Monday, May 07, 2007

May 1- May 3, 2007

May 2, 2007

Why Congress Should
Get the Spike-Strips Out
... Now

Events undergo a kind of gestation process. What they appear to be the day they occur is almost never what they grow up over time to become.

What got me thinking about that is impeachment.

A few months ago, when a few voices on the far left first uttered the “I” word in relation to Dick Cheney and George Bush, I was turned off by the idea. Then I started to wonder why I felt that way. After all, if any two public officials in American history ever earned a thorough impeaching it's those two. Yet the idea of actually kicking that process into action produced a sinking, sickish feeling deep within.


Then it dawned on me -- Republicans had “removed” impeachment from the arsenal that made Congress a co-equal branch of government. They didn't do that on purpose, but by accident – a fortunate accident for them, as we now see.

As I said above, events often mature into something else, and that's precisely what happened to the publics feeling about the impeachment process. When mad-dog Republicans misused impeachment during their anti-Clinton feeding frenzy, the public – the sane majority anyway -- was turned off by it. They saw it more for what is was -- a legislative coup attempt by Republicans against a Democratic president, rather than the legitimate use of Congressional power.

It was also viewed as a monumental waste of time, taxpayer money and critically needed legislative bandwidth.

Over time that impression gestated into a deep national ambivalence, bordering on disgust, with the impeachment process. It's now almost a knee-jerk response when someone demands impeachment. You can almost hear a national moan:

“Oh no. Please, no. Don't take us down that road again! Please.”

So there you have it. With their unjust, frivolous, mean spirited, wolf-pack-like pursuit of Bill Clinton the GOP inadvertently inoculated its own top officials from the threat of impeachment today, even when so richly deserved.

While I now understand that, the idea of impeaching George W. Bush and Dick Cheney still didn't feel good, but it did seem thinkable. I still don't have a good feeling about impeachment. Not because I remain “traumatized” by the Clinton impeachment fiasco, but because that's how I think we should always feel about impeaching a sitting President or VP. Impeachment is the ultimate punishment, the constitutional equivalent of a firing squad. Therefore it should be approached accordingly – only when clearly justified, only as the last resort, and only with a sense of judicial solemnity, not partisan glee.

That's where I am now.

What happened to Bill Clinton had nothing to do with the legitimate use of congress' power to impeach. Lying about sex – even under oath – is no reason to unseat the President of a local SPCA, much less the President of the United States. That sorry event reflects, not a flaw in the power to impeach, but a flaw in humans who chose to soil and abuse that power. We must not now compound that mistake by letting it forever place impeachment emotionally and/or politically off limits. To do so would gut the already seriously eroded constitutional separation of powers.

Unlike Bill Clinton's stupid, immature, self-indulgent transgressions, Bush and Cheney have actually committed “high crimes and misdemeanors,”-- and plenty of each. If a court-like impeachment hearing ever began the process of stripping away the Orwellianisms from the Bush/Cheney list of activities over the last six years impeachment would be – if you'll excuse the expression – a slam dunk.

  • What really is what the administration likes to call, “enhanced interrogation techniques?” It's torture.
  • What really is wiretapping without a warrant? It's a crime.
  • What are “Presidential signing statements,” that nix laws passed by congress and signed into law by the President? They are a violations of the US Constitution which the President swore to uphold.
  • What are false statements made to mislead congress into approving war? They are lies – lies to congress – a high crime if ever there was one.
  • What is “preemptive war?” A war against another sovereign nation that had not directly threatened the US? It's an international crime – just as President George H. Bush declared when Saddam invaded and occupied Kuwait.
  • What is it when five million White House documents (emails) “disappear” just as the administration faces it's first real congressional oversight hearings ever? It's called “contempt of Congress,” and when those missing documents involve an ongoing criminal probe it's called “obstruction of justice,” a felony.
Oh, I know, there's more -- plenty more. Just pick the top one or two, start impeachment hearings where everyone involved is put under oath, and George and Dick are goners.

But the question remains, should we? Would impeaching Bush and Cheney be more disruptive than curative? After all, we have only two more years to endure them. So, should we? Should we impeach?

Up until this week I would have said that it was more trouble than it was worth. But, unless the administration begins treating congress with the constitution respect and deference the law requires, especially regarding the war in Iraq, I say yes, impeach.

And so far it does not appear either Bush or Cheney are about to stop acting like they are overseeing a monarchy. Yesterday when the president vetoed the war supplemental with conditions and time lines attached by congress, he said something that indicates he still does not get it.

