Of Battered Wives and the US Congress
by Stephen P. Pizzo
Tuesday, 17 July 2007
Is it just me, or have you noticed it too? Something is afoot — maybe. All of a sudden I am reading and seeing on TV individuals who wear suits and can quote the US constitution from memory, talking about the impeachment of George W. Bush and his sidekick.
My first clue was when I read last week that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told a radio station, “We can’t take impeachment off the table.”
Holy whiplash, Batman, isn’t that exactly the opposite of what she’s been saying since crowned Speaker last January? What happened there?
Then there was the extraordinary interview Bill Moyers did last week with John Nichols of The Nation magazine and Bruce Fein, a former Justice Department official during the Reagan administration who drafted articles of impeachment against Bill Clinton.
(If you missed it, you shouldn’t have. Here is the video.)
Neocons may dismiss Nichol’s views as those of a “known liberal,” but what about Fine? No lib there. Fine is the guy conservatives tapped to craft and pen the case against Clinton. Now he wants to do the same thing for Bush – and for precisely the same reasons.
Both men explained that impeachment, always framed by mainstream media as a “constitutional crisis,” is actually precisely the opposite. Impeachment, they explained, is the solution to a constitutional crisis. The real constitutional crisis occurs when Congress fails to protect and maintain the balance of power the Founders enshrined in the constitution.
“The Founders gave congress the power to impeach as the remedy to an imperial presidency,” Fine noted.
Of course those on the right will claim that any talk of impeaching Bush and Cheney is purely political – as though that were something bad. Hello! Of course it’s political. It’s a political process created and delineated by the cornerstone political document – our US constitution. You remember that the document, the user manual for our democracy. (Maybe it would be more popular if the Founders had entitled it, “Democracy for Dummies.”)
Back when Republicans pushed to impeach Bill Clinton for perjury Democrats screamed, “politics,” too. But Fine explained that Bill Clinton got himself in that jam by trying to put himself above the law. Never mind that what he lied about was hardly a matter of national security, all Fine cares about it that he lied, committed a crime – perjury. The rest is simply back-story.
Fine says that there is now plenty of evidence that Bush and Cheney too have lied — more than once and about matters far more serious than Clinton’s little walk on the wild side. Fien says that is why Congress should have begun impeachment hearings long ago. Not so much to remove Bush and Cheney from office, but as way of laying down constitutional markers, lines in the sand over which Congress was not about to allow the executive branch to simply ignore.
Fien adds that even now that their term in office is short, Congress should still proceed with impeachment hearings in order to reestablish and reinforce the constitutional balance – the whole “co-equal branches” business – as the Founders intended.
But Congress still has not done so. Will they?
Democrats worry that trying to impeach Bush and Cheney would blow back on them in the 2008 elections, by making them appear petty and politically motivated. A perception which is, of course their own damn fault. If they hadn’t spent the last six years acting like such a pack of conniving little weasels maybe we’d be less likely to jump such a conclusion.
Now that they’ve richly earned that reputation they’ll have to undo it. And the only way to do that is to start talking to us straight from the heart. Believe me, we do know the difference. We can feel it, even more than we hear it. We know when you’re just jerking us off – again. We and, while far and few between, we know immediately when a pol has had it and suddenly starts blathering truth. And we love it when that happens.
If Congress proceeds with impeachment hearings all they need to do is honestly explain why they’ve come to that point. That they are not attacking a Republican administration, but rather circling the wagons around the US Constitution, under attack by that administration.
Republicans too need to sober up and get on the right side of this fight – just as they did when another Republican president, Richard Nixon, believed he could do whatever the hell he wanted to do, legal or otherwise – too often otherwise.
The sobering agent for Republicans should be evident. In about two years the next occupants of the White House will likely be Democrats. Do Republicans want to have to face four or eight years of being dissed, ignored and further marginalized by a Democratic administration, simply because they allowed Bush and Cheney to set such precedents?
