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The Delinquent Congress

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The Administration of George Bush has, in effect, suspended the Constitution of the United States. At Guantánamo in Cuba, in military prisons in the United States, and in secret detention facilities abroad, American citizens and non-citizens are being held without charge, without counsel, without prospect of a jury trial, in violation of the Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and Eighth articles of the Bill of Rights. These rights apply to all persons under United States jurisdiction. The word "citizen" appears nowhere in the Bill of Rights. The same Administration has conducted warrantless surveillance of American citizens in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the Bill of Rights, and despite an explicit order of the Supreme Court to cease and desist. And the Administration, in violation of ratified treaties which have the force of law (Article Six of the Constitution), is engaged in an undeclared war against a non-threatening nation, and is torturing prisoners. The treaties are, respectively, the Nuremberg Accords and the Geneva Conventions. The President, upon signing Congressional legislation, issues "signing statements" which state, in effect, that he can, at his discretion, ignore the legislation above his signature. And he has issued a "directive" that, in event of some unspecified "emergency" so designated by himself, he can assume dictatorial powers. Nor is this the end of it. As most readers are well aware, there have been numerous additional illegal acts by the Bush Administration, including the "outing" of a covert intelligence officer, obstruction of justice, and lying to the Congress and the American people. The institution best situated to put an end to these crimes and to hold the criminals accountable to the rule of law is the Congress of the United States, each member of which has taken an oath to "protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." Five months into its new term, the Congress now in control of the Democratic party has done essentially nothing to restore the rule of law and the supremacy of the Constitution. The initial decisive act leading to that end might be as simple as the passage of this two sentence resolution:
"The Congress of the United States hereby affirms that the Constitution is the supreme law of the United States. Accordingly, any and all legislation and executive orders in violation of the Constitution are null and void."
The word "affirms" is crucial, for it states that at no time was the Constitution legally "in suspension," and thus any legislation or acts by the Bush administration in violation thereof were at all times illegal and invalid. Accordingly, the word "restoration" must be avoided in such a resolution. The Democrats should bring this resolution to a vote, and dare the Republicans to vote against it. The GOP would doubtless resist by calling it a "meaningless political stunt," and would struggle to prevent an open vote. But if it were to be brought to a vote, who would dare go on record with a denial that the Constitution is the supreme law of the land? And if such a resolution were to pass both houses of Congress, it should be immediately followed by other resolutions specifying the implications of that first resolution. Namely,
** It is affirmed that all US citizens and other individuals under US jurisdiction enjoy the protection of Habeas Corpus, as specified in Article 1, Section 9 of the Constitution. **Therefore, all persons in custody at Guantánamo and other prisons must either be charged with a crime and given a fair trial, or released. Following that, the Guantánamo facility must be closed and all "renditions" of prisoners to other countries cease. **All torture of so-called "enemy combatants" must cease immediately. **All provisions of the Patriot Act and the Military Provisions Act in violation of the protections of the Constitution must be declared null and void. **Acts of Congress signed by the President have the status of law, and signing statements have no legal status whatever.
In addition, the Congress should act upon the following:
**Cite Attorney General Gonzales for perjury, obstruction of justice and contempt of Congress. Then proceed with his impeachment. **End the funding of the Iraq occupation, except for the funds required for the prompt withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. **Proceed with investigations and then indictments for war profiteering, with special attention directed toward Halliburton and its ex-CEO, Dick Cheney. **At long last, investigate election fraud by e-voting machines, intimidation, and voter disenfranchisement (e.g., through "caging lists"). **Above all, issue bills of impeachment of Bush and Cheney, followed by investigations, hearings and open debate.
Impeachment is being resisted by "practical" Democratic politicians on the grounds that even if it succeeded in the House, conviction and removal from office would surely fail in the Senate. I am not at all certain of this, in view of what might result from the House investigations and debate. But this objection misses the point. Ultimate conviction and removal may be less important than the impeachment process and the evidence and prosecution case that would result from it. Once the high crimes and misdemeanors of Bush and Cheney are brought to light, those who vote against impeachment in the House and conviction in Senate may pay a high price at the polls. In the meantime, what is the progressive citizen and voter to do? Both parties have betrayed the trust of the American public and have violated their oaths to protect and defend the Constitution. Thus those of us who are justifiably disgusted with both parties, are faced with daunting dilemma: One the one hand, should we punish the Democrats by voting for third parties? Such a decision serves to keep the Republicans in power which would keep the culprits forever unaccountable for their crimes. On the other hand, should we vote for the Democrats, as the lesser of the evils? If so, the party might construe this as public approval of its delinquent behavior. With much reluctance and regret, I would opt for the latter alternative, all the while putting a well-deserved scare into the ranks of the "establishment" Democrats. Most immediately, all Democrats who voted for Bush's Iraq resolution and otherwise collaborated with the outlaw regime should be challenged in the primaries. A few might lose their seats to such challenges, though most would not. But even if the challenges fall short, strong showings at the polls by the progressive challengers will send a message: we the people are here, we protest, and we demand to be heard. If that protest fails to reform the Democrats, then perhaps it will be time to look to third parties. The Democrats must understand that this remains a live option. Finally, progressives must take a lesson from the religious right and take over the Democratic Party from the bottom up. Get active in local and state party activities, send progressives to the state conventions and then to the national convention. Far better to take control of an existing major party organization than to attempt to build a national organization for a minor party. The good news for the Democrats is that public approval of Bush is down to around thirty percent. The bad news is that the public approval of the Democratic Congress is not much above that: thirty-seven percent, down from forty-four percent in April. And the worst news is that this poor and declining public opinion of the Democratic Congress is well-deserved. There is no other way to put it: the Congressional Democratic leadership (with a few honorable exceptions) has failed the American public and has violated its oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. We must demand that they wake up and do their duty, assuring them that if they do, they will earn the respect and support of their constituents. Copyright 2007, by Ernest Partridge
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Dr. Ernest Partridge is a consultant, writer and lecturer in the field of Environmental Ethics and Public Policy. Partridge has taught philosophy at the University of California, and in Utah, Colorado and Wisconsin. He publishes the website, "The (more...)

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