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Midwest Voices: Still time to impeach President Bush
By Bob Sommer, Kansas City Star
The year is 2019. It’s Sunday evening. Eighty-eight-year-old Morley Safer’s special guest on “60 Minutes” is an expert on national security, an elder statesman.
The image of former President George W. Bush fills the screen. His hunched shoulders quiver in a chuckle as Morley asks whether he’s finally cleared the last of the brush from his ranch.
Bush’s wartime presidential expertise is needed. War rages from the Mediterranean to the Himalayas, while newly drafted U.S. troops mass along the Canadian border.
Now in her second term, President Sarah Palin never blinked when she stared down the Canadian prime minister, who muttered in French, something about moose poaching.
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge came up short of oil (though Sandals has rehabilitated it as a tropical resort). America’s mission is to liberate Canadians from their socialist health care system.
Revenue from tar-sand oil will pay for the invasion. Palin can see Canada from America.
OK, that was fiction.
But the prospect of Bush morphing into a sage elder statesman is realistic and disturbing.
As a former president, Richard Nixon successfully remade himself despite disgrace in office and a near-miss with impeachment — for true “high crimes and misdemeanors,” not your garden-variety lying about an affair with an intern.
If President Gerald Ford hadn’t pardoned Nixon, perhaps the Bush administration would have been less eager to flout the Constitution.
Instead, Bush apparently took Nixon’s infamous 1977 remark to David Frost for his personal motto: “Well, when the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.”
Bush’s 2001 declaration, “You are either with us or you are with the terrorists,” inaugurated a dark age of smear and fear. The Constitution became an obstacle to conducting state business under the aegis of the “war on terror.”
Sober and presumably educated people debated whether torturing human beings and spying on citizens were acceptable. The possibility that the Constitution could withstand, indeed guide us through, times of crisis was a nonstarter with this administration.
The arguments for impeaching Bush and Dick Cheney are exhaustive: the fraudulent sale of the Iraq war to the American people, the illegal invasion of that country, violation of the Geneva Conventions, illegal domestic surveillance, arbitrary detentions, torture, disinformation, and gross negligence after Hurricane Katrina.
On June 9, Rep. Dennis Kucinich stood tirelessly on the House floor for nearly five hours to read an array of 35 articles of impeachment. (http://impeachment.kucinich.us/)
Rep. Jim McDermott agonized before supporting the measure.
“America cannot regain its moral leadership in the world,” he said, “if America cannot hold its leaders accountable for their actions at home.”
Apologists for Bush need only ask themselves if impeachment would be in order for a Democratic president with his identical record. Notable conservatives like constitutional scholar Bruce Fein and former Congressman Bob Barr favor impeachment.
The question isn’t whether impeachment is warranted, but Why now? Hurricane W has blown through. We have enough to worry about with the cleanup.
I asked that question of David Swanson, the press secretary for Kucinich’s 2004 presidential campaign and co-founder of AfterDowningStreet.org.
“The point is to establish that presidents have to obey laws,” he responded. “There is no better way to do that than to impeach Bush and Cheney, and that will remain true until someone even worse occupies the White House.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi took impeachment off the table because she and many Democrats believed it wouldn’t succeed and would be divisive.
But what of the law and the precedents set by Bush?
Presidential “signing statements” now mean the law doesn’t apply to the president. Politics trumps justice in the Justice Department. Habeas corpus is a quaint Latin phrase.
Torture is routine. Science means whatever you want it to mean. Endless war will consolidate power in the presidency.
Impeachment would also lay the groundwork for possible criminal action; impeachment hearings uncovered Nixon’s secret Oval Office tapes.
Bush was charged to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” His record tells otherwise, which is more than sufficient cause to begin impeachment hearings.
Bob Sommer’s novel, “Where the Wind Blew,” was released in June by The Wessex Collective. He lives in Overland Park. To reach Midwest Voices columnists, write to the author c/o Editorial Page, The Kansas City Star, 1729 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, MO 64108. Or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org