling him “comparatively balanced” in a party that includes Michele Bachmann and Allen West sets the standard a little low, and with Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) going for the tin-foil-hat gun-control theory, merely suggesting impeachment is the moderate approach.

If President Obama wins a second term, though, bet on impeachment hearings to start in February 2013.

Count On It

Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), soon to be retired, raised the possibility of impeaching President Obama over his immigration directive.

I’m kind of surprised it took this long for a comparatively balanced member of the GOP to bring it up. Of course, calling him “comparatively balanced” in a party that includes Michele Bachmann and Allen West sets the standard a little low, and with Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) going for the tin-foil-hat gun-control theory, merely suggesting impeachment is the moderate approach.

If President Obama wins a second term, though, bet on impeachment hearings to start in February 2013.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Short Takes

Great Depression II — Jobless rate hits its highest level since 1992, and the economy is losing jobs faster than any time since the 1930’s.

Blagojevich Impeached — The Illinois House votes to impeach the governor, and he follows that up with a press conference that can only be described as either surreal or Marxist…as in Groucho.

Two Big Steps for Equality — “The House voted on Friday to give women powerful new tools to challenge sex discrimination by employers who pay women less than men for the same or substantially similar work.” President Bush said he would veto them, but President-elect Obama is “eager” to sign them.

Saving the Everglades — The Obama administration is seen as the hope that funding for Everglades restoration will be fully implemented after being slowed to a trickle by the Bush administration.

Want to Buy a Paper? The Seattle Post-Intelligencer has 60 days to find a buyer or Hearst will either make it web-only or cease publication.

Thomas Jefferson Says… P-I cartoonist David Horsey on the future of print media.

Green Stems Save Money — Florida is going to save $50,000 a year by changing the color of the stem on the orange blossom on the standard state license plate from brown to green. (Here’s an idea: how about they lose the stupid graphic design altogether? No wonder people buy the 100+ specialty plates.)

Happy to Be Here — Toledo and the Midwest are getting another big snowstorm.

Saturday Morning Cartoon — Tom and Jerry.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Dennis Quixote

From Raw Story:

An Ohio Democratic lawmaker and former presidential candidate has presented articles of impeachment against President George W. Bush to Congress.

Thirty-five articles were presented by Rep. Dennis Kucinich to the House of Representatives late Monday evening, airing live on C-SPAN.

“The House is not in order,” said Kucinich to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), upon which Pelosi pounded her gavel.

“Resolved,” Kucinich then began, “that President George W. Bush be impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors, and that the following articles of impeachment be exhibited to the United States Senate. …

“In his conduct while President of the United States, George W. Bush, in violation of his constitutional oath to faithfully execute the office of president of the United States, and to the best of his ability preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, has committed the following abuses of power…”

The first article Kucinich presented, and many that followed, regarded the war in Iraq: “Article 1 – Creating a secret propaganda campaign to manufacture a false case for war against Iraq.”

I don’t give his efforts much of a chance, and I’m sure a lot of people, including the Democratic leadership, view him as a crackpot, but I have to give Mr. Kucinich props for sticking to his principles, and if a blow job is worthy of articles of impeachment, certainly starting a war is worthy as well. And sometimes there are windmills worth tilting at.

Monday, November 26, 2007

When Republicans Had a Conscience

Vincent Rossmeier at looks back at the time when Republican members of Congress had other priorities than party loyalty and allegiance to a president of their party.

The Bush era has drawn various comparisons with the Nixon era, but what seems forgotten from that time is the courage exhibited by a handful of lawmakers, once fiercely loyal to the president, who ultimately decided to impeach him. In recent interviews with Salon, some of those former congressmen spoke about their reasons for risking their political career and taking a principled stand, the kind that seems so unlikely on Capitol Hill today.


One them was M. Caldwell Butler of Virginia. In Nixon’s 1972 landslide reelection, Butler’s district had voted 73 percent in Nixon’s favor. In an interview given for a 1984 PBS documentary titled “Summer of Judgment: The Impeachment Hearings,” Butler said that when the Judiciary Committee began its deliberations, he was “still very defensive of the president.” Yet, by the end of that summer, he became one of the decisive Republican votes that sealed Nixon’s fate.

Behind his large, Coke-bottle glasses, Butler gave a rousing and emphatic speech to the committee that today seems both resonant and remote:

If we fail to impeach, we have condoned and left unpunished a course of conduct totally inconsistent with the reasonable expectations of the American people. We will have condoned a presidential course of conduct designed to interfere with and obstruct the very process he has sworn to uphold. We will have condoned and left unpunished an abuse of power totally without justification. In short, a power appears to have corrupted. It is a sad period in American history, but I cannot condone what I have heard, I cannot excuse it and I cannot and will not stand still for it.

Now 82, Butler told Salon in a recent interview that impeachment was “warranted because of the president’s conduct.” From his perspective, the impeachment was never a partisan issue. “I didn’t have any problem separating the Republican problem,” he said. “It was my first term in Congress, and I wasn’t all that crazy about the job anyway … I think it would have been a terrible thing if we had decided to vote strictly along party lines in the committee.”

