The case for impeaching President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney is far stronger than the case against President Bill Clinton or the impending case that drove President Nixon to resign. With Republican control of Congress, especially of the House where impeachment must originate, it is hardly surprising that impeachment of the Republican Bush administration is a dead letter.
What is surprising is that conservatives with a long tradition of adulation for the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights have not been up in arms against the Bush regime’s all-out assault on the foundation of America’s political system. Instead, the case for impeachment has come from the left wing. This weakens the case, because it can be portrayed as a partisan political move instead of a last-ditch attempt to save the Constitution.
In Impeach the President: The Case Against Bush and Cheney, edited by Dennis Loo and Peter Phillips, left-wing professors, journalists, and activists present a 300-page, 12-count indictment.
It is for the most part a sound indictment. A conservative American constitutionalist who loves his country can find little in the case for impeachment to take exception to.
Despite the strength of the case for impeachment, I do not think it will happen, because Bush has convinced Americans that his crimes against truth, the U.S. Constitution, and the Geneva Conventions are necessary measures in the “war against terrorists.” As long as Americans understand 9/11 as an attack on America by “Islamo-fascism,” the executive branch will have wide latitude in usurping liberty.
Seymour Hersh in his book Chain of Command asks,
“How did eight or nine neoconservatives redirect the government and rearrange long-standing American priorities and policies with so much ease? How did they overcome the bureaucracy, intimidate the press, mislead the Congress, and dominate the military? Is our democracy that fragile?”
“How indeed?” ask the editors of Impeach the President. Their answer seems to be that the Democrats have been intimidated and “truth and facts have been barricaded off from reaching most of the American people.” The editors have faith in the American people to do the right thing if only they can find out the truth.
It is refreshing to see that the Left, unlike the neoconservatives, believes in the American system. However, as Claes Ryn indicates in his book America the Virtuous, it would appear that the American system has been eroded over the decades by the rise of the new Jacobin ideology known as neoconservatism.
At a recent conference hosted by the journal The National Interest, it was the Democrat Will Marshall, president and founder of the Progressive Policy Institute, who sounded like Richard Perle and William Kristol, not the Republican Stefan Halper, who served in the Reagan administration. Halper presented a devastating critique of Bush’s neocon foreign policy.
The problem is not that the Democrats are intimidated. The problem is that the Democrats are part of the problem. The editors of Impeach the President indirectly acknowledge this fact when they report that Congress “looked the other way” when Bush acknowledged that he lied to cover up his felony of illegally spying on U.S. citizens and declared the real criminal to be the NSA official who blew the whistle. Democrats, no less than Republicans, have permitted the Bush regime to violate the separation of powers and the rule of law. A branch of government that no longer defends its power is a branch of government that no longer believes in its power. Just as the Reichstag faded away for Hitler, the U.S. Congress has faded away for the Bush administration.
Claes Ryn is correct when he says a change of mind has occurred. The Constitution and the political system based on it are on the ropes because the players no longer believe in them. They believe in executive power to act forcefully in behalf of “American exceptionalism.”
Civil libertarians rely on the judiciary to defend constitutional rights, but the Supreme Court has been compromised by Bush’s appointments of Roberts and Alito, men who believe in “energy in the executive.” Without support from Congress, the judiciary cannot protect civil liberty. With the passage of the recent detainee and spy bills, Congress has allied itself with the Bush regime against civil liberty.
Beliefs are more important than institutions. Michael Polanyi wrote that if people believed in the principles of Stalinism, democracy would uphold Stalinism. If people believe in American hegemony, they will not complain when barriers to hegemonic actions are removed. If people believe fighting terrorism is more important than civil liberty, they will lose civil liberty.
What America needs to refurbish is its beliefs. Without renewing our beliefs, we cannot renew our civil liberties and hold government accountable.