December 23, 2005

Impeach President Bush

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 1:06 am

Lest you think the headline of this post is just a bit of hyperbole, I’m serious. President Bush should be impeached. I do not take this position lightly, but have given it a lot of thought, and come to the conclusion that President Bush should be impeached.

While I am certainly not a fan of Bush, I don’t say this out of partisan vindictiveness. I would be saying the same thing if it were President John Kerry ordering the NSA to conduct surveillances of U.S. citizens without a warrant.

Work with me here for a moment. Let’s take the personalities and political factions out of the discussion. Imagine this scenario with all of the current political context removed:

[First-name last-name], a [Republican|Democrat|Green|Libertarian|Socialist|Independent|car salesman], became the [xx st|nd|rd|th] President of the United States in the year [yyyy]. While in office, [he|she] suspended habeus corpus and authorized the [spy agency] to record conversations of U.S. citizens without first obtaining a warrant. President [last-name] maintained that Congress had no ability to impose any legislative constraints on these actions, and that the Judicial Branch could insist neither that warrants be obtained nor that the Constitutional prohibition against unlawful search and seizure applied. These special powers, [he|she] argued, came from [his|her] role as Commander in Chief during war time, and thus could not be infringed upon by the other branches of government. Thus, even though [he|she] admitted breaking existing laws and violating the Constitution, the President claimed immunity from any legal restraint.

As leader of the military, President [last-name] had, for the first time in U.S. history, asserted a Presidential power that had no constitutional limits, could not be removed without the President’s acquiescence, and for which there was no legal recourse by U.S. citizens. And since the War on [conceptual evil] could never truly be said to be won, this power would never expire.

Sounds pretty scary, no? Fortunately, the Founding Fathers did consider such a scenario, and gave Congress a tool to curtail just such a runaway executive: impeachment.

Salon argues that there is a strong case for impeachment, but that it is politically out of the question since a Republican Congress is not about to impeach Bush. (This is one more reason why Democrats need to regain control of Congress in 2006.)

There are plenty of interim steps that should be taken first: congressional hearings, a congressional censure, lawsuits, etc. But the only reason these steps would have any hope of success would be the underlying threat of impeachment.

Republicans should consider the implications of letting this pass. Lying about sex is immoral, but Bush’s actions are a threat to the Constitution. Having gone after Clinton for what many of us believe was a personal failing but not an impeachable offense, Republicans can’t now ignore Bush’s actions. Libertarians and small-government conservatives that have for so long railed against the accretion of Federal powers overlook this egregious power grab at their peril.

31 Comments

  1. The way things are going, I’m not sure it’s out of the question anymore.

    Comment by wildwest — December 23, 2005 @ 5:44 am

  2. Progressives/Liberals are constantly accused of moral relativism by the politcal right. What more blatant instance of moral relativism is there than Bush’s bootstrapping justification of his clearly illegal actions. Where is the moral outrage so quickly exhibited by those claiming the political and moral highground of the conservatives?

    Comment by Herman O. — December 23, 2005 @ 8:07 am

  3. Bush and Chaney have chosen the roles of totalitarian leaders in order to fight totalitarian authority in other parts of the world. And no one seems to be seeing the hypocrisy. Are we as a nation blind or just apathetic?

    Comment by Tony — December 23, 2005 @ 9:18 am

  4. Bob… have you been hearing any strange clicks on your phone lately?

    Comment by Tony — December 23, 2005 @ 9:30 am

  5. http://www.fas.org/irp/offdocs/eo/eo-12949.htm

    Executive Order 12949:

    “By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution
    and the laws of the United States, including sections 302 and 303 of the
    Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (“Act”) (50 U.S.C. 1801,
    et seq.), as amended by Public Law 103- 359, and in order to provide for
    the authorization of physical searches for foreign intelligence purposes
    as set forth in the Act, it is hereby ordered as follows:

    Section 1. Pursuant to section 302(a)(1) of the Act, the
    Attorney General is authorized to approve physical searches, without a
    court order, to acquire foreign intelligence information for periods of
    up to one year, if the Attorney General makes the certifications
    required by that section.

    Sec. 2. Pursuant to section 302(b) of the Act, the Attorney
    General is authorized to approve applications to the Foreign
    Intelligence Surveillance Court under section 303 of the Act to obtain
    orders for physical searches for the purpose of collecting foreign
    intelligence information.

    Sec. 3. Pursuant to section 303(a)(7) of the Act, the following
    officials, each of whom is employed in the area of national security or
    defense, is designated to make the certifications required by section
    303(a)(7) of the Act in support of applications to conduct physical
    searches:

    (a) Secretary of State;

    (b) Secretary of Defense;

    (c) Director of Central Intelligence;

    (d) Director of the Federal Bureau of
    Investigation;

    (e) Deputy Secretary of State;

    (f) Deputy Secretary of Defense; and

    (g) Deputy Director of Central Intelligence.

