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The Crucible Of Impeachment: If Not Now, When?
By Robert Weitzel
When once a republic is corrupted there is no possibility of remedying
any of the growing evils but by removing the corruption . . . every
other correction is either useless or a new evil.
- Thomas Jefferson -
If Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson of South Dakota were unable to remain
in office because of health reasons, his replacement would be
appointed by the state's Republican governor, effectively returning
control of the Senate to the GOP and Dick Cheney.
Initially, the thought of losing the precious 51-49 margin in the
Senate disturbed me. But when I remembered that Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the
new Democratic Speaker of the House, said that impeachment is "a waste
of time" and "is off the table," I thought, so what if the Dems do
lose the Senate. It's back-scratching politics as usual in Washington
How is it possible that a member of Congress can say it is "a waste of
time" to impeach a president who has lied—under oath of office—to
justify invading a nonbelligerent country, conspired to torture
prisoners and to strip them of their constitutional rights, illegally
spied on American citizens, violated international treaties against
aggressive war and treatment of POW's, and, quite possibly, is
complicit in treason and war profiteering? Think Valerie Plame and
Rabbi Hillel asked of a different time and circumstance, "If not now, when?"
What will it take short of fellatio in the Oval Office for politicians
to show some spine and stop hiding behind self-serving excuses: "we
don't want to be seen as vindictive" or "it would be political
suicide" or "let the electorate 'impeach' him at the polls" or "the
country needs to move on" or "we need to do things for the country . .
. blah, blah, blah?"
How much more egregious does the abuse of power have to be—can it
be—before members of Congress take seriously their oath to "support
and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies,
foreign and domestic?"
The Constitution is barely seven paragraphs old before the founding
fathers gave the people's elected representatives the power to impeach
the president and whomever in the executive branch for "treason,
bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors."
Unfortunately, they could not give their descendents' representatives
the political—dare I say the moral—guts to use that power.
What better, more patriotic, thing can an elected representative do
for the country than to temper the Constitution and, consequently, the
Republic itself in the crucible of impeachment when it is so obviously
David Corn of The Nation was only half right when he said that
impeachment is an extreme action. He should have said it is an
extremely rare action, which has been used only nine times in the
history of the nation.
But the Framers never intended impeachment to be either extreme or
rare. It was meant to be used forcefully and unapologetically and as
often as necessary to check the excesses of power or wanton corruption
of the temporary occupants of the White House.
That it has been so rarely used has led us to the unconscionable level
of abuse by the Bush administration. They proceed as though they have
nothing to fear, as if the Constitution is powerless to hold them
accountable. It is this lack of fear that is sounding the death knell
of our democracy; the final taps at the twilight of the Republic.
John Nichols, author of The Genius of Impeachment writes, "The
founders of the American experiment, who expressed deep fears about
the corruption of elections and the elected, saw in impeachment not a
challenge to democracy but a tool for its rejuvenation in those
periods when decay would set in."
We cannot hope to rejuvenate a decaying democracy unless we have the
fortitude to endure the unpleasant political process of impeachment.
Citizens will be pit one against the other, tempers will flare,
friends will disagree and scream, issues will be discussed and
debated, pundits will pontificate, and the talking heads will incite
while politicians monitor the direction of the wind.
If, in the end, elected representatives still lack the political spine
to see the impeachment process to its conclusion, the nation will have
passed through the crucible and fear it less and be more willing and
quick to light the fire under the caldron . . . to the peril of the
Our Republic was forged in the crucible of a revolution and
strengthened in the crucible of a civil war. The blood and the gold of
past generations were mixed in the caldron to that end. This
generation should expect to offer no less.
But if not now, when?
Robert Weitzel is a freelance writer whose essays appear in The
Capital Times of Madison, WI. He has also been published in the
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Skeptic Magazine, Freethought Today, and
on the web sites, commondream.org and smirkingchimp.com. He can be
contacted at email@example.com.