The Case for Supporting Impeachment
A Proposal from the Central Florida ACLU to all Florida Chapters
As you know, on November 20, 2007, the ACLU Board of Central Florida approved a Resolution in support of impeachment proceedings against President Bush and Vice President Cheney. The language of the Resolution is as follows:
The ACLU Board of Central Florida urges the Florida State ACLU Board to encourage the ACLU National Board to lobby the House of Representatives to file, without delay, articles of impeachment against George Bush, President, and Richard Cheney, Vice President, for grave and repeated violations of the U.S. Constitution. We urge the Florida State Board to persuasively communicate this vote to the ACLU National Board.
The vote in favor of the Resolution was not taken lightly. The board discussed the litany of constitutional violations committed by Bush and Cheney since 2000. In addition, the board discussed the decision by the ACLU of Southern California on November 14, 2007 to support impeachment hearings against Bush and Cheney. Finally, the board discussed Jeanne Baker and Howard Simon's comments regarding impeachment in their e-mail of November 20, 2007. After considering the above, and with only three board members absent from the meeting, the Resolution was approved by all the board members present.
The Central Florida Board would like to take this opportunity to explain why we made this decision. Furthermore, we would like to address the concerns and positions raised by Jeanne and Howard in their e-mail, which has already been circulated around the state in anticipation of this proposal. Most importantly, the Central Florida Board urges all of the Florida Chapters to consider our Case for Supporting Impeachment and to sign on to the above Resolution.
"We seek to provide you a means by which to effect the peaceful overthrow of a tyranny. There should be no mistake about it, a usurper has acquired power in America. He seeks to make it absolute. He and his aides lie to us on television and berate us for our disbelief. He speaks to us flanked by a photograph of family and our flag which he wears on his lapel. Beside him stares a bust of Abraham Lincoln. He confesses to crimes against the Constitution and believes he speaks of exoneration..."
The words above are the opening lines of an ACLU pamphlet written by Charles J. Morgan, Jr., the National Legislative Director of the ACLU in 1973, concerning the impeachment of Richard Nixon. Coincidentally, a few months after the publication of this pamphlet, the House Judiciary Committee rapidly recommended three Articles of Impeachment against Nixon for obstruction of justice, abuse of power, and contempt of Congress. Confronted with probable impeachment and removal by Congress, President Nixon resigned shortly thereafter.
In retrospect, the violations committed by the Nixon Administration seem quaint in comparison to the graver violations committed by the Bush Administration. A casual glance at our ACLU national website provides ample documentation of the Bush Administration's evisceration of our Nation's Charter: torture and abuse of prisoners, extraordinary rendition, warrantless surveillance, the elimination of habeas corpus, the politicization of the Department of Justice, and more than a dozen unanswered congressional subpoenas issued on these and other topics. Articles of Impeachment for obstruction of justice, abuse of power, contempt of Congress, and on other grounds are certainly in order on these violations alone.
The documentation on our national website concerning the abovementioned impeachable offenses is such that it requires no further elaboration here. Consequently, the question should not be, "Why Impeachment?" Instead, the proper question should be, "Why Not Impeachment?"
Principles over Politics
"It cannot be stressed strongly enough or often enough that Representatives who do not move to impeach, and who thereby fail to bring President Nixon to trial, are accomplices to a cover-up." - Charles J. Morgan, Jr., the National Legislative Director of the ACLU, October 1973.
A few national pundits have amused their readers by attempting to imagine under what conditions President Bush and Vice President Cheney could be impeached. It is difficult to imagine, after all, since they have nearly exhausted the gamut of major constitutional offenses and have yet to face a serious impeachment threat. Even a tacit policy of ethnic cleansing, which has been adopted by the Bush Administration for the Sunni-Shia civil war in Iraq, has been accepted in our country with hardly a whimper, let alone with the outrage that such a criminal policy deserves. Perhaps only a full-blown act of genocide committed by Bush and Cheney would merit serious consideration for impeachment. However, given the cynicism that characterizes much of our nation's current political climate, even an act of genocide could go unpunished.
The ACLU's stated mission is to preserve the protections and guarantees provided by the Bill of Rights plus the three post-Civil War amendments and the 19 th Amendment. When faced with serious abuses of these protections and guarantees in the 1970s, the ACLU acted to correct these violations by, among other things, aggressively supporting the impeachment of Nixon. This decisive action won the ACLU a great deal of credibility as well as many new members dedicated to defending the Constitution.
The November 20, 2007 e-mail sent by Jeanne Baker and Howard Simon urges Florida Chapters to ask an altogether different question from the question above. The e-mail summarizes the national ACLU's opposition to taking an organizational stance on impeachment. The e-mail raises several important arguments that we have first summarized and then addressed below:
1. Bush and Cheney are indeed guilty of constitutional crimes, but Congress has also aided and abetted in the commission of these crimes.