Impeachment Revisited

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Washington State legislators want to impeach the President. Some say this is not the state's business, but it is true that House rules allow states to submit requests for impeachment. So that's all fine.

What isn't fine, however, is that this bill is nonsense. Now, of course, Congress can impeach for any reason it wishes. But that doesn't mean those reasons can't be bad ones. And the three cases it attempts to make are uniformly bad.

Indeed, the author of the bill tells a half-truth right off the bat: the bill claims that a bipartisan Senate investigation into the use of prewar intelligence (S.Rep. 109-330) found that Bush was "misleading" and "deceptive." In fact, most of the Republicans disagreed with the report's conclusions (the "additional views" section of the report takes up 40 percent of the report: 125 pages vs. 83), and the Chair of the committee -- in a virtually unprecedented move -- wrote an addendum to the report that essentially called the Democrats liars. How is that bipartisan, let alone conclusive?

Here is what Chairman Roberts wrote, in his dispute of the findings, on page 130 (his emphasis), and joined by five of the other seven Republicans on the committee:

The adopted conclusions are not supported by fact. Taken as a whole, they misrepresent the [Iraq National Congress'] relationship to the Intelligence Community, leaving the impression that the INC (with the knowledge and acquiescence of intelligence officials and policy makers) intentionally provided the Intelligence Community with false information in an effort to push the United States to war with Iraq. These conclusions -- and the misconceptions they support -- are a myth.

Obviously, the implication that the conclusions stated by Senator Rockefeller are "bipartisan" is misleading at best. Yes, it was a bipartisan commission, but most of the Republicans disagreed with its conclusions. And Roberts is right: the evidence of deceit simply isn't there.

The second and third claims feed off the first: Bush and Cheney lied to Congress and the public. Again, there is no serious evidence to back this up.

The fourth and fifth claims are about warrantless wiretapping. This brings us to two fundamental flaws of logic. For starters, they are asking Congress to impeach the President for something that the Congress knew about beforehand, and did not try to prevent. That is nonsensical on its face.

But additionally, there is a real legal disagreement about whether the wiretapping program was legal. This is something that should be decided by the Supreme Court, not Congress. And if the Supreme Court finds against the President, then impeachment should not follow unless the President continues in that course of action. If we allow Congress to threaten impeachment over a valid legal disagreement, then we are in effect ceding the President's obligation and authority to interpret the law and the Constitution for the Executive branch to the Legislative branch, which is a serious violation of the separation of powers.

There's a reason why the Democrats never took the warrantless wiretapping to the Supreme Court: it didn't want to lose. I personally think that the case is significantly stronger against wiretapping than for it, but the Democrats didn't want to turn this into a legal dispute. They wanted to keep it rhetorical.

The sixth claim has the same flaw, except that in this case, it did go to court, and the President lost: the Supreme Court ruled that a citizen cannot lose his rights by being declared an enemy combatant. However, again, this was a reasonable legal dispute, as Bush pointed to lots of precedent that supported the position. I disagreed with Bush's position, and am glad that the Supreme Court overruled him, but it would be a violation of separation of powers to say that Bush should not have done it just because Congress said so.

And that's it: half-truths, complaining about things the Congress conceded to beforehand, and attempting to violate the separation of powers. That is what all of the articles of impeachment I've ever seen drafted against Bush amount to.

Now, bill sponsor Eric Oemig would likely object and say, especially in regard to the first claim, "there's a lack of evidence, but that is what impeachment is for, to investigate." He argues in the text of the bill, "if the President and/or members of his administration committed such offenses, ignoring these offenses would undermine core American values of truth and justice." But this has already been investigated. And there remains no evidence.

Ths is not about "core American values of truth and justice." It's about attacking President Bush. And that's fine and all, but trying to couch this in facts that don't exist, and arguments that are not logical, is not.

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<pudge/*> (pronounced "PudgeGlob") is thousands of posts over many years by Pudge.

"It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt."

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This page contains a single entry by pudge published on January 23, 2008 10:42 AM.

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