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February 02, 2006


Eartha Kitt on impeachment (not really but may as well be):

"You know what we have to do in this country?" she said. "We have to be more positive, that's what we have to do. We don't live in a monarchy. We can change our rulers every four years. And we elected this guy, so we have to support him, we have to support the troops, have to keep them there because we got into this, so we have to see it through."

What is it with the attitude of "yeah this sucks but we started it so we better keep going." It's like, if I wait at a bus stop 30 minutes, I know the bus isn't coming. But I've waited that long -- I'm due. May as well wait a few more minutes. Put a couple hundred quarters in a slot machine -- haven't won yet, but you started it, may as well finish it off. Struggle through this administration's policies without complaint, and something good will come to you. Suffer through this world and ye shall reap a heavenly reward.

I suggest the real reluctance to go for impeachment is not procedural or political but psychological. When you're doing well, as under Clinton, you don't mind rocking the boat, pushing the limits. When you're frightened and unsafe, in your home, job, life, you just want to walk the line and hope the storm will pass.

You're right to try to lead us out of that but I think the problem is emotional, not intellectual, and the argument must be too.

We'll have to work on the emotional part of it once we lay out the intellectual part, although I think that for some of us, the emotional reaction may come once we start examining the rest of the argument yet to come.

Some of us will be moved by the necessity simply to "stand up and fight, just for the sake of fighting" -- that is, to show the "base" that we've got "spine."

Others of us will be moved intellectually, but possibly to an emotional reaction, once we realize that the necessity of fighting is not so much about the "base" as it is about the fact that we're staring down the barrel of an entirely different constitutional order that threatens to eat all post-Watergate reform developments.

If the Administration continues to stonewall on the NSA investigation, this may pick up steam because it makes it easy to demonstrate how unchecked Bush treats his power.

In his confirmation hearings, Alito noted that SCOTUS could only intervene if there were a party with standing. But we'll probably learn shortly that the parties currently suing (through ACLU) don't have standing, so that rules out SCOTUS.

Meanwhile, Bush says he doesn't have to tell Congress the legal justification for the NSA program.

What's left? Enact a law. Wait a second. Congress already did that, in 1978.

There, we've just exhausted the remedies.

From the Dept. of Memory Lane, courtesy of Thomas. The database doesn't go back far enough (I don't think) to get at Gonzales' impeachment resolution against Reagan. Alas.

H. Res. 34
102nd Congress
January 16, 1991

Impeaching George Herbert Walker Bush, President of the United States, of high crimes and misdemeanors.

"... has prepared, planned, and conspired to engage in a massive war against Iraq employing methods of mass destruction that will result in the killing of tens of thousands of civilians, many of whom will be children...

"... conspired to commit crimes against the peace by leading the United States into aggressive war against Iraq in violation of Article 2(4) of the United Nations Charter, the Nuremberg Charter, other international instruments and treaties, and the Constitution of the United States...

"... bribing, intimidating and threatening others, including the members of the United Nations Security Council, to support belligerent acts against Iraq...

"From August, 1991, through January, 1991, the President embarked on a course of action that systematically eliminated every option for peaceful resolution of the Persian Gulf crisis...."

emptypockets, you omitted the reason for Ms. Kitt's reticence toward presidential criticism, in the preceding paragraph:

"Ms. Kitt once famously told LADY BIRD JOHNSON at a White House luncheon that the Vietnam War was irrational, a move that did not do wonders for her career. So we asked what she thought about HARRY BELAFONTE's well-publicized condemnation of the BUSH administration."

She's paid her dues, and was most leery of paying any more.

Article II, section 4:

"The President, Vice President and all Civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors."

How about just impeaching Cheney?

I think the emotional argument needs to be: things will not get better unless we do something. You're broaching that with the "third bite of the apple" and Watergate Iran-Contra references -- but I don't think the line from Nixon to Reagan to Bush is clear, other than kindred spirits or that one "emboldened" the other as you say.

What needs to be brought out is that this problem is not limited to this President, this administration, or this appleful of worms. That once the Constitution has been broken it can't be put back together again. That we're actually looking at the permanent dissolution of our way of life, of what we take for granted as Americans, and of what America itself stands for. [This message will, I think, in a few months or less, happen to dovetail with the themes being laid out by Feingold and hopefully others, judging by his piece today.]