However, Butler did feel pressure from his constituency to vote against impeachment. “Everyone one of us Republicans and Southern Democrats were from areas that had strong Nixon support in the previous election, so we all felt in jeopardy.”

Other Republicans who voted for articles of impeachment were Tom Railsback of Illinois, William Cohen of Maine, Harold Froehlich of Wisconsin, Lawrence Hogan of Maryland, Robert McClory of Illinois and Hamilton Fish of New York.


It should not seem far-fetched for a politician to put conscience before party loyalty or political prospects. As Butler and Railsback put it, and as Mann Jr. said about his father, they and the other lawmakers who held Nixon accountable were only doing their job. But it is hard not to label their efforts as heroic in light of today’s inaction on Capitol Hill.

Near the close of the Watergate committee’s proceedings, James Mann Sr. issued a prophetic statement. He said, “If there be no accountability, another president will feel free to do as he chooses, but the next time, there may be no watchmen in the night.”

Of course, when the Republicans had the chance to impeach a president, they went at it hammer and tongs because as we all know, a blow job is much more of a threat to the Constitution than starting a war based on lies, instituting warrantless wiretapping, and condoning torture in violation of the UCMJ and the Geneva Convention. It was also all about Bill Clinton, and this time it’s our Dear Leader. But remember, IOKIYAR! (It’s OK If You’re A Republican.)

Thursday, July 26, 2007

A Practical Matter

Josh Marshall at TPM has been reluctant to raise the impeachment issue, and I must say that I have also been cool to the idea for practical and political reasons. But now Josh seems to be reconsidering the question.

As regular readers of this site know, I’ve always been against the movement to impeach President Bush. I take this position not because he hasn’t done plenty to merit it. My reasons are practical. Minor reasons are that it’s late in the president’s term and that I think impeachment itself is toxic to our political system — though it can be less toxic than the high officials thrown from office. My key reason, though, is that Congress at present can’t even get to the relatively low threshold of votes required to force the president’s hand on Iraq. So to use an analogy which for whatever reason springs readily to my mind at this point in my life, coming out for impeachment under present circumstances is like being so frustrated that you can’t crawl that you come out for walking. In various ways it seems to elevate psychic satisfactions above progress on changing a series of policies that are doing daily and almost vast damage to our country. Find me seventeen Republican senators who are going to convict President Bush in a senate trial.

On balance, this is still my position. But in recent days, for the first time I think, I’ve seen new facts that make me wonder whether the calculus has changed. Or to put it another way, to question whether my position is still justifiable in the face of what’s happening in front of our eyes.


Without going into all the specifics, I think we are now moving into a situation where the White House, on various fronts, is openly ignoring the constitution, acting as though not just the law but the constitution itself, which is the fundamental law from which all the statutes gain their force and legitimacy, doesn’t apply to them.

If that is allowed to continue, the defiance will congeal into precedent. And the whole structure of our system of government will be permanently changed.

Whether because of prudence and pragmatism or mere intellectual inertia, I still have the same opinion on the big question: impeachment. But I think we’re moving on to dangerous ground right now, more so than some of us realize. And I’m less sure now under these circumstances that operating by rules of ‘normal politics’ is justifiable or acquits us of our duty to our country.

It is definitely worth thinking about.

When Richard Nixon was facing impeachment over Watergate, his supporters — namely conservative Republicans — said that if we went down that road, future presidents would face impeachment for frivolous and trivial reasons. They were right; less than thirty years later we did impeach a president for what turned out to be frivolous and trivial reasons, and the charge was led by conservative Republicans who seemed determined to prove their point. (And they’ve taken most of the wind out of their own sails of saying that Mr. Clinton deserved impeachment for lying and obstructing justice when they said that Scooter Libby didn’t commit a crime worth prosecuting. More sauce for your gander, sir?) What I keep coming back to is the mercurial standards Mr. Bush’s defenders have for the rule of law. Simply put, the rules do not seem to apply to them, only to everybody else.

But that is just a tactic meant to obscure the larger issue: how far can our system be pushed before it breaks? The constitutional crisis we faced in 1974 seems almost quaint — to use a term favored by Mr. Gonzales — and the Nixon administration, for all its faults, knew when the jig was up. The attempts by Richard Nixon to attack his political enemies were ham-handed and delegated to a bunch of gonzo 007-wannabes and political hacks out of a bad made-for-TV remake of Seven Days in May. This time around, we have a very crafty and skilled operators who have made no secret of their goals and set about to accomplish their permanent one-party rule with breathtaking audacity. Karl Rove has never been coy about what his plans are, and when January 2009 comes along and he vacates the White House, he’ll find some other way…assuming he hasn’t engineered some way of repealing the 22nd Amendment.

