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Despite wrongs, Bush won’t be impeached

Sunday, May 20, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 10:26 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008
Kennedy is a professor emeritus at the MU School of Journalism.

A couple of weeks ago, an MU law professor published an essay in The New York Times explaining how Attorney General Alberto Gonzales could be impeached. The same week, U.S. Rep. William Lacy Clay from St. Louis joined two colleagues in a formal motion to impeach Vice President Dick Cheney. A good friend of mine has been driving around for months now with an “Impeach Bush” sticker on the bumper of his pickup.

That’s foolish, isn’t it? A set of left-wing fantasies? We all know, don’t we, that the new Democratic leadership in Congress isn’t about to impeach anybody? Of course we know that. impeachment of our president, vice president or any of their henchmen would be impractical and impolitic. Still, think about what the Republicans did to President Clinton.

When inaugurated, a president takes this oath of office:

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

George W. Bush has sworn that oath twice. Has he kept his promise?

The articles of a hypothetical impeachment surely would begin with the war. He misled us into it, and he has been misleading us — and possibly himself — ever since. Mr. Bush’s undeclared war (declaring war is a chore the Constitution reserves for the Congress) has killed more Americans than died on 9/11 and 10 or 20 times that many Iraqis. The question before the House would be whether that record amounts to faithful execution of the office.

The Constitution imposes on the president the responsibility not only of defending it but of carrying out the laws of the land. Does Guantanamo Bay comport with those responsibilities? Does torture? Does warrantless surveillance of American citizens? Mr. Gonzales and others have argued that all those acts fall under the implied power of a president at war.

The clearest and strongest argument I’ve read for the impeachment of Mr. Bush has come in several articles written for The Nation magazine by Elizabeth Holtzman, who was a member of the Judiciary Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives during the impeachment of Richard Nixon.

Among the “high crimes and misdemeanors” — the legal grounds for impeachment — cited by Ms. Holtzman are the wartime abuses I’ve summarized, the flouting of treaties including the Geneva Conventions and deliberate circumventions of both the FISA court and the U.S. Senate’s power to confirm appointees.

Simple maladministration isn’t ground for impeachment, Ms. Holtzman notes. That rules out much of the more egregious misconduct of this administration. But she argues that he, and presumably his second in command, could be impeached for “gross incompetence or reckless indifference to his obligation to execute the laws faithfully.”

No, it’s not going to happen. And impeachment is such a serious action that probably it shouldn’t happen.

The trouble is, how else can we hold to account a lame duck president who has led his country so far astray?

George Kennedy is a former managing editor of the Missourian.


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Comments

Brett Paatsch May 22, 2007 | 1:16 a.m.

How can you as an American citizen after acknowledging the flouting of treaties and the Presidential Oath still conclude that impeachment is such a serious action that it probably shouldn't happen?

Where does George Kennedy, citizen of the United States of America draw the line? Can't you see that conspicuous lawlessness cannot go unnoted in the world and necessarily invites and encourages sympathy for like responses?

The whole world is watching what the people of the United States are doing or not doing - we have seen you talk the talk and we watch to see if you will walk the walk. We want the rule of law and oppose terrorism but it is not the terrorists that most threaten the rule of law.

Can't you see that you are actually encouraging terrorism as a desperate political act against you because you are refusing to uphold the law and to make good on your own promises? Can't you see that you as Americans are forcing a recognition of lawlessness upon the world?

If the most solemn oaths and most conspicuous oaths that can be taken are allowed to be broken, if the most solemn promises, the promise not to engage in aggressive wars are broken and there are no consequences for doing so, because the PEOPLE who are the elements of "we the people", will not stand up, what possible future can there be for a government of the people by the people for the people? What hope is there for the rule of law? It IS possible for America to make itself the enemy of humanity.

Global confidence in the rule of law lies squarely in the hands of US citizens at present. If the rule of law collapses and terrorism becomes a political norm it will not be because of the example of a few terrorists but because of the complacency of Americans in the aggregate that would not stand up as citizens for the rule of law.

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