I'm personally all in favor of impeachment but if I look hard at why, it's ultimately for me the carrying out of a revenge fantasy. (That's another way to go, although it won't reach non-Bush-haters.) I don't honestly in my gut believe that just riding out the Bush term and electing Democrats or even sane Republicans to undo his crimes is not a viable solution.

I think you're heading in the direction of explaining why that doesn't work, but I'd encourage you to hit it harder -- I'm still not getting it in a way that I would be forced to believe you if I didn't want to already.

Ever see the Twilight Zone where the traveller stops at a monastery(?) for shelter and is told they have the Devil locked under guard...? I think the reason he frees him (and, in the classic Twilight Zone manner, why his housekeeper years later is about to do it again) is not a bad explanation for why we keep electing Nixons, Reagans, and Bushes. And why we will again, and why impeachment is necessary, and also why it will be so difficult to convince people of either of those.

p.s. that Twilight Zone episode synopsis

&y, priceless. Give a link for those of us who need maps to memory lane (and maps to thomas for that matter)?

cgeye, you're right -- though I wasn't really trying to impugn Eartha Kitt but was using her statement as a nice example of public sentiment. Whether camouflaged by nature or design (as you point out), it blends in well with the pack.

There's more to the story, of course, emptypockets. And that's where I'm headed.

But the line from Nixon to Reagan to Bush is there, not just in the form of kindred spirits, but like some strange game of "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon."

Some of the people at the center of today's disasters were, of course, actually present in all three administrations, such as Donald Rumsfeld, and others were either in all three or held close nearby, such as Dick Cheney. Others like Abrams and Poindexter cover only two administrations.

But a third group is just as important: the legal theorists. The circles of young acolytes who surrounded Robert Bork and Ed Meese are still at the job today, scheming to rewrite constitutional interpretation to restore the powers of the presidency that their bosses, notably Cheney and Rumsfeld, believed they were robbed of post-Watergate.

I'll give you another head start on where I'm going, in case you can't wait. If you find the time, read Mark Tushnet's article, "Constitutional Hardball" (PDF). I think that lays bare what's happpening here, although not explicitly with reference to the very latest developments, such as the NSA surveillance scandal and the "unitary executive" theory. But read in an updated context, I think things become plain enough.

Well it may be very satisfying to talk and listen about, but the fact is, when it comes to impeachment of a president, "mechanics" matter MORE than "propriety" or "necessity."

Impeachment is a political act. When it comes to the president, impeachment means exactly what the House wants it to mean at the time, no more and no less. If the House is opposed to the president, a blowjob can be an impeachable offense. If the House supports the president, a black-letter-law felony, or lying the country into an unwinnable war, is not an impeachable offense.

So yeah, it's fun to talk about. And it actually has political value in that widespread talk about it can corrode a president's political standing.

But propriety and necessity are in the eye of the beholder, and impeachment is in the hands of the House.

emptypockets --

Apologies for the linkless comment. Search results at Thomas are just temporary links, and I only know how to find stuff there through searches. I know it's possible to dredge up a permalink because a very patient person over at Kos once talked me through it. But I can't remember how it's done. Sorry about that.

Anyway, here's "how to fish" and generate your own temporary Thomas link:

1. Thomas Search Multiple Congresses
2. Uncheck all
3. Check the box for the 102nd Congress
4. Search for: hres 34
5. Follow the link to the, "1 bill containing your phrase exactly as entered"
6. The Aristocrats!

Yes, impeachment is in the hands of the House. And everyone will be watching to see what they do with it when we put it there, whether we do it straight-up, or via the states.

Mechanics, of course, are another word for process and procedure, and nothing matters more than that. Which is why you put that hot potato, when appropriate, right where it belongs, and make them pick up the rug in full view of everyone.

The point with respect to mechanics is that they are no excuse for not making the GOP own up to what they're doing. That impeachment is a political act answers precisely nothing in my post.


I'm with you, ep, to wit: That we're actually looking at the permanent dissolution of our way of life, of what we take for granted as Americans, and of what America itself stands for.

In my most radical youthful moments, I've always been reluctant to adopt the point of view which says our foes want to impose their version of fascism on us, particularly because that term has been so abused and used abusively in my lifetime, encompassing perspectives and people who could in no way be legitimately so characterized.

