When America elected her first African American President in 2008, millions across the world wept over the promise made by his election about the possibility for individual achievement in a democratic republic founded upon the ideal that all men are created equal and endowed with certain unalienable rights. America, that most backward and racial of nations, had just elected a black man as President of the United States. The preacher had finally lived up to the promise.
Despite the past misdeeds of our nation, deeds worthy of a pox upon our house, whether we consider our treatment of the Native American, the African American, or our more recent forays into empire building, the world looked with awe at the American character, built over two centuries of idealistic struggle within our unique form of government. France, where racism toward African descendants is traditionally far less than in America, never elected an African French President, nor has England formed a government with an English African Prime Minister. No major industrial country had ever accomplished what the American people achieved in electing Barak Obama president. Hope that a new age had dawned not only swept across America, but across the face of the earth, as if the planet momentarily stopped and took the time to smile.
We know now, though, that the very same day the world welcomed the new President into office, a small group of powerful men, bent on his destruction, secretly met to design a plan to create economic and political chaos in America for the coming four years, solely for the purpose of regaining the House of Representatives in 2010, and the Presidency in 2012. According to the Huffington Post, reviewing Robert Draper's book, Do Not Ask What Good We Do: Inside The House Of Representatives, this meeting at "The Caucus Room," an expensive, Washington watering hole, lasted four hours, and fourteen of the GOP's most important and cutthroat politicos attended. The conspirators concluded not only would they attempt to win back power by any means necessary, but also they would oppose every policy initiative and every bill of any significance advanced by President Obama, and, by implication, whether the policy or bill forwarded the interests of the American public or not. As we now know, this plan included voting against legislation written and introduced by the Republicans themselves, or formerly supported by Republicans and opposed by the Democrats. As we know now, this agreement included refusing to raise the federal debt ceiling, or, in other words, refusing to authorize payment for expenses the very same Congress had previously voted to incur, which nearly led to a worldwide depression far worse than the "Great Depression" of the 1930's and caused the partial downgrade of America's triple "A" bond status. This all occurred while troops were in the field and the Commander-In-Chief conducted two separate wars, and played a leading role in a third.
Who were these miscreants that washed their hands in the blood of the American people? "According to Draper, the guest list that night (which was just over 15 people in total) included Republican Reps. Eric Cantor (Va.), Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), Paul Ryan (Wis.), Pete Sessions (Texas), Jeb Hensarling (Texas), Pete Hoekstra (Mich.) and Dan Lungren (Calif.), along with Republican Sens. Jim DeMint (S.C.), Jon Kyl (Ariz.), Tom Coburn (Okla.), John Ensign (Nev.) and Bob Corker (Tenn.). The non-lawmakers present included Newt Gingrich, several years removed from his presidential campaign, and Frank Luntz, the long-time Republican wordsmith. Notably absent were Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) -- who, Draper writes, had an acrimonious relationship with Luntz."
Of course, to meet to plan a way for a political party to regain power merits little attention from law enforcement. Such meetings likely occur daily somewhere in our country. However, when the clear purpose of the meeting is determined to be to act against the best interests of the American public in its entirety, no matter the merit of the bill or policy initiative, and to violate en masse their Oaths of Office, one must ask if the end result of such a meeting might be considered a conspiracy to commit treason, a conspiracy of the willing, as the George W. Bush administration might put it. When conspirators gather and agree to purposely harm the public, or the public purse, particularly in time of war and international economic crisis, one must ask whether it is mere partisanship we sense, or the more rarefied scent of treason that lingers in the halls of Congress. What is the difference between planning to win the next election and conspiring to intentionally collapse the American economy, if necessary, merely so the conspirators' party can regain the Office of the Presidency? On such razor sharp edges the Republicans decided to dance.
Conspiracy is a crime in itself. It is an agreement between two or more persons to engage together in a criminal act or an innocent act that becomes criminal when other members of the conspiracy carry out their assigned roles. Many states also add a requirement that the prosecution prove the defendant committed at least one overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy. The conspiracy need not succeed for the defendant to be found guilty. .
Treason in the United States is addressed specifically in Article III, Section 3, of our Constitution, which provides:
Treason against the
United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering
to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of
Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on
Confession in open Court.
The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.
Interestingly enough, the Constitution fails to make treason a crime, but only defines and limits it. The job of criminalizing treason and determining the punishment for it is left to the discretion of the Congress. That job falls to 18 U.S.C. Section 2381, of the United States Code (the U.S.C. part of the citation). Section 2381 provides:
whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.
Between the Constitution and 18 U.S.C. Section 2381, the United States probably has the narrowest definition of treason among all of the nations in the world. Breaking the crime down into the basic elements needed for conviction, we find: (1) the alleged traitor must owe allegiance to the United States, (2) he or she must levy war against the states, or (3) he or she must adhere to the enemies of the states, giving them aid and comfort.
So, if a group of current and former, elected, Republican leaders met and formed a plan to intentionally weaken the American economy in time of war, that meeting might be said to be a conspiracy of individuals with clear duties of allegiance to the United States either agreeing to an act of war against the states or agreeing to give enemies of the United States aid and comfort. On the other hand, the conspirators must also "adhere" to the enemies of the United States. To the founders, "adhere" meant "to believe in," as one is an adherent to Islam or to Laissez-Faire Capitalism or to the Republican Party platform.
These men fail the test for adherence to the enemy, most will say, since the enemy is a tactic: terrorism. A decent prosecutor could argue that threatening to default on the country's debt obligations implies a certain adherence to the tactic of terrorism. That case, however, hangs by a thin thread, one unlikely to turn into a noose. Even if one makes the current conflict more specific, as against radical Islam, for instance, instead of just terrorism, one still fails to find the necessary adherence. Thus, we are left with whether the conspiracy contemplated an act of war against the states, and whether an overt act with two witnesses can be proved. In some ways, the crash and burn plan using default on the debt limit to extort the executive branch does qualify as an act of war against the states. Although the likelihood of conviction on that basis is extremely low, given the way the American people feel about Congress right now, one cannot presume any result in a treason trial as a foregone conclusion. But the result is not what is important. And it is here where Democrats and Progressives differ profoundly from Republicans.