by John Nichols – via Truthout
As the House Judiciary Committee took up the question of how best to address what its chairman described as “the Imperial Presidency of George W. Bush,” it was the ranking Republican in the room, Iowa Congressman Steve King, who observed that, “We are here having impeachment hearings before the Judiciary Committee.
“These are impeachment hearings before the United States Congress,“ King continued. “I never imagined I would ever be sitting on this side when something like this happened.”
King was not happy about the circumstance.
A resolute defender of President Bush and Vice President Cheney, the congressman was objecting to the very mention of the “I” word.
As it happened, impeachment was mentioned dozens of times during the hearing, often in significant detail and frequently as a necessary response to lawless actions of the president and vice president.
John Nichols ends his article with this:
As we know, the framers of our Constitution called for impeachment only in the case of high crimes and misdemeanors. The standard is purposely set high because we should not impeach for personal or political gain – only to uphold and safeguard our democracy. Sadly, in my judgment, at least two high-ranking administration officials have met that standard. Although the call to impeach is one I take neither easily nor lightly, I now firmly believe that impeachment hearings are the appropriate and necessary next step.
I agree wholeheartedly. I listened to the entire nearly 6 hours of the hearing today. Surely members of the Judiciary will come to the same conclusion. One can still hope..
John Nichols and Constitutional scholar Bruce Fein were guests of Bill Moyers Journal (PBS) on July 13, 2007 where they did a segment called “Tough Talk on Impeachment“. One of the House members this morning read quotes of John Nichols from the transcript of that segment before asking Bruce Fein to expand on it (which he was happy to do, and did it well).
If you haven’t watched this episode of Bill Moyers Journal, do yourself a favor and watch it.
Here’s the segment of the interview I am referring to:
BILL MOYERS: That struck me about your writings and your book. You say your great– your great fear is that Bush and Cheney will hand off to their successors a toolbox that they will not avoid using.
JOHN NICHOLS: Well, let’s try a metaphor. Let’s say that– when George Washington chopped down the cherry tree, he used the wood to make a little box. And in that box the president puts his powers. We’ve taken things out. We’ve put things in over the years.
On January 20th, 2009, if George Bush and Dick Cheney are not appropriately held to account this administration will hand off a toolbox with more powers than any president has ever had, more powers than the founders could have imagined. And that box may be handed to Hillary Clinton or it may be handed to Mitt Romney or Barack Obama or someone else. But whoever gets it, one of the things we know about power is that people don’t give away the tools. They don’t give them up. The only way we take tools out of that box is if we sanction George Bush and Dick Cheney now and say the next president cannot govern as these men have.
BRUCE FEIN: Well, that’s accurate but also we do find this peculiarity that Congress is giving up powers voluntarily. because there’s nothing right now, Bill, that would prevent Congress from the immediate shutting down all of George Bush’s and Dick Cheney’s illegal programs. Simply saying there’s no money to collect foreign intelligence-
BILL MOYERS: The power of the purse-
BRUCE FEIN: –the power of the purse. That is an absolute power. And yet Congress shies from it. It was utilized during the Vietnam War, you may recall, in 1973. Congress said there’s no money to go and extend the war into Laos and Cambodia. And even President Nixon said okay. This was a president who at one time said, “If I do it, it’s legal.” So that it we do find Congress yielding the power to the executive branch. It’s the very puzzle that the founding fathers would have been stunned at. They worried most over the legislative branch in, you know, usurping powers of the other branches. And–
BILL MOYERS: Well, what you just said indicts the Congress more than you’re indicting George Bush and Dick Cheney.
BRUCE FEIN: In some sense, yes, because the founding fathers expected an executive to try to overreach and expected the executive would be hampered and curtailed by the legislative branch. And you’re right. They have basically renounced– walked away from their responsibility to oversee and check. It’s not an option. It’s an obligation when they take that oath to faithfully uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States. And I think the reason why this is. They do not have convictions about the importance of the Constitution. It’s what in politics you would call the scientific method of discovering political truths and of preventing excesses because you require through the processes of review and vetting one individual’s perception to be checked and– counterbalanced by another’s. And when you abandon that process, you abandon the ship of state basically and it’s going to capsize.
They lay out the important piece concerning the precident that is being set by this Congress allowing this administration and this president to run roughshod over the Constitution and our laws with no oversight or accountability, and what it means to future presidencies – and ultimately the very future survival of our form of government and of this nation.
Watch entire interview – Read entire transcript
CSPAN will be running the entire hearing of today again this evening in case you missed it.