But over the past few years, I've edged closer and closer to the view that we and our rights and our future are being impaled on a particularly pernicious form of "Americanism," as Governor Long would have labeled it.

In 1980, Bertram Gross wrote Friendly Fascism, getting at least some of his impetus from C. Wright Mills's writings about mass society and some from the Italian Communist, Antonio Gramsci. Fascism, he wrote, wouldn't arrive blackshirted and armed with an ideology of racial superiority or all the other trappings that have become almost cliches 60-odd years since Mussolini was strung up and Hitler was torched outside his bunker. Fascism here, said Gross, would dance in with a friendly face, within the bounds of a traditional American nationalism, employing traditional American catchwords and symbols, and overtly attached (but covertly alien to) American ideals.

Closer and closer we're edging, though 9/11 offered the excuse to open the throttle. As you say, Kagro X, there was a failure to draw the line at Watergate and Iran-contra, or rather, for all the drama that arose at the time of those two breaches of constitutional order, the smackdown of the perps was far from adequate, and now the same rulers ru(i)n us again.

To succeed, however, impeachment - which, of necessity, is only the first move toward standing back from precipice - must not be a move by Charlie Rangel (gawd love him), but the leadership of the party, or at least a significant fraction of that leadership. Perhaps that is part of your "slow train," and I hope that you address how we get that fraction aboard to make impeachment more than just a theme on restroom hand-dryers and freeway overpasses.

I'm not sure the outlines of the plan existed during your most radical youthful moments, MB. I suppose you could trace its roots as far back as Goldwater, if you wanted to. But it wasn't really until, let's say, the Powell memo, that there was something less inchoate to go on, and even then not really unti the Reagan administration that there were any indications that Republican legal theorists were serious about defending Nixon-era interpretations of executive power. And it wasn't until now that they've had control of the key mechanisms for making that happen.

So it's been a long road back for them, but that only highlights the fact that this was always something they intended to do, first chance they got.


I think it might help to consider the different things they've gotten from each incarnation of their experiments with power. With Nixon, they got the tactics. Not the legal theory, no, but the means by which to maintain power within one party (well, so long as you don't get caught). With October Surprise to Iran-Contra, they established not only the legal justification, but the deployment of their previously domestic shadow government into the international realm (I'm making a distinction, of course, between "legitimate" CIA ops, even shit as stupid as Iran or Guatemala, and the completely off the books stuff they're doing now and were doing under Iran Contra). And finally, with Clinton, they proved they could totally neutralize the 4th branch of power. They're in a race right now to put all those pieces together before the American public wakes up.

Note, I also think we need to get beyond thinking in terms of Administrations. The continuity between Iran Contra and the pre-Iraq War ops make that easy, if we can coherently explain and prove the latter. (Of course, we ought to start with Ghorbanifar). An emphasis on the role of the College Republicans in training new leaders in the same corrupt tactics--particularly as we're exposing the Cunningham and Abramoff scandals--is really important. And of course those two scandals bring us full circle to Abramoff's training in Apartheid SA and Wilkes' training in Contra Nicaragua. In short, we need to explain that this has been one continuous effort that has spanned 40 years, and that even a "setback" like the Clinton election will only bring about heightened intensity of effort.

Thing is, just about every single "scandal" coming down the pike can be described in these terms. And so long as we've got Bushes on the national scene (thanks to Phillips and Parry), we will be able to demonstrate the essential continuity of the effort.

We just need to translate that into consequences so people can understand it.

Emptywheel, I just finally got myself to the point where I felt I had my thoughts organized through one and a half posts, so that I could release the first part! What are you trying to do to me?

Thankfully, it's a group blog, and the comments function as notes on the work, and future chapters can be developed -- and not just by me. The part of this that I feel like I have a grasp of is where these dark arts meet the light -- the constitutional nexus, for lack of a better term, where the final transformation from "dirty trick" to "constitutional orthodoxy" takes place.

I'll continue to lay out what I can, if you'll all continue to annotate it. Then, we can finally put together the Grand Unifying Theory of Everything and disappear into a wormhole, or whatever happens at the singularity.

It is amazing how many different posts have been touching on this one subject, though.

Yeah, that last comment is really a post in waiting. I just need to get through the last damn Obeidi post, and then I'll return to my comment.

Just keep working the legal angle, though. I'm great at the spin side, but law? I flunked that course, I think.