“I am, of course,” Bush said, “always interested in the ideas offered by congress...but...”

Ah, earth to George --- those are not just “ideas.”

What if Congress had said it. “Of course, we are always interested in any ideas the President has to offer...but..”

Or, what if Congress declared, “We are always interested in any ideas the US Supreme Court has... but...”

Then this morning I read that the White House is backing away from it's agreement to get court approval for warrantless wiretaps. Instead, Bush claims, he as President has the power to approve wiretaps on his own.

I see.

Responsible, cool-headed, soft-talking, clear-thinking Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate should get out their impeachment primers, dust off the swearing-in Bible and oil the rusted wheels of Congressional justice. Because I am starting to think we're going to be forced to impeach these two guys.

Because, by all indicators, these two Dukes of Hazard have clearly decided that, rather than change their ways, they are going to try to beat Smoky to the border. They are putting their lawless heels to the metal.

So it's time for Congress to get the spike-strips of impeachment out – first as a warning.

If that doesn't work, then use them. Use them before these two men do any more damage. Use them also as a clear warning to the next administration. be it Democratic or Republican, that if you break the law, regardless of intentions, you will be held to account.

May 1, 2007

A Short Revolution?

I didn't think it would happen this fast. I figured it would eventually happen, years down the road, not this soon. Because usually, when it starts, it means that politics as usual had again taken over. It also always marks the beginning of the end for the party doing it.

Oh, sorry, I need to back up. I'm not talking about the GOP -- this time. I'm talking about the Democratic Party.

After over a decade out of power the Democrats surged back last November gaining control, if by a tiny margin, of both the House and Senate. Like so many I sighed in relief the morning after that election. Finally there would be a counterbalance to the far-right agenda that had so soiled America's image abroad and rerouted much of her treasure into the bank accounts of the already well-heeled.

The first woman Speaker of the House followed -- another breathe of fresh air. There was talk of ending the foolish and criminal war in Iraq soon, and returning the focus of our over-stretch military to finishing the job in Afghanistan. A minimum wage hike was on the table for the first time in over a decade. The dust covers were removed from the witness tables in House and Senate hearing rooms as congressional oversight resumed after a six year hiatus.

It was a sweet moment, indeed.

But it only took weeks for the very forces that buried the last Democratic period to reassert itself, and with a vengeance.

If you've ever raised chickens you'll understand the kind of creatures I'm talking about. They rule and reward by pecking order. Get in the way of a dominant rooster or hen and they'll peck you to death.

The first rebel rooster to get pecked into his place was John Murtha. This former combat-seasoned, decorated Marine was the first ranking Democrat to have the courage to oppose the war in Iraq. That glimmer of light from the long-dark recesses of the Democratic party arguably proved the edge the Dems they needed to regain both houses of congress.

Nevertheless Murtha was unceremoniously pecked away from the job he wanted, Majority House Leader. Instead that job was given to Steny Hoyer -- a guy who was sipping cold Cokes at Georgetown University student union while John Murtha was taking lead in Vietnam.

Sure there was a war going on, and sure Murtha was tight with dissident Pentagon brass and had forgotten more about all matters military than Hoyer knew. But Hoyer had paid his dues, he had tenure, he was next in the pecking order.

That's how things worked in the old Democratic Party, and increasingly it appears it's how they work in the one we just got back. Peck, peck, peck.

But wait, I just realized that I've slandered chickens. At least when chickens pick a rooster to be in charge of a coop they pick the biggest, meanest, loudest and most colorful rooster. The US Senate is the biggest coup in the Congress so, one would expect, Democrats would select the mother of all roosters to run the place.

Instead they picked Harry Reid, a man who could not inspire fear among a group of pre-schoolers much less battle hardened, egg-stealin', chicken-eatin', Republican wolves. Harry Reid, rather than flashing his spurs at opponents, slips on his tennis shoes as the Mr. Rogers of the US Senate. Welcome to his neighborhood.

Why did the Dems pick Reid? Because, like Hoyer in the House, it was Reid's turn. He was next in the pecking order. Look no further. That was the whole reason. Other than that, Reid's qualification to lead a Democratic counterattack are nil -- maybe worse than nil. Reid's a Mormon. Mormons consider gambling a cardinal sin, ranking right up there with boozing, smoking and caffeinated Starbucks coffee. Nevertheless, as the senior Senator from Nevada, Reid is an enthusiastic supporter of his state's massively powerful – and lucrative – gambling interests. Now, I'm no fan of blue-nose Christians of any stripe, much less Mormons, but it does beg the question -- what does Reid hold sacred? His god, or his political career? (That's a trick question, as it obviously answers itself.)

