I'm having a bipolar moment. Suddenly there's two "me's" and they're at each other's throat in my head.
The "me" that wants to see the guilty punished rejoiced yesterday when it learned that Democrats, Rep. Dennis Kucinich and Rep. Robert Wexler, had introduced articles of impeachment against George W. Bush. (PDF of Kucinich's artles of impeachment)
For seven long years I've watched with heart-sinking amazement as this administration violated the US Constitution, common law, international law, treaties and even the rights of its own citizens -- and got away with it. Not a day has gone by over those years I did not wonder, often out loud, why congress or the judiciary didn't step up to the plate and put a stop to it.
But no one did. Even when Democrats retook the House and Senate, the first thing they did was declare -- almost pridefully -- that "impeachment was off the table." It was like a fire chief announcing that "response to house fires is off the table," or a district attorney declaring that "rape prosecutions are off the table."
Congress -- a Democratic congress nonetheless -- abdicated its central "balance of powers," authority to the executive branch. By so doing congress actually aided and abetted the administration in what historians will likely consider nothing short of an an executive branch coup d’état.
That would have been bad enough if congress had relinquished it's policing powers to a benevolent dictator. But they granted those extraordinary powers to a gang of intellectual, political and imperialistic thugs. History will not be kind to most of those who served in congress during these days of infamy. Congress failed us, failed the nation, failed our founders and failed themselves. And the price we and the rest of the world has paid for that has yet to be fully accounted, as the cost in lives, treasure and credibility mount by the hour.
Yesterday's impeachment news, therefore, was the first glimmer of righteous courage I've seen in seven years out of that bunch. The "me" who knows that O.J. Simpson is guilty of a double homicide, is the "me" that sat up straight yesterday and felt a surge of pride and anticipation that finally the lawbreakers in the White House might indeed see their day in the dock.
That's when the other "me" grabbed the first "me" by the throat shouting, "What the hell are you trying to do you moron, lose the November election in the name of a few revenge jollies?"
The other "me" continued.
"This is the last goddamn thing we need right now. Remember how angry most sane Americans were when the Republicans impeached Bill Clinton? They saw it as a petty political game that tied up congress and the nation's business for months, wasted tens of millions of dollars and, in the end failed to remove Clinton from office. Is that how you want voters to feel about Democrats next November?"
But, the first "me' retorted, "These guys committed certifiable crimes. If we let them leave office scott free we will have set a precedent that will hang, like a Sword of Damocles, over the constitution and nation from that day forth. Is that what you want?"
And so the argument went on back and forth, back and forth, and continues as I write these words. Both sides have entirely defensible positions. If we let the Bushies walk free on January 20, 2009 the world will have to conclude that America is not after all "a land of laws, not men." Men would have trumped the law. And we're not talking about just a narcissistic, washed up athlete getting away with murder, but the most powerful men and women on earth -- America's top leadership.
Then again, if impeachment gains traction it would consume all the media oxygen for the entire summer and fall. It would also upstaging both party conventions and the presidential campaign that follows. Then what? How would voters feel about Democrats if their impeachment efforts tie congress and the nation in knots for the last six months of the administration, while the war lurches on and the economy enters free-fall?
What if voters take out their anger about all that on Democrats, by voting for McCain and returning more Republicans to the House and Senate? That would sure trump the momentary satisfaction impeachment provided. Impeachment would have failed. That precedent I was worried about would still be set, and we'd have at least four more years of the same.
So here I find myself, stuck between doing the right thing and doing the smart thing. But writing all this down seems to have clarified things a bit. I'm now leaning toward doing the smart thing.... though I'm not happy about it.
I guess the bottom line is this; congress had the chance to do the right thing years ago, but didn't. Impeachment should have been on the table the very moment it was learned that the administration lied to justify launching an unprovoked war in Iraq. Or, if not then, then when it was learned that the administration had been illegally spying on its own citizens, or when it was learned it had authorized torture, kidnappings, secret prisons.