Fortunately, Bush is digging his heels in over the NSA and refusing any sort of compromise, however patheticly framed. The stakes could not be higher then, and Bush is counting on Congress backing away. It's hard to see at the moment how Congress can back away from investigating. My guess is Bush plans on stonewalling the investigation, refusing to release any info, and slowly strangle it (like the Phase II investigation of WMD intel, which has been stalled for well over a year).

I guess our first job has to be to build so much public demand for information that the Dems see advantage in "leading" the charge, and/or danger in dithering. I'm afraid that means a concerted on-line campaign over weeks or months, directed both at Congress and at the media. I don't see anybody organizing one though, and I don't really have the time myself.

We also need a webpage devoted to the NSA scandal. Urged this weeks ago on some people at dKos, sounded like they were going to move on it, but I haven't seen further signs of movement.

The alternative is unthinkable: a precedent that holds the President may ignore any laws he considers quaint. If we lie down for this, we'd better stay down on the ground and surrender once and for all.

Another excellent reason not to wait until after the elections, smintheus. If no one is organizing visibly, perhaps the next best thing is to latch on to people who are organizing --campaigns for Congress -- and work to graft the issue onto their organization.

Helps them arrive better prepared to do the job, too.

yes impeachment would be best. because winning anything soon is a looonnggg shot at best. i mean what do you campaign on? hey we support abortion vote for Dems. Hey we will socialize medicine vote Communist. Hey we won't avenge 911 or take steps to defend our country vote Coward. Hey we will raise taxes vote for Progress(ive taxes). The rich are bad vote for the working man (people who actually pay taxes)....Yes write the impeachment letter

How about "we care for the retarded?" Does that one have any special appeal for you?

I agree that we have to move on impeachment now. Leave it alone, and it will drift and sink out of sight. I can scarcely conceive how anybody seriously thinks it would work to wait until after the Nov. election. As if Dems, having theoretically retaken a majority, are ever going to want to let their agenda be eclipsed while impeachment takes over the spotlight. Impeachment would take at least half a year from beginning to end, on the fast track. It has to be a freight train, and the feckless types in DC have to realize they've got to get out of the way of it.

A most salient and superbly written essay. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it AND agreed with almost everything you had to say, which is rare indeed. I eagerly await your second installment.

I think (although I'm not sure) I understand where you are coming from and if I had to draw the line, given my limited reading of your posts, I wouldn't be stepping to your side. I doubt that the voting populace would either.

As you know, the average American is not very well informed about politics at all; they don't react unless they are over-spoonfed with news that forces them to make a decision. Your call for impeachment, no matter how well thought out, will only be successful once the traditional media is on board and only then will the people accept and support the concept.

Trouble is, the traditional media isn't interested.

Your call for impeachment, no matter how well thought out, will only be successful once the traditional media is on board and only then will the people accept and support the concept.

This is true to some extent, but the flaw is that Kaygro's call for impeachment's appeal isn't that it's 'well thought-out', although between him and RonK, it IS well thought out. The appeal is that it's the right thing to do. It can be a slow train. Fine. Those of us who love the old Republic have nothing to lose, so why not? Out-nerd the bow-tie guys. Why not? The only serious work on impeachment I ever see is here on TNH. It's so bracing.

If you fight the modern Republlicans with a conventional mindset, you will probably lose, because they OWN the conventional mindset, and have done for 25 years (a strength and a weakness). I don't know how far impeachment will go, but it is indeed essential - triggered, really. I'm all for very intentional, careful radicalism like this. It's a key to power, as we learned in the false dawn of the soon-to-be-ending Reagan era. A good part of the benefit is that you skitch in their wake, you draw power from them. You make them carry you, too.

Brillant. Thanks for this post, and all the other good ones at TNH.

