Impeach Him

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Calling for President Bush’s impeachment surely sounds seditious to many conservative partisans of the administration and its "war on terrorism."

As they apparently see it, during the relative peacetime of the late 1990s, calling for the impeachment of a Democrat for lying about the whereabouts of his private parts was a public service. But during wartime, to call for the impeachment of a Republican for one of the greatest of all political crimes — that is, the war — is branded treason, or, at best, ridiculed as hysterical anti-American defeatism or simply juvenile white noise.

This reveals a major problem with the American political system: That most worthy of being condemned is upheld and protected from criticism. Wartime gives the president all sorts of new power levers, privileges and potential to wreak havoc. It also shields him against the normal etiquette of political dissent and exempts him from the standard logistics of checks and balances. When it is absolutely most necessary that the president be questioned, challenged and constrained, he gets free rein. The Democrats showed no credible opposition to Bush’s foreign policy in the last election, and they certainly can’t be trusted to hold the president accountable for the atrocious wars in the Middle East.

For the Iraq war alone, George W. Bush should be impeached. It won’t happen, of course. The Republican legislators so concerned about presidential honesty as it concerned a stained dress back in the late 1990s seem to care nothing of the distortions, deceptions and lies of the Bush administration that have led to and obscured much more heinous stains — bloodstains — upon the clothing of 1,500 dead American troops, thousands more wounded, not to mention tens of thousands of dead and maimed Iraqis.

His lies about Iraq need not be chronicled all over again here. Just see this or this or this if you’ve spent so much time watching Fox that you’ve missed the news. Now that his administration is making the same kind of noise about Iran and Syria, impeachment sounds urgently appropriate.

Just for the Patriot Act and attempts to turn America into a police state, George W. Bush should also be impeached. For deceiving Congress on the true costs of his prescription drug program, for running up massive deficits and bursting federal budgets, for making phony crony capitalism the rule in the American political economy — any of these offenses alone should also mean the end of his regime, and would indeed if we had a working political system correctly designed to limit political power and abuse. That a majority reelected him should have no more bearing than Clinton’s larger majority mandate in 1996, or Nixon’s unsurpassed electoral triumph in 1972. Rather than every four years, every day should be an accountability moment for the president, and if he commits an act that greatly compromises American liberty, American security, America’s economic health, or peace between countries — to say nothing of an act that compromises all four — he should be gone, kaput, out of there, just as even the most statist Founding Fathers intended.

Calling for Bush’s impeachment may be well grounded, but as any realistic person knows, it’s futile, isn’t it? The Republicans won’t impeach their own guy, and even if the Democrats were to take Congress in 2006, they are too weak and supportive of Bush’s real crimes to ever consider doing it.

About six years ago many libertarians called on Clinton to resign. I did so myself in an article for my high school newspaper, and although the Republicans appeared ready to impeach him, I, and many of us, recognized the futility of expecting such an obvious megalomaniac ever to step down. Even when the current political climate renders a political declaration futile, it doesn’t mean it’s not worth declaring.

In the case of Clinton, while the official reasons for his impeachment were rather trivial compared to his serious crimes, such as at Waco and in the Balkans, I considered Clinton a bad enough president to get the boot as a matter of general principle. I imagined a bright future in which presidents got impeached often, for even the slightest indiscretion or personal dishonesty, and the two parties spent more time attacking each other than searching for new ways to run American lives and foreign nations.

Because of the ill effects wartime has on political dissent, the transgressions of presidents that have actually gotten them impeached have never been nearly as serious as the horrific crimes typically committed by chief executives during war. Andrew Johnson was impeached for refusing to abide by the constitutionally problematic Tenure of Office Act. Richard Nixon was nearly impeached for covering up the Watergate break in — a crime, for sure, but not nearly as malevolent as his secret carpet-bombing of Cambodia, which was initially considered as a potential article of impeachment but unfortunately dropped as a charge.

Nixon did deserve to be thrown out for crimes against liberty, the Constitution and even humanity. So did Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, Lyndon Johnson, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Woodrow Wilson, Teddy Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln and, truth be told, virtually every president Americans have ever had the misfortune to live under.

George W. Bush is one of those presidents, and one of the most impeachable in modern times. To say so may be an exercise in futility and to some may sound like one in treason, but it still calls out to be said. If it were to happen successfully in the next four years, for the right reasons, it would mark a revolutionary turnaround for American political trends and a wonderful cause for optimism. So much would change if the first president kicked out of office will have met his fate not because of partisan feuding or minor personal scandals, but because he had lied about war, rained terror and death on innocents, and treated the Bill of Rights like a used up oil rag.

Anthony Gregory [send him mail] is a writer and musician who lives in Berkeley, California. He is a research assistant at the Independent Institute. See his webpage for more articles and personal information.

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