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I know the Democratic leaders in Congress have said that impeachment is "off the table", but that is one campaign promise that should not be kept. Oversight of the Bush Administration is not enough.
How do you oversee a torture program? How do you oversee "extraordinary renditions" and secret prisons? How do you oversee the destruction of the U.S. Constitution? What is Congress going to do when Bush starts bombing Iran--watch closely?
You don't oversee these kinds of things. You stop them. That is why the Founding Fathers wrote impeachment into our Constitution.
The power of impeachment was one of the first proposals presented to the Constitutional Convention in 1787. The Founding Fathers felt it was important enough to mention it six times in the Constitution and once more in an amendment. They believed the new government needed a strong executive, but having just thrown off the rule of one King, they did not want another one--even an elected one.
"An elective despotism was not the government we fought for; but one in which the powers of government should be so divided and balanced among the several bodies of magistracy as that no one could transcend their legal limits without being effectually checked and restrained by the others." -- James Madison, 4th U.S. President and "Father of the Constitution"
Guilt, wherever found, ought to be punished. The executive will have great opportunities of abusing his power, particularly in time of war, when the military force, and in some respects the public money, will be in his hands. Should no regular punishment be provided, it will be irregularly inflicted by tumults and insurrections. --Edmund Randolph, First Attorney General to serve under the Constitution, The Debates on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution, as reported by James Madison, 1787
Only two American Presidents have been impeached:
In 1868, Andrew Johnson was impeached for firing his Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton, thus violating the newly passed Tenure of Office Act, which required Senate approval before the President could replace a Cabinet member. Johnson believed the Act was unconstitutional, and enough Senators must have agreed because they acquitted him and he remained in office. (The Tenure of Office Act was repealed in 1887.)
In 1998, after a six-year, $40 million investigation by Special Prosecutor Kenneth Starr, the House of Representatives impeached Bill Clinton for perjury and obstruction of justice in his grand jury testimony about an adulterous affair with an intern (which had nothing to do with his official duties). In February 1999, the U.S. Senate acquitted Clinton and the world had a good laugh at our expense.
In both of these cases, the Constitutional power of impeachment was used for partisan political purposes, rather than as a punishment for "high crimes and misdemeanors", as proposed by the Founders.
The system worked as intended in 1974, when the House Judiciary Committee approved articles of impeachment against President Richard Nixon, charging him with obstruction of justice, illegal wire-tapping, refusing to turn over information subpoenaed by Congress, lying to the public and other abuses of power related to the cover-up of White House involvement in the "Watergate" burglary.
Nixon avoided certain impeachment by becoming the first and only President to resign. (Note: It was Republican leaders in Congress who told Nixon he "had to go"--an obvious example of pre-9/11 thinking, when the good of the nation trumped partisan politics and the Constitution was still the law of the land.)
Today, America finds itself with a President who has committed all same impeachable offenses as Nixon, and many, many more.
"For all the reasons Nixon was nearly impeached, George W. Bush could be impeached too. He has openly engaged in illegal, unconstitutional, warrantless spying, and -- while Congress has not yet used subpoenas -- Bush has obstructed its investigations, refused to comply with Freedom of Information Act requests, and broken a variety of laws in the course of exacting retribution against whistleblowers, producing false reports, and establishing a regime of secrecy of a sort that Nixon could only dream about". -- David Swanson, co-founder of the AfterDowningStreet.org coalition, The Black Commentator, 10/26/06
"Bush's abuses of presidential power are the most extensive in American history. He has launched an aggressive war ("war of choice," in today's euphemism) on false grounds. He has presided over a system of torture and sought to legitimize it by specious definitions of the word. He has asserted a wholesale right to lock up American citizens and others indefinitely without any legal showing or the right to see a lawyer or anyone else. He has kidnapped people in foreign countries and sent them to other countries, where they were tortured." --Jonathan Schell, The Nation via Common Dreams, December 22, 2005
The Bush Administration would like us to believe that the future of the United States and the world hangs on the outcome of Bush's war on Iraq. It does not. The future of the United States actually depends on the willingness of our representatives to set aside their partisan differences and re-establish their place as a co-equal branch of government.
The impeachment of George W. Bush and his co-conspirators is a matter of principle that Congress can no longer ignore. The United States of America was founded on principles. Our adherence to the rule of law and our respect for human rights were what set us apart from other nations of the world--up until now.
If there was ever a President who needed to be impeached, it is George W. Bush.
"[The Founding Fathers] understood that there would be a George Bush. And they said: American people, you have a remedy. We're giving you a remedy. It's 200 years old. It's called impeachment. That's designed to remove a President who threatens our Constitution and subverts our democracy." --Elizabeth Holtzman, Former Congresswoman who sat on the House Judiciary Committee which drafted articles of impeachment against President Nixon, BuzzFlash interview, 12/11/06
Mick Youther is an American citizen, an independent voter, a veteran, a parent, a Christian, a scientist, a writer, and all-around nice guy who has been aroused from a comfortable apathy by the high crimes and misdemeanors of the Bush Administration.