The Real Side
Land of Impeachment
Our chance to save the nation
By Jim Scarantino
Benjamin Franklin. Thomas Jefferson. Gerald Ortiz Y Pino. John Grubesic. Great names in American democracy.
Jerry, a longtime Alibi columnist, also represents Albuquerque’s Downtown in the New Mexico State Senate. Sen. Grubesic represents part of Santa Fe. They have introduced a resolution calling on the Legislature to petition Congress to commence impeachment proceedings against President George W. Bush and Vice President Richard B. Cheney.
Old Ben and Tom would dig it. They foresaw our present circumstances more than 200 years ago and bequeathed us tools with which to preserve our republic. They would salute little New Mexico standing up for the whole United States.
First, to the resolution, then two of the geniuses who founded this country.
The resolution makes four charges against Bush and Cheney, each constituting a “high crime or misdemeanor” justifying impeachment.
Count One: Bush and Cheney “conspired with others to defraud the United States of America by intentionally misleading Congress and the public regarding the threat from Iraq in order to justify a war.”
Count Two: “Bush has admitted to ordering the National Security Agency to conduct electronic surveillance of American civilians without seeking warrants from the foreign intelligence surveillance court of review.”
Count Three: Bush and Cheney “conspired to commit the torture of prisoners” in violation of statutes and international treaties constituting the “supreme law” of this nation.
Count Four: Bush and Cheney “acted to strip American citizens of their constitutional rights by ordering indefinite detention without access to legal counsel, without charge and without the opportunity to appear before a civil judicial officer to challenge the detention, based solely on the discretionary designation by the president of a United States citizen as an ‘enemy combatant.’”
America knows the truth of the charges against Bush and Cheney. But even though Democrats control Congress, the checks and balances on the powers of the executive branch are not working.
For good reason the word “pathetic” frequently appears in the same sentence with “Democratic Party.” In the powers of the purse and impeachment, the Constitution gives Democrats real leverage against Bush. Congress could cut funding for the Iraq War. It could try Bush and Cheney for their crimes. Instead, Democrats wrangle over a symbolic gesture against escalation—a gesture Bush and Cheney have promised to ignore. While Congress quibbles over adjectives, Americans keep dying in Iraq, and 22,000 more are heading to the bloodshed. Bush is not going to stop unless someone makes him stop.
Bush and Cheney needed only about two weeks after the November elections to size up the new Democratic majority. They concluded the world hadn’t changed much. Bush is still “the decision-maker.” The fact that Democrats won’t use the constitutional tools at their disposal validates Bush’s contempt for Congress.
Something insidious happens to people when they spend too much time in D.C. Thomas Jefferson foresaw the risk that Congress could become enfeebled by addiction to the pleasures of the imperial capital. That is where a state-generated impeachment resolution comes in.
Jefferson realized it could fall to the states to oppose a lawless president. Section 603 of Jefferson’s Manual on Parliamentary Practice and the current rules of the House of Representatives give states the power to initiate impeachment proceedings by “charges transmitted [to Congress] from the legislature of a State.” Every conservative Republican in the New Mexico Legislature should loudly declare their profound admiration for this powerful states’ rights provision.
But, say those wanting to duck the issue, the Legislature has more pressing matters. And pusillanimous pols worry that calling for impeachment might make Democrats look bad.
Let’s see. There’s that cockfighting ban the Legislature has on fast track. At the same time, the Democratic leadership hopes the impeachment resolution suffers an obscure death through interminable committee hearings. I guess that means the Democratic leadership is more concerned about the treatment of roosters than the New Mexicans Bush is getting killed in Iraq.
When the party’s grassroots made impeachment a prominent part of the 2006 platform, true to character, the New Mexico Democratic leadership couldn’t run away fast enough.
Which brings up Ben Franklin. Remember what he said upon emerging from signing the Constitution? “We have given you a republic. It is up to you to keep it.” Franklin was much less afraid that our republic would end in a violent coup than slip away through complacency and indifference.
And that brings us to you. If you want this impeachment resolution to see the light of day, you’d better call your state senator. Speak boldly. Say you won’t settle for anything less than a full, roll call vote. Either they’re with the United States, or they’re against us. Support the troops, impeach Bush. And God bless America.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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