The problem is that Mr. Rove chose the wrong horse to bet on. Had he backed a more skilled speaker or a smoother messenger — and one less easy to parody as a complete goof — than George W. Bush, he might have succeeded. And had be done a better job of vetting the enforcer than Dick Cheney, someone who is endowed with a natural charm more along the lines of Ronald Reagan instead of Severus Snape, he might have been able to get the message out to the point that the invasion of Iraq and the complete capitulation of the Democratic party was a fait accompli. But as we say in theatre, it’s all in the casting, and it’s the leads who will have to take the fall. That’s show biz.

And then there is the practical matter of getting our country back.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Why We Won’t Impeach Bush

Gary Kamiya makes the case that the American people aren’t ready to impeach President Bush because in doing so, we would be, as he puts it, “turning on ourselves.”

But there’s a deeper reason why the popular impeachment movement has never taken off — and it has to do not with Bush but with the American people. Bush’s warmongering spoke to something deep in our national psyche. The emotional force behind America’s support for the Iraq war, the molten core of an angry, resentful patriotism, is still too hot for Congress, the media and even many Americans who oppose the war, to confront directly. It’s a national myth. It’s John Wayne. To impeach Bush would force us to directly confront our national core of violent self-righteousness — come to terms with it, understand it and reject it. And we’re not ready to do that.

Mr. Kamiya is correct: the case against Mr. Bush is based on the fact that he used the most powerful weapon this nation has — war — and abused it horribly. But he did what we wanted him to do: get revenge for the attacks of September 11, 2001. Even the most pacifist among us felt it; that primal urge to strike back. Who could look at those smoldering ruins and not want it, somehow, some way? There is no doubt that the majority of Americans, including the liberals, felt the attack on the Taliban in Afghanistan was justified; that was where the perpetrators of the attack lived. But that did not satiate the bloodlust, especially when we didn’t get Osama bin Laden, and that made us vulnerable. Regardless of the realities that we all knew about Iraq, in spite of the tortured history of the country and the intense hatred between sects and so on, ignoring the fact that it was clear that some in the administration (Rumsfeld and Cheney) had a hard-on for war with Saddam Hussein regardless of what happened in Afghanistan or the fact that there was no connection whatsover between the two, we allowed them to go on. And if the neocons were right and we were greeted as liberators and democracy had bloomed in the desert, President Bush would be regarded as a world-class hero and all of the lies, the misinterpretations, and the exaggerations would be forgotten. The anti-war protesters would be seen as cranks and appeasers — which is still the stance a lot of Bush supporters take today in spite of the new smoldering ruins around them. We — all of us — were the enablers, and the votes come back to haunt us.

It also has to do with the fact that the Democrats, unlike the Republicans, have an inborn sense of fairness and an aversion for going for the jugular. The Democrats sigh and talk about impeachment not with a sense of political revenge but with sadness. Even in going after their nemesis Richard Nixon, they did it not with the furious and self-righteous outrage that Henry Hyde and Newt Gingrich paraded for us in the Clinton case but with an appeal to reason and the rule of law. The Republicans are very good at gathering their forces and marching ahead with the strict discipline of soldiers — or fanatics — and if there is any self-doubt or wavering within the ranks, they keep it to themselves. John Wayne never broke a sweat or wondered if he was doing the right thing, and if the GOP is going to drive off a cliff in pursuit of something like revenge for September 11 or go after someone like Bill Clinton, by golly they’re going to do it like Thelma and Louise in the T-bird.

So the Democrats are willing to let the Bush presidency die on its own and in the process do whatever collateral damage it inflicts on the GOP. The danger is that we face the real possibility of the Bush administration’s “last throes,” as Mr. Cheney once notoriously said about the insurgency in Iraq. If the scandal over the U.S. attorneys is any indication, there is a lot of internal damage that has been inflicted that will remain long after the Bushies head back to wherever it is they came from, and restoring the trust and favor of the citizens, not to mention the rest of the world, will take a long time. But considering the fact that an impeachment trial would bring our government — by that I mean the mundane things like budgets and the hundreds of little things that go on –to a grinding halt, and that Mr. Bush would have no reason to restrain his dictatorial — excuse me, “unitary executive” — urges, we are better off letting him twist slowly in the wind than make him a martyr to every crank and crackpot that thinks Mr. Bush is Jesus Christ on a pogo stick.

But he’s not home free yet. The culture of spin is also the culture of spectacle, and a sudden, theatrical event — a lurid accusation made by a former official, a colorful revelation of a very specific and memorable Bush lie — could start the scandal machine going full speed. Even the war card cannot be played indefinitely. If Bush were to withdraw the troops from Iraq, and the full dimensions of America’s defeat were to become apparent, all of his war-president potency would backfire and he would be in much greater danger of being impeached. Congress and the media both gain courage as the polls sink, and if Bush’s numbers continue to hit historic lows, they will turn on him with increasing savagery. If everything happens just so, the downfall of the House of Bush could be shocking in its swiftness.

That would work, too.