That the voting public does not yet see the necessity for impeachment may be a failing on our part. But I have never prescibed, as a remedy for such failures, more failure.

following johhybutter and kagroX's comments immediately above:

i think it is important not to get too far out front of the public. that is usually where politicians run into trouble.

at this point the strategy i would favor would be to began systematically assembling a collection of bush, bush minions, and bush administration misconduct, deceit, incompetence.

i have referred elsewhere to the entirety of this effort as "nailing the 91 theses to the whitehouse door".

but one of the "problems" writing up a ticket on this administration, is that it is so out of control,

the president himself simply does not function as we have reason to expect a president to function,

as a consequence,

the corruption, public lying, and incompetent administartion of programs and department is continuous and overwhelming.

each month there is a new revelation of misconduct, mismanagement -- nsa spying, prescription drug program, flu epicemic planning, etc, etc, etc, etc.

there is a temptatiopn to just keep writing about and criticizing each new act of incompetence or dishonesty.

so, at this point,

i think it is time to begin catelogueing, with concise detail, specific acts of mismanagement and misconduct that bush and his administartion have engaged in over the last five years.

my own list would begin with the failure to protect from the world trade center attack, the unnecessary tax cuts, and go from there.

make your own list. anybody can play.

what i would hope would happen from this effort is that it would be possible for any interested citizen to see in, say, 10 typed pages a fairly comprehensive list of misconduct and mismanagement with simple, accurate descriptions of the details of each act of misconduct or incompetennce, or dishonesty.

once this "bill of indictment" (i'm no lawyer), "91 theses", call it what you will, has been constructed then it whould be possible to use it to begin collecting serious support.


even if there is no stomach for impeachment,

a concise list of misconduct and missmanagement would be of great use to democratic candidates around the country in 2006


a great vehicle to control the debate that rove will try to control with fear.

and it whould be a good document to insist the main stream media consider.

best ofg all,

it would be a very, very good document to post on a web site for any and all to read and download and send to friends and fellow concerned cittizens.

Having lived through the earlier incarnations of our present rulers (Watergate and Iran-Contra), I think tying all that together is very important. At critical junctures in each of those scenarios, establishment politicians backed off from following the evidence they had uncovered to its logical conclusion. What holds them back? Are they all more afraid of an arroused people than each other?

Orion, I have to make the same point I've been making over and over. It's not a political strategy. It's a Constitutional necessity.

It is to be regretted that we may be ahead of the public on this score -- though it's also debatable in itself. But the public's weak stomach isn't what's at issue. It's the creation of a new constitutional order which would validate these practices, rendering the public's opinion of them largely irrelevant for the foreseeable future.

It's not a post on the strategic value of impeachment. It's on the necessity for it.

Getting too far out in front of where the public is? It's called political leadership. The country aches for decisive leadership that will challenge Bush.


thanks. i take your point. i did not write with the thought in mind that impeachment was a strategy.

i'm just suggesting a strategy or "technique" that might prove useful in getting from A to B, make that A to I,

which technique would also be useable at the same time in other venues

--the 2006 congressional elections and

-- the "national discussion" in the media that rove will try to implement in the coming months.

there is a growing sense among americans that things ain't right with our leadership, both bush and the republican party.

the "technique" i refer to is creating a catalogue of mismanagemnt, misinformation, and misconduct of the president himself, the bush administration, and the republican party.

i would expect a catalogue of this sort would go a long way toward providing concrete evidence to support this general feeling among the populace of things gone awry.

in putting together this "catalogue" (i've previously referred to it as a "bill of indictment" or "the 91 theses"), one would have the opportunity to "frame" or "develop narratives" at will for each of the individual items, or "case studies" of mismanagement, misinformation, or misconduct.

in putting the list together, one could set up different major categories such as

administrative incompetence, e.g.,

-- fema and katrina in 2005 vs fema and florida in 2004

-- the implementation of the drug prescription benefit,

-- the failure to properly equip troops for their safety,

-- the faliure to capture bin lasen at tora bora.

once you have a good list in a category such as "administrative incompetence", you can select from that list those situations that best exemplify the message of incompetence and write them up as a set of "case studies" on that issue.

understand i'm talking here of a few paragraphs for each entry, not pages and pages. this document needs to be transportable over the internet.

It certainly couldn't hurt the case, no matter what you wanted to do with it, to have the abuses catalogued. I can agree to that.

Regarding ew's remark:

And of course those two scandals bring us full circle to Abramoff's training in Apartheid SA and Wilkes' training in Contra Nicaragua. In short, we need to explain that this has been one continuous effort

This article from last Sunday's Times gives some hints of where the next wave is being prepared, and who some of them are. Best article from that paper in years, perhaps.

ew continued:

a "setback" like the Clinton election will only bring about heightened intensity of effort.

Data-mining the early period of that "setback" produces a most interesting chronology...

Good site! I'll stay reading! Keep improving!

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