The two participants with Moyers were John Nichols of "The Nation" magazine and author of "The Genius of Impeachment: The Founders' Cure for Royalism and Why It Must Be Applied To George W. Bush", and constitutional scholar Bruce Fein, who was in Ronald Reagan's Justice Department and drafted one of the articles of impeachment against President Bill Clinton. Moyers largely acted as devil's advocate, constantly raising the spectre of 9/11 as a justification for the usurpation of powers by Bush/Cheney.
One would have expected John Nichols, the author of two books about Dick Cheney, to suppport impeachment. What was truly remarkable was true conservative Bruce Fein's passion in advocating for the absolute necessity of impeaching George Bush and Dick Cheney forthwith, with no ifs, ands or buts, if we are to be true to the constitutional form of government bequeathed to us by our founders. He was far more eloquent, and passionate, than any Democrat I have seen to date.
Here are what I recall as their main points:
- "Everything is (not) politics." Congress lacks not only backbone but intellectual depth. Congresspeople apparently have no real understanding of and respect for the Constitution as a "fighting document". They have no internal relationship to the structure of our government; they do not feel in their bones the kind of reverence for our form of government that would impel them to call a halt to Bush/Cheney's outrageous power grab. No one, in short, will put country above party, as happened in Watergate. Ironically, the Dems' view of everything as political is what leads them to fear to be seen as "too political" if they launch an impeachment inquiry.
- "We are treated like children." As a consequence of the "dumbing down" of politics and political reportage, we have been turned into subjects not citizens, and, are treated like children who cannot handle the "stress" of impeachment. As a result we have opted for entertainment over citizenship. We do not take an active interest in government because it has been so debased and the press is so bad at reporting the issues. This is very dangerous for the country.
- "We are setting a terrible precedent." Over and over Nichols and especially Fein, whose devotion to the rule of law was a sight to behold, stress that we must commence impeachment proceeedings against Bush and Cheney now because if the Congress does not say no to them, not only will they usurp further powers, but these powers will be put in the "toolbox" that is given to the next President. Think for a moment about Rudy Giuliani having the powers amassed by Bush/Cheney.
- "Much worse than Nixon" Both Nichols and Fein believe that Bush/Cheney's transgressions are much worse than Nixon's, because at least Nixon acknowledged some obligation to Congress. Bush/Cheney clearly are not only usurping powers that belong to Congress and arrogating to themselves powers that were never meant to belong to any branch of government, they are using those powers to conceal their treachery from Congress, the Judicary and the American people. Bush/Cheney's blowing off of the subpoena to Harriet Miers (the counterpart to John Dean) and the Libby pardon are the most salient examples, but there are many more. Again, this creates a very dangerous precedent and the failure to say "no" only emboldens Bush further.
- "Impeachment is not a constitutional crisis; it is the cure for a constitutional crisis." Both were very clear that Impeachment is Congress' duty under our system of government when things get to this point. It is Congress' job, and they are falling down on the job. They must initiate impeachment proceedings or we are in real danger of losing our form of government. This is not hyperbole. Towards the end of the program Fein notes that if just one Committee Chairman had spoken to Bush/Cheney in a stern, adult voice and said "You cannot do that. This is the United Stataes of America. You are violating the law and violating the Constitution. You were not elected King for four years; in our system no man is above the law" things might have been different. Instead we get John Conyers' mumbling and Patrick Leahy's earnest dismay. We get Nancy Pelosi's desire to end the war, but not to do what is needed to stop the Bsuh/Cheney juggernaut.
- The important thing is the beginning, not the end. Finally, it is most important to commence impeachment proceedings right now, without worrying what the outcome will be. We cannot foresee what will happen if impeachment is begun, but we can clearly see where the refusal to call Bush's bluff is leading us. Once impeachment proceedings have begun, the case can be laid out, and people will become engaged. Maybe Bush will become penitent, as Fein seemed to hope; more likely not. But if we are going to have to pry Bush/Cheney's hands off the levers of power, better we find that out as a result of an impeachment proceeding and not when they declare martial law.
- 9/11 is no excuse for inaction. Fein made the point that 9/11 was almost six years ago. We now know far more than we knew in the immediate aftermath of the attacks. We know that we face a serious enemy, but we can see its limitations. This is not the nuclear-armed Soviet Union or the Third Reich. This is a threat that requires vigilance, but is manageable. Above all it does not require us to relinquish our liberties to a new monarch.
So watch the show, and spread the word. We are going to have to demand impeachment from the bottom up; there is no other way. We need to find one strong voice in Congress who will show some real courage, will put country above party, above career, above self. One candidate would help too.
As with global climate change, what is at stake here is no less than the kind of future we are leaving our children. The generation that stood up to Nixon in Congress is gone, but the generation that stood up to him in the streets is not, and surely their children care enough about the future to act. If we, here, now, do not act within the next few months, our democratic form of government and our very future is at risk and may be lost.