July 13, 2007
A public opinion poll from the American Research Group recently reported that more than four in ten Americans — 45% — favor impeachment hearings for President Bush and more than half — 54% — favored impeachment for Vice President Cheney.
Unhappiness about the war in Iraq isn’t the only cause of the unsettled feelings of the electorate. Recent events like President Bush’s pardoning of Scooter Libby, the refusal of Vice President Cheney’s office to surrender emails under subpoena to Congress and the President’s prohibition of testimony of former White House counsel Harriet E. Miers in front of the House Judiciary Committee have caused unease over claims of “executive privilege.” In addition, many of the White House anti-terror initiatives and procedures — from the status of “enemy combatants” in Guantanamo to warrantless wiretapping — have come under legal scrutiny in Congress and the courts.
Bill Moyers gets perspective on the role of impeachment in American political life from Constitutional scholar Bruce Fein, who wrote the first article of impeachment against President Bill Clinton, and THE NATION’s John Nichols, author of THE GENIUS OF IMPEACHMENT.
“The founding fathers expected an executive who tried to overreach and expected the executive would be hampered and curtailed by the legislative branch… They [Congress] have basically renounced — walked away from their responsibility to oversee and check.” — Bruce Fein
“On January 20th, 2009, if George Bush and Dick Cheney are not appropriately held to account this Administration will hand off a toolbox with more powers than any President has ever had, more powers than the founders could have imagined. And that box may be handed to Hillary Clinton or it may be handed to Mitt Romney or Barack Obama or someone else. But whoever gets it, one of the things we know about power is that people don’t give away the tools.” — John Nichols
Bruce Fein is a nationally and internationally recognized expert on Constitutional law. Graduating from Harvard Law School in 1972, Fein became the assistant director of the Office of Legal Policy in the U.S. Department of Justice. Shortly after that, Fein became the associate deputy attorney general under former President Ronald Reagan.His political law career would take him to various outlets, including general counsel of the Federal Communications Commission, followed by an appointment as research director for the Joint Congressional Committee on Covert Arms Sales to Iran. Mr. Fein has been an adjunct scholar with the American Enterprise Institute, a resident scholar at the Heritage Foundation, a lecturer at the Bookings Institute, and an adjunct professor at George Washington University.
Fein has also penned a number of volumes on United States Constitution, Supreme Court, and international law, as well as assisted three dozen countries in constitutional revision, including Russia, Spain, South Africa, Iraq, Cyprus, and Mozambique.
Fein currently writes weekly columns for THE WASHINGTON TIMES and CAPITOL LEADER, and a bi-weekly column for the LEXINGTON HERALD-LEADER devoted to legal and international affairs.
Recently, Fein has been in the national spotlight after his editorial in the online newsmagazine SLATE called for the impeachment of Vice President Dick Cheney, in which he outlines the various cases against the Vice President. Fein also testified in front of the House Judiciary Committee on June 27, 2007 about President Bush’s use of “signing statement.”
- According to Fein, Cheney has:
- Asserted Presidential power to create military commissions, which combine the functions of judge, jury, and prosecutor in the trial of war crimes.
- Claimed authority to detain American citizens as enemy combatants indefinitely at Guantanamo Bay on the President’s say-so alone.
- Initiated kidnappings, secret detentions, and torture in Eastern European prisons of suspected international terrorists.
- Championed a Presidential power to torture in contravention of federal statutes and treaties.
- Engineered the National Security Agency’s warrantless domestic surveillance program targeting American citizens on American soil in contravention of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978.
- Orchestrated the invocation of executive privilege to conceal from Congress secret spying programs to gather foreign intelligence, and their legal justifications.
- Summoned the privilege to refuse to disclose his consulting of business executives in conjunction with his Energy Task Force.
- Retaliated against Ambassador Joseph Wilson and his wife Valerie Plame, through chief of staff Scooter Libby, for questioning the administration’s evidence of weapons of mass destruction as justification for invading Iraq. (Read Fein’s SLATE article)
John Nichols, author and political journalist has been writing the “Online Beat” for THE NATION magazine since 1999. Nichols also serves as Washington correspondent for THE NATION, as well as the associate editor of the CAPITAL TIMES, the daily newspaper in Madison, Wisconsin and a contributing writer for THE PROGRESSIVE and IN THESE TIMES.Along with fellow author Robert McChesney, Nichols co-founded the media-reform group Free Press. Nichols has also authored several books, including JEWS FOR BUCHANAN, which analyzed the recount vote of 2000, and DICK: THE MAN WHO IS PRESIDENT, his best-selling biography of Vice President Dick Cheney.
Nichols most recent book, THE GENIUS OF IMPEACHMENT, argues that impeachment is an essential instrument of America’s democratic system. Nichols’ argument also bases the power of impeachment in the hands of the people, rather than the congress. In his recent article, “In Praise of Impeachment,” Nichols argues “While the Constitution handed Congress the power to officially check such despotism, Jefferson and his colleagues fully expected the American people to be the champions of the application of the rule of law to an errant executive.”
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