Some also warn that the US Supreme Court, now in conservative hands, could actually validate the Bush administration’s expansive view of executive powers. Not likely. While the Supreme Court may have been able to fix one national election for conservatives they can’t count of being handed the same extraordinary opportunity again, any time soon. Therefore the Supremes, like Republicans in congress, are not going to want to hand a Democratic president imperial power. (Besides, once congress is neutered, might not the Court itself be next? Sure, why not. A compliant congress might be asked by the president to pass a constitutional amendment clipping the wings of the judges all the way up to the Supremes themselves. “Mission Accomplished.”)
While it’s refreshing to see and hear accomplished, articulate and sane adults suddenly talking right out loud about impeachment, nothing is going to happen unless the idea catches fire in Congress. So far it has not, and I have a theory why. Since last November’s switch of control in Congress to Democrats, Congress been treated by this administration like the classic battered wife.
For the first six years of the Bush presidency he hardly had to raise his voice. During that period Congress was a perfect Stepford wife, obedient, deferential and which spoke only when spoken to. Then came the 2006 elections and the new Congress got restless. (Call it the Seven Year Itch.) Congress suddenly started talking back, demanding her “rights” and questioning the head of the household.
That’s when the real abuse began, and it’s gotten progressively worse ever since. Like most abusive relationships the abuser in this case, Bush, et al, have succeeded in keeping the abused off balance, scared, confused and, most important, powerless.
If called to investigate, here’s how the police report might read:
Incident: Domestic Violence
Suspect(s): George W. Bush, Richard “Dick” Cheney.
Victim(s): US House of Representatives, US Senate
1. Suspect GB has consistently refused to allow victims H and S to participate in decisions involving family matters. GB perpetrated this offense through the use of extra-legal instruments he refers to as “Presidential Signing Statements.” (Claims that GB’s associate, DC, shouted at victims, “Shut up bitch, we decide the rules under this roof,” could not be immediately confirmed.)
2. GB and associate, Alberto Gonzales, have repeatedly lied when victims inquired into their actions. (“There hasn’t been a single violation of US law in the application of the Patriot Act.”) Said lying appears to have begun almost seven years ago and has continued and expanded to include a broad sweep of issues, including but not limited to possible perjury. These matters include lying about issues critical to the health, safety and security of the family, including but not limited to science, the environment and national security.
3. Possible obstruction of justice and/or destruction of evidence: GB, DC, AG and a number of unnamed associates, when made aware of this investigation, began hiding and destroying evidence and other community property, rather than sharing it with victims as the law requires. (“Oops, seems we deleted a 5 million – executive branch emails.”)
4. Refusal to communicate and/or obstruction of justice: When victims H & S tried to make inquiries into suspects’ abusive behavior, suspects GB, DC and others in their employ, refused to communicate with victims, claiming they didn’t have to. This extraordinary claim was later extended to cover friends, associates and former employees of suspects as well. (“Harriet Meirs has been told to ignore the Congressional subpoena.”)
5. Alienation of Association. When asked to follow certain laws that cover suspects GB and DC, DC claimed he was not member of that branch of the family after all, and therefore did not have to follow said laws. DC’s accomplice, GB, subsequently backed DC’s alibi. DC continues to maintain this position, continues to violate said laws and rules and continues to refuse to communicate with victims regarding this ongoing abuse.
The result of all the above abuse of congress and the constitution by this administration has rendered Congress cowed, confused and afraid to act in it’s own interest or that of the family as a whole. The remaining Stepford Republicans continue making excuses for their abusive leaders, while Democrats fain action through procedural, “non-binding,” symbolic legislation.
What do we need to do in order to empower these poor, pathetic battered representatives of the people? Are they afraid to act because they no longer feel safe in their own houses? Must we set up a safe house for them somewhere somewhere on Capitol Hill where their batterers can’t get at them?
Are members of congress so far gone that we need some kind of national intervention? Do “we the people” need to descend on Washington en mass, drag these legislative basket cases out of their offices one at time and give them the “remember us,” lecture?
Wait! Come to think of it we don’t have to go to Washington to intervene after all. Because they are coming to us this August. They’ll be back in their home districts (at least when not playing golf or raising money) and that’s the perfect time for us to let them know that, if they stand up to their abusers, we’ll stand with them.
And, if they won’t then we won’t be there for them come November 2008.
FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.