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Impeachment: Whither or wither?

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Message Irv Thomas
Red states, blue states, and now . . . purple?

For nearly 75 years I had felt that no matter what the color, of skin or of statehood, Americans had one common agreement: in the principles of the Constitution. But during the Bush reign, I have come to see that conviction as a delusion. Driven by fear, driven by the 'needs' of capital, the thirst for oil, and who knows what other considerations, we were betrayed by an (un)elected government. Betrayed on the stated principles of that nearly sacred document.

Even worse, half the country (give or take some small portion . . . we shall never know how large, or on which side of the divide they actually fell) chose to stand with that government of betrayal. It was hard enough, to swallow the gradually revealed evidence of what our government did; but to learn that my chagrin and outright shock were only shared by half my countrymen, at most, was the more devastating revelation. For it meant that the country, itself, had been corrupted. As if it were an infected organism, possibly in danger of death.

In light of the circumstances, I took such hope as I could from the growing talk of impeachment and the many groups coordinating their 'last stand' activity to try and rescue the nation before it became too late. And as we now know, that coordinated effort, that very angry and forceful thrust of a people at last alerted to the stakes involved, has turned the tide.

Should I be surprised, now, that the impeachment thrust has been "taken off the table" by those in Congress who will be freshly calling the plays? Should I be willing to forgive and forget, for the sake of a suddenly viable bipartisanship, or for the kind of political decency so sorely and recently missed, or even for the purely political practicality of finally settling down and 'getting things done' in Congress?

I'm sadly afraid that matters had gone too far, for what would be a very convenient Republican fallback position. And it's not a case of revenge or payback, nor any such petty satisfaction I might be charged with. Plain and simple, the bar of the permissible had been crossed by the Bush administration too often and callously for any such easy out. They did not simply 'overstep' reasonable boundaries, they took absolutely unconstitutional liberties, again and again and again, heeding no call for restraint, allowing no quarter for dispute, and 'taking no prisoners,' as is often said of the deadly and remorseless.

The only possible justification for any restraint of impeachment proceedings would reside in the question of what serves the country best, and there are two paramount reasons why the nation's best interest can only be served by impeachment.

The first, of course, is the obvious one: If we do not impeach, we are certifying that what was done by this government in direct contravention of the Constitution, with foreknowledge and intent to bypass both law and historical tradition, is allowed to pass without punishment, thus setting a precedent that America must avoid at all cost, would we remain a viable nation in the cast of our claim to national honor and international respect.

The second is a pitfall of another sort, a gauntlet that we'd be politically wise to stay cautiously clear of between now and the presidential election of 2008. This recent election was actually won by a coalition that has not been fully recognized. Several anti-Republican factions worked together under the Democratic banner that may not remain congruent with each other, the next time around. It could depend on what takes place between now and then.

At present, there is a strong and growing movement for impeachment, and some three dozen in Congress who have already promoted it. Four books have been published this year on the topic, suggesting the significance of the rising tide, and it is not likely to slacken. There is also the Progressive Democrats of America (PDA), a splinter faction of the party, favoring much bolder action in Congress than has been evident up to now. It's led by one of the most stalwart dark horses in the party, Sen. Russ Feingold (WI). It is possibly significant that he recently decided against a 2008 presidential run, choosing to put his energies, instead, into a continuing development of the PDA.

What I am envisioning, in short, is that the seemingly solid Democratic Party could turn out, even in victory, to be something of an illusion if it comes down to the issue of whether or not there is to be an impeachment. The promise of impeachment (up to now) might very well be all that holds the party intact. Whether or not it comes to pass could certainly signal whether the Democrats field a unified team, the next time around - or whether another, and possibly foolhardy, third party shapes up.

My parting advice is to watch the developments in the coming months very closely, to see how this plays out, if you want an early signal as to what may lie ahead.
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Irv Thomas, ratrace escapee and cultural outsider for 35 years, editor of Black Bart Brigade during counter-culture days, hides out in Seattle. Presently putting out a sporadic pre-formatted email newsletter called Irv's Scrapbook, which can be had (more...)
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