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The Rule of Law (and the DCCC)

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James Brett
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The idea of a republic—a representative democracy—founded on the principle of a Rule of Law emerged from an historical situation in which the "rule of men" was the alternative.  King George III of England and his principal ministers were the rulers, the "deciders," the people who did what they thought best, regardless of the opinions of others.  The increasing aversion to rule of men became focused on the King, and surely his wish was the command of the many, including high-placed ministers and functionaries and generals, admirals, and the like.  In a sense, this focus is misleading and is currently misleading us. The Rule of Law is an imperative, like one of those categorical imperatives described by Immanuel Kant.  Categorical imperatives are non-relativistic, despite the fact that much in life has become "relative."  This means that a categorical imperative must be obeyed because it has been shown a priori to be necessary that it be obeyed at all times and in all places regardless of the the circumstances. "Thou shalt not take the life of another human being," is not a categorical imperative, but "Thous shalt not commit murder," is.  This is not finicky parsing of words; it is understanding the difference between categories of thought.  Something that has sadly become rare in these awful times.

Murder has its various jurisdictional definitions and these definitions hang on a complex of related thoughts, which boil down to the reason and intent for the act.  Invariably, the definition of murder involves the breaking of a pre-established law.  In that sense "murder" is predicted and prohibited.  There is no murder involved in the killing of passengers in an airline accident, for there is no law requiring airlines to have 100% certainty of absolute safety, only reasonable probability of successful flight, such probabilities as described in almost endless rules and doctrines, manuals, and procedures.  Likewise, the taking of life in the conduct of warfare is not considered murder by most countries, for if it were then military personnel would be guilty of the war crime of murder. 

Letting someone get away with what is proved to be "murder" is the subject of this essay.  The question is "Is the categorical nature of imperatives commutative to the enforcement in society of them."  In other words, is there a categorical imperative that says "Thou shalt not allow a person to avoid prosecution for murder?"

Notice that I have used the term "prosecute" rather than "convict," "hang," or any other deciding or final event.  I mean to make a great deal of this momentarily, so be sure that you understand that "prosecute" is very short hand for "assert and then prove or disprove by an orderly review of the knowable facts." 

My answer to the question is yes: allowing a person to avoid prosecution for any crime, including murder, is an imperative.  It means that there is no choice in this circumstance, the very foundation of civilization and society depends on everyone being confident that the crime will be prosecuted.  To put it slightly differently and commutatively, if the crime is not prosecuted, then a crime extends to the person or persons whose failure to prosecute it was.  In yet other words, the failure to prosecute the President and the Vice President of the United States for treason or high crimes and misdemeanors, is itself an imperative crime.

Nancy Pelosi, the first woman to ever achieve the position of Speaker of the House of Representatives of the United States of America has had dumped into her lap this vexing question.  She has by all accounts recognized that a considerable body of evidence exists to support the claims that impeachable offenses have been committed.  She has only to refer to the words of the President himself who admitted illegal surveillance of American citizens avoiding the built-in remedy of the so-called FISA court.  Her response has been to say that "impeachment is off the table."

Is Nancy guilty of an imperative crime?  The answer depends on what was meant and intended by the the expression "off the table."  If she meant I will not permit impeachment procedings while I am Speaker, then YES!  She would be commutatively guilty, perhaps more guilty, because upon her decision-making hangs a whole body of law and social compact.  Crimes must be prosecuted.  It is not up to individuals to decide whether crimes have been committed; the law is clear on that.  It is the obligation of the House of Representatives to formally receive the various accusations, review them for suggestions of real merit, but not determine their merit.  Determining that there is merit, the way is paved—formal impeachment hearings, at the conclusion of which the House declares that the charges seem to have merit ... or not.  If there is merit, then the Senate decides. 

Nancy cannot act for the whole House.  Nancy is not the House, she is only (First) Speaker in the House, the Chair and upon her rests this grave issue.  Has the impeachment trigger been pulled or not.  The answer is, of course, an unequivocal yes!

But, of course, there is more to life in Washington than barbecuing Presidents for blowjobs and prevarication and rudeness and immorality.  The U.S. is the dominant state on this planet and its actions are felt world wide.  In the same sense the impeachment of the chief executive (both of them) would have world-wide implications.  On the other hand, the failure to impeach them has even more categorical implications world wide.  If we are to trumpet the virtue of having a Constitution, then folks, we must also follow it.  Impeaching Presidents has nothing to do with suicide pacts, but not impeaching them is all about world-wide political suicide.

And, then there are issues that are not directly related, but are part and parcel of the problem, that is, the purposes of the accused.  BushCheney has said that he will ignore the public outcry against continuing the war in Iraq.  If he were impeached he would, by definition, heed the public outcry; if convicted he would stop, because he would be removed.

So much weighs against a reading of "off the table" as a categorical refusal.  Nancy must have meant that she needs to get her ducks in order first.  Perhaps she does not know that's what she meant, so I am proposing that Democrats everywhere send her a message.  Stop funding the DCCC.  Refuse to send a dime into the DCCC until impeachment proceedings are formally initiated.  If they are not initiated in 2007, then we need to elect different people to Congress!  DCCC will not need the money in that case either!


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James R. Brett, Ph.D. taught Russian History before (and during) a long stint as an academic administrator in faculty research administration. His academic interests are the modern period of Russian History since Peter the Great, Chinese (more...)

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