And, even as Democrats rightfully diss the Bushies for their stubborn refusal to admit mistakes, and for retaliating against those within GOP ranks that dare to do just that, Democrats are guilty of doing the very same.

The peckers within the Democratic party are proving themselves to be fierce defenders of their party pecking order, even when it's choices are clearly wrong. When veteran Washington reporter/columnist, David Broder, dared to suggest that Reid was the wrong man for the job, the party peckers went to work on him with a vengeance. Clintonite, Paul Begala, blasted Broder in an editorial, as did other's of like mind:

Why David Broder Doesn't Deserve His Position at the Top of the Media Food Chain
By Jamison Foser, Media Matters for America.
May 1, 2007 : David Broder, the "Dean of the Washington Press Corps," has been regurgitating flawed Beltway wisdom since long before his recent, baseless assault on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
(Full article)

The attacks on Broder have been unrelenting, leading one to wonder why? Why are they so sensitive about Broder's attack on Reid? On any given day some columnist from a leading publication is reaming a politician. What was it about Broder and his attack on Reid that sparked such a furious counterattack?

And is this just the beginning? I fear so.

A personal note: I get nothing but misery when I write stuff like this. Just a year ago the misery I got came exclusively from right-wingers. Now, when ever I ruminate on the possible shortcomings of Democrats I get blasted – and censored – by the left. This worries me. There's a double standard at work here that the left can't seem to grasp. Let's try this:

Former CIA director, George Tenet, is being raked over the coals – deservedly – for going along and getting along in the run up to the Iraq war, rather than speaking truth to power. Yet anyone on the left – or it seems in the media – that challenges Democratic Party leadership choices or orthodoxy is toast.

Broder dared to turn his “emperor-has-no-cloths” lens on Democratic Senate Leader, Harry Reid, and what he got for it was a concerted, orchestrated smear campaign. His attackers, rather than defending Reid's qualification, instead pecked the living daylights out of Broder.

I don't know about you, but if my life depended on the judgment of either David Broder or Harry Reid I would not have to mull that choice for very long – if at all.

But hope is a hard thing to kill. And it was with a now flickering flame of hope that I watched the first Democratic Party debates last week. There were no home runs from Obama. There was largely same-old, same-old from most of the others, with a touch of tragic-comic relief from Mike Gravel.

But there in the center was the Mother Hen herself, Hillary. She's next in the pecking order. All you had to do was look at her face and watch her body language to understand that.

“This is so annoying, having to share a stage with all these posers. But I have to do this. It's part of the kabuki dance of politics. The charade of democracy. So, let's get it over with, because I am going to be the next Big Hen. Oh, and don't even think about trying to get in my way. Because if you do I'll have my chickens peck your eyes out.”

As much as I hate to admit it, she's probably right about that. Because, the old Democratic Party's pecking order enforcement policies appear to be back in full force -- this time complete with some mean-ass sycophantic political and media enforcers to take care of those who step out of line – or who try to cut in line.

Then there's the issues of our day. There's the war in Iraq. Democrats were elected to end it. But it continues, and will continue. Why? Because actually cutting off funding for operations in Iraq would mean Democrats will shoulder responsibility for what ever follows, and that scares the hell out of them. Still Democrats claim that if we return them to the White House they they will end the war. Why is that different? They could end it now if they really tried. But if they can't handle the responsibility for such a decision now, why should believe they'll have backbone to do so later?

Also, polls show, Democratic voters overwhelmingly support the impeachment of Bush and Cheney. The public record is replete with reasons to do so – illegal aggressive war, torture, false imprisonment, etc. etc... Still, as much as they deserve it, they won't get it. Because Democrats are afraid to go there too. Why? Because the American public rightly considered it a frivolously abuse of the powers of Congress when they tried to impeach Bill Clinton just for lying about sex But there's nothing frivolously about the laundry list of outrages committed Bush and Cheney. Still, don't count on any impeachment hearings. Cheney and Bush will be allowed to escape accountability in January 2009 with their criminal hides in tact.

That breathe of fresh air that blew through our hearts and minds last November has been replaced by the stench of politics as usual.

I fear it was a very short revolution.

Old Lousiana saying when one party is voted out of power:

"It was just time to turn the fat hogs out and let the lean hogs in."