The revelations in Scott McClellan’s new book are not new to those who have been following the Bush Administration from the outset. The question is why was it news to McClellan? As press secretary, shouldn’t he, at least once in a while, have read some of the news coming from outside of the mainstream, even if it was considered to be a left-wing perspective? Does the word “press” in his title have no meaning? Was he merely a "secretary" taking dictation?
Regardless of the labels foisted upon the blogs and news outlets outside of the mainstream, McClellan has now confirmed what these outlets already reported and he consistently and vehemently denied. McClellan, a former insider, an integral part of the Bush A team, a man who was viewed by the President as a friend, claims that he was misled, and by the way, so was the President. And further, it was of course the fault of the press who didn’t ask tough enough questions and didn’t question the assumptions that he himself presented as bullet-proof facts. This accusation, from the press secretary who often wouldn’t even take questions from the White House press corps, dismissing them as irrelevant, is as hollow as the talking points McClellan happily repeated for the Administration week after week.
The mainstream media continue their meek mea culpa and continue to repeat the same talking points: if we knew then what we know now, yadda yadda, yadda. Rather than fill the media chatter with more minutia about who manipulated the press and by how much, I suggest a different route: The revelations in McClellan’s book mandate a new look at impeachment.
With eight months to go, Bush & Co. still has time to do more damage: Iran has yet to be “conquered,” the FEC has yet to be further corrupted, FISA still hangs like a chad waiting for the next tortured rationale. While the Republicans are fighting for retroactive immunity for their favorite lobbyists, we should not be granting retroactive immunity to Bush, Cheney and the rest of the gang who brought us endless war, endless debt, broken policies, broken government, and everything but compassion, never mind the “conservative” part.
While there might be enough evidence and support to charge Bush & Co with war crimes after they leave office, the likelihood of that happening is nil. It’s simply not going to happen, no matter what anyone promises now and no matter who’s in office. Even Obama (a Constitutional scholar in his own right), should he be elected, will as his first order of business move to bring the country together, a reconciliation of sorts. He will not allow a political environment that will set in action a Republican faction that will automatically oppose him, accuse him and the Democrats (no matter how many new seats they win) of being vindictive, and noisily block everything on his agenda.
The time to take action is now, while the charges are still fresh and there’s time to call witnesses and bring the House down, if needed. If Congress gets caught up with hearings at the expense of other business, so what? What is more important than the accountability of an Administration run amok? Besides, what has Congress done lately that has not been bogged down? Everything Congress does these days is a fight, so why not this fight? Bush has historically low ratings and Congress is even worse. Congress will not lose on this account, although that seems to be how they perceive it. At this point on the calendar, the Democrats can't be accused of political payback or of launching a vendetta for Clinton. It's not about regime change; it's about accountability.
We don’t have to revisit all the reasons for impeachment here; they’ve been out there for years. Below are a few web cites that give all the technical details for articles of impeachment. This is not an all-inclusive list; there are plenty of others.
If Congress were actually tied up with impeachment hearings and Bush & Co. had to spend their time defending themselves, would they spend their political capital attacking Iran? It's a lot less likely than if they are left to their own devices and continue to spend their capital on the election, perhaps including an October surprise to bolster their chances of an incumbency.
If by some miracle, the next Congress actually decided to try Bush & Co for war crimes, there are still a host of issues that are considered impeachable offenses but may not be prosecutable crimes: Lying/misleading the public about the rationale for war while reprehensible and treasonous isn’t a criminal offense. Yes, lying under oath is a crime but going on national television and lying is not on the books.
McClellan’s claim, and it will be Bush’s defense should there ever be an impeachment hearing on this matter, is that the President was mislead by his advisors (including Cheney) and he didn’t know the truth. McClellan clearly saw his own role as defending the President, even if it meant keeping himself insulated. We know that those in the administration who offered alternative views were dismissed or fired. McClellan's good soldier did not include putting himself in the line of fire, but it does make it harder to reconcile the “I didn’t know about it” defense.
Leading the country to war on the basis of misleading information is at best incompetence. While incompetence, in and of itself isn’t impeachable, the sum total of all the Bush messes that will be left behind are wrapped in gross incompetence and incomprehensible negligence - high crimes and misdemeanors. In a word, they are impeachable offenses. But they are not necessarily criminal offenses that can be proved in court, regardless of who appointed the presiding judge.
Whether or not Bush was misled, as President he had/has the ultimate responsibility. If he knew what he was saying was untrue, he lied; if he didn’t know it was untrue, he wasn't doing his job. And while we can impeach a president for not doing his job, we can’t prosecute him for it – there’s no law against not doing one’s job well. The job performance review is at the ballot box or at the hands of the impeachment process. The market forces are usually assumed to take care of people who don’t do their jobs; in the real world they get fired. But in the world of Republican spin, misleading/lying, and propaganda strategies, they go on to live cushy lives, held up as heroes by their right-wing loyalists, hosting radio shows, lobbying for corporate clients, commanding big speaker fees, all while collecting pensions and health care benefits at the public till; they continue to believe that they are ennobled and entitled.
Let’s be clear. The window of opportunity is short. After January, Bush and his cohorts will walk out of that oval office never to be called to the carpet. The next administration will have to play clean up and we the people will suffer the effects for a very long time. But the worst effect will be the legacy of a government that is not accountable to its people, a government that can lie as easily as it can tell the truth without suffering any consequences, a government that can substitute fiction for fact without it being duly noted on page 1 of every major news outlet, a government that can spend all of its time on electioneering instead of on policy-making while pretending to be busy at work for the people, a government that can appoint cronies that turn a functioning civil service into a political machine and then claim government doesn't work – all while a passive electorate and cowed Congress stand by and watch as a bunch of thugs dictates their own policy and quell dissent.