The first time, it was the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in late June that the president had violated the Constitution by asserting he had the power to ignore the Third Geneva Convention on Treatment of Prisoners of War-a treaty formally signed into law by the U.S. and made an integral part of the U.S. Criminal Code.
The important thing about these two rulings--and it is a point that the squeamish mainstream media have shied away from mentioning--is that they both are declaring the president to be a criminal. That is, he has been found in the first case to be in criminal violation of the Constitution, as well as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, and in the second, he has been found to be in violation of U.S. and International Law.
Note that when someone has committed a felony--say a bank robbery or a case of assault and battery or of murder--and when a court has found that person to be guilty of the crime in question, that person is from that moment hence considered a criminal. The case may be appealed to a higher court, but in the meantime, judgment has been rendered, and a penalty assigned.
The latest federal court decision, in a case brought by the ACLU, has reached the same conclusion, and on the same grounds. The president has been claiming that as commander in chief, he has the right to ignore both the FISA law passed by Congress and signed into law by President Jimmy Carter, and the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution. And a federal judge has again found that his claim is bogus. The president, the judge has declared, is bound by the Constitution to follow the letter of the law, and has criminally failed to do so.
Now there has been no penalty established in either of these crimes, serious as they are, because under the Constitution, the president cannot be convicted or punished by a court unless he is first impeached and removed from office, but the facts of his serial criminal behavior has been established.
What Bush and his administration have done in both of these cases falls clearly into that category. By claiming to be above the law and even above the Constitution, the president has in both the NSA spying case and in the Geneva Conventions case, claimed the power of an absolute despot. He has asserted that in time of war--including a so-called "war" on terror which clearly has nothing to do with an actual war--he operates without any checks and balances or any oversight.
He has twisted the role of commander in chief, which the Founders included in the powers of the presidency solely to insure that there would be a civilian responsible to the citizenry above any general, into the role of a generalissimo--a military ruler in charge of the entire nation.
The lock-step Republicans and spineless Democrats in Congress have not challenged this coup by lexicographical manipulation, but the judicial branch has thrown down the gantlet.
Now it is time for the People of the United States to follow up this action.
In November, all the members of the House of Representatives are up for election, along with one-third of the Senate.
The courts have spoken: this president is a criminal on multiple counts. Now the process moves to our elected representatives in Washington. No member of Congress who is unwilling to hold Bush and his accomplices to account and initiate impeachment proceedings against him for his crimes and violations of the Constitution should be returned to office in November.
Some critics have argued that impeachment is an unnecessary diversion from the task of government, since Bush will be gone in 2008 anyway. These people miss the point that leaving this president's crimes and constitutional affronts unchallenged and unpunished would enshrine his transgressions in the mantle of precedent, allowing the next president and her or his successors to pick up wherever Bush leaves off.
To do that would be to sign the death warrant for American democracy.