Befitting a nation that prides itself on its entrepreneurial creativity, the United States is preparing the way for a uniquely American innovation in governance: a democratically elected dictator. And neither politicians, nor judges, nor journalists, are rising to oppose the coming tyranny.
This ominous prophecy of political thralldom is not a product of party or partisanship. Personalities are irrelevant. The threat hovers over the office of the presidency as it has been defined by the current occupant.
George Bush, aided by puppet master, Dick Cheney, has blazed a trail of executive power that is unprecedented. Together they have reshaped the presidency into a virtual monarchy. The founding fathers strove mightily to craft an executive that was accountable and vulnerable to the counterbalancing of coequal branches of government. They would certainly not approve of the measures that Bush has employed to demolish their long enduring work.
By consolidating power in the White House, BushCo is advancing an interpretation of American government that is openly hostile to the Constitution. This is more than a theoretical exercise. The principles advocated by all the President’s men and women have already been put into practice and their issue reads like a draft for Articles of Impeachment. As the founding fathers might say…
“Let Facts Be Submitted To A Candid World.”
- Falsifying evidence of weapons of mass destruction to justify an unlawful war of aggression.
- Directing the exposure of a covert CIA agent in time of war.
- Using presidential signing statements to circumvent laws passed by Congress.
- Illegal wiretapping and surveillance conducted against American citizens.
- Extraordinary rendition and torture of detainees in violation of the Geneva Conventions.
- Illegal suspension of the right of habeas corpus.
- Destruction of executive branch records whose preservation is required by law.
- Unlawfully terminating U.S. attorneys for political purposes.
- Employing executive privilege for the purpose of obstructing justice.
- Suborning perjury by administration officials.
- Threatening to prosecute journalists under the Espionage Act for reporting government wrongdoing.
- Dereliction of duty and failure to faithfully execute the office of President and to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.
This administration behaves as if there are no other branches of government, and no public opinion either. They espouse a philosophy that views the President as a “unitary executive.” In this view the President is not subject to Congressional oversight; laws are complied with on a voluntary basis; every act or document produced by the executive branch is regarded as privileged and secret; and the courts function as rubber stamps for the de facto despot.
This behavior is contrary to the values of a free, democratic society. Left unchecked it will lower the bar of governance and serve as a precedent for future administrations. The one sure way to vacate that precedent is to vacate the president – that is, to impeach Bush and/or Cheney. Many people may consider that to be a fanciful pipe dream. Congressional leaders have all but rejected the notion. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said that impeachment is “off the table.” Harry Reid, majority leader in the Senate, says that even a censure would be a waste of time.
The American people, however, have a completely different take on the matter, as reported in a new poll by the American Research Group. When asked if they favor or oppose the US House of Representatives beginning impeachment proceedings against President George W. Bush, 45% are in favor, 46% oppose. Those numbers include wide majorities of Democrats and Independents. The results are even worse for Cheney for whom there is an outright majority in favor of impeachment (54%/40%). In either case, there is clearly a sufficient measure of dissatisfaction to warrant the commencement of committee hearings to ascertain whether credible grounds for impeachment exist. Not to do so would be a dereliction of duty and failure of representative government.
The foregoing notwithstanding, Congress may well neglect their duty, ignore the public will, and decline to initiate hearings. Should that occur, the injury to the Constitution would still be an open and festering wound. While remedies like censure would be better than nothing, there is another path that ought to be explored which, as yet, has not been discussed in broad-based media.
All of the candidates running for president will potentially inherit the precedents set by this administration. For what I am about to propose, we can ignore the Republicans because they have fully supported BushCo’s tyrannical leanings. The Democrats, however, have been critical of most of the atrocities aimed at the Constitution and enumerated above. Now, in the midst of a campaign, would be a good time to ask them whether they would commit to rolling back the Bush regimes excesses and to codify protections against such excesses into law. They could start with a pledge:
If elected, I promise to work to reverse and repeal all laws, regulations, executive orders, and other instruments, whether produced by the White House, a cabinet agency, Congress, the courts, or other government entity, that impinge on the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution, and that have been usurped by the presidency of George W. Bush and his enablers in other government branches, agencies and offices
This pledge should be comprehensive and specific in itemizing the violations listed above. Any candidate unwilling to take this pledge must be made to fully explain their reasons for not doing so. It is so important to compel a pledge of this nature in advance of the selection of a party nominee because whoever becomes the nominee, and perhaps the next president, will have a vested interest in maintaining the powers invoked by the current president. People in power rarely consent to having their power diminished.
This is a rather moderate pledge. Candidates should feel free to expand on it by promising to pursue prosecutions of anyone in the Bush administration that engaged in any of the unlawful activities listed above. The truth of the matter is that any president who does not seek such prosecutions is in violation of their oath of office in which they swear to defend the Constitution. But if defending the Constitution were the standard, that would bring us back to impeachment.
Now here’s the real dilemma: Assuming that this pledge would be a good idea, how do we get the candidates to address it? They are probably not going to spontaneously compose their own versions of this pledge and hit the campaign trail propounding it. As is usually the case with any public matter that requires broad distribution, the media is the key component. So in addition to encouraging citizens to confront candidates when they have the opportunity in public forums, the press must be forced to recognize the will of the people as well as the obligation that journalistic integrity imposes on them.
So write letters to the editors of your local papers (especially those of you in early primary states). And send emails to local and national television news outlets. Do this repeatedly – every time you read or see a report on campaigns or candidates; every time there is a public debate; every time a story on Bush’s criminality is published or broadcast. Oh hell, just have a pre-written email ready to blast to your local and national media every time you wake up in the morning. Demand that they ask the candidates to take the pledge or say why not.
As the poll above makes clear, this is not a fringe movement of radicals. Over 80 municipalities have passed resolutions advocating impeachment. Conservatives who revere our democracy are lining up to promote accountability in the form of impeachment, censure, or other measures. The media cannot be allowed to mischaracterize this as petty or partisan.
What this is is a mainstream swell of disgust in unprecedented strength, and it should not be too much to ask that coverage of it in the press be consistent with the outcry in the populace. If these perversions of our Constitution are tolerated; if we allow the gestation of a new America that permits tyranny; the blame will lie with a media cabal that was either too cowardly or too complicit to do the right thing. And the next American Fuhrer will have the press to thank for his or her ascension to the throne.
For more information…
Bill Moyers hosts Bruce Fein and John Nichols discussing impeachment.
Paul Craig Roberts, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration, warns of excessive presidential powers.
Russ Feingold introduces cenure resolutions in the Senate.
The American Freedom Agenda, founded by long-time conservatives including Bruce Fein and Richard Viguerie, has its own pledge for candidates interested in preserving Constitutional government. (Their web site is down as of this writing. Here is a cached version of the site).