Saturday, July 21, 2007

Why Impeachment?

My friend Dr. Zaius raises a point that deserves discussion. Here is his comment from the Avalanche! post:

You need a 2/3rds majority in the senate to impeach, and either Chief Justice John Roberts (Bush appointed) or Dick Cheney will act as judge.

I am not sure that is the best short term solution.

A valid point. Here's my take on it:

You are right, zaius, that we don't have the votes. Perhaps you are even right in that it would be unsuccessful. And you may be right in that it is not a short-term solution.

But I believe that we must attempt it nonetheless, for the long-term health of our Constitution. Otherwise, you might as well strike out the possibility of impeachment at all, for any reason. Just save some ink and take it out of the Constitution.

What could be more of an impeachable offense than lying our country into war? If that is not an impeachable offense, then what is?

If the President (and if Bush) gets away with this without a mark, a precedent is set that may never be undone. Precedent is an onerous burden to overcome, even if accidental. Especially if accidental.

In the decision that gave corporations legal personhood - possessing rights rather than privileges, as other artificial legal constructs such as churches, unions, and civic clubs, even governments have - Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad , the actual decision by the Supreme Court mentioned no such rights for corporations. The court reporter, J.C. Bancroft Davis – a former railroad president – added a commentary called a headnote (which has no legal status) which stated: "The defendant Corporations are persons within the intent of the clause in section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which forbids a State to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." There has been much speculation ever since as to whether the Waite court actually agreed with the idea of corporate personhood – it might have - but the bottom line is that corporate personhood was not addressed in the decision itself. The headnote was immediately seized on by corporate lawyers, who used it at every opportunity, and once the Supreme Court quoted it in subsequent cases, the doctrine of corporate personhood became law.

Even if something is not codified into law originally, precedent can make it so.

We as a democracy cannot afford to let this stand without challenge.

We seem to be approaching this as if we should only take action if we are assured of a successful outcome.

I believe we should take action regardless of whether we are guaranteed success, simply because it's right.

Our Founding Fathers risked everything - their fortunes, their families, their lives - to create a nation of laws, rather than men. We rightfully deride the chicken-hawks who cheerlead for the 'war' but would never dream of fighting it themselves. Yet we are unwilling as a party to risk what we have - our slender majority, our 'power' or influence; money, comfort, our perceived 'approval' - to do the right thing and check these megalomaniacs before they destroy our democracy.

We have been told by this administration in so many words that what we do or say will have no influence on the decisions made by the Decider. Why don't we believe him? He's telling us, "Scream all you want to - I'm still doing it my way."

We should take him at his word. In this, for once, he's telling the truth. And we should respond appropriately, and take the steps that the Constitution demands that we take in this situation. Otherwise we are giving our tacit approval and support to what these criminals are doing to us and the rest of the world. We would be establishing a precedent that may be impossible to overcome.

Impeachment is all that's left. The Founding Fathers did not say, "We'll break away from King George, if he'll let us, and not get too mad at us, and agrees with us that independence would be best for everyone."

We shouldn't say that either.

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