    None of the above officials, nor anyone officially acting in that
    capacity, may exercise the authority to make the above certifications,
    unless that official has been appointed by the President, by and with
    the advice and consent of the Senate.

    WILLIAM J. CLINTON

    THE WHITE HOUSE,
    February 9, 1995.”

    Comment by Jacke — December 23, 2005 @ 12:55 pm

  6. I just cannot help but wonder why warrantless searches and information gathering, spying to gather foreign intelligence which would protect Americans, authorized by Bill Clinton in 1995 was ignored in the press, ignored by the left, ignored by Democrats….

    Were you calling for Clinton’s impeachment in 1995, Bob?

    Comment by Jacke — December 23, 2005 @ 1:05 pm

  7. Jacke – Clinton’s order complied with the law, Bush’s violates the law. See here:

    In his signature style, Drudge has sought to suggest that Bush has done nothing that Democratic presidents didn’t do, which may reflect his own continuing obsession with Bill Clinton. The Internet gossip’s headline this week blared, “Clinton Executive Order: Secret Search on Americans Without Court Order…” He went on to link to a National Review Online article that made much of a Clinton order in 1994 authorizing warrantless searches. But it is important to connect the dots, as the president would say, in Drudge’s ellipsis points. The Clinton executive order permitted such searches only under certain very limited circumstances that are legal under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the very statute that Bush has admitted ignoring.

    The Center for American Progress noted Wednesday what Drudge left out and what the National Review’s Byron York elided — namely, the difference between search or surveillance operations conducted against foreigners and those conducted against American citizens. (“Some people,” York later noted in chiding exaggerations on both sides of the issue, “have said that Bill Clinton signed an executive order authorizing such surveillance; he did not.”)

    The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act restrictions were designed to protect Americans, not to hobble U.S. counterintelligence aimed at foreign spies and terrorists.

    That was why Clinton’s order authorized the attorney general “to approve physical searches, without a court order, to acquire foreign intelligence information for periods of up to one year” — but only if the attorney general “makes the certifications required” by Section 302(a)(1) of FISA. That section requires the attorney general to certify that the search or surveillance in question would not invade the property or premises of “a United States person,” meaning a citizen or someone living here legally. By leaving out the same qualification, Drudge made the same incorrect implication about an order signed by Jimmy Carter in 1979.

    Comment by Bob — December 23, 2005 @ 1:56 pm

  8. Alito Defended Officials From Wiretap Suits
    By DONNA CASSATA (Associated Press Writer)
    From Associated Press
    December 23, 2005 4:58 PM EST
    WASHINGTON – Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito defended the right of government officials to order domestic wiretaps for national security when he worked at the Reagan Justice Department, an echo of President Bush’s rationale for spying on U.S. residents in the war on terror.

    Then an assistant to the solicitor general, Alito wrote a 1984 memo that provided insights on his views of government powers and legal recourse – seen now through the prism of Bush’s actions – as well as clues to the judge’s understanding of how the Supreme Court operates.

    The National Archives released the memo and scores of other documents related to Alito on Friday; the Associated Press had requested the material under the Freedom of Information Act. The memo comes as Bush is under fire for secretly ordering domestic spying of suspected terrorists without a warrant.

    Comment by Tony — December 23, 2005 @ 2:49 pm

  9. Impeachment proceedings ould be overkill, I think. Public pressure might cause Bush to back down — he’s changed his mind on lots of issues after finding he was going against majority opinion. If he still refuses, there’s always a Congressional election next year.

    And even if Democrats take back Congress in November, impeachment proceedings would be a bad idea. Their focus should be on repealing Bush’s tax cuts and restoring money to social programs. One in six Americans lives in poverty. Until that’s changed, everything else is minor.

    That’s my two cents.

    Comment by BruceA — December 23, 2005 @ 4:30 pm

  10. Well, certainly Joe Conason is an unbiased moderate editorialist, now, isn’t he, Bob?

    There are certainly two sides to this debate, since I am not a Constitutional Lawyer (are you?), I suppose I’ll leave it to the “big dogs” to fight it out. I’m going to “stay on the porch” and watch all the partisan hacks who don’t know any more about Constitutional law than I do condemn and call for impeachment of the President before the debate has even really started. Thanks for the entertainment. Oh, if you don’t mind, this little “dog” may get off the porch once in a while just to balance some of what you claim. The fact still remains that:

    http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/chi-0512210142dec21,0,3553632.story

    “In the most recent judicial statement on the issue, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review, composed of three federal appellate court judges, said in 2002 that “All the … courts to have decided the issue held that the president did have inherent authority to conduct warrantless searches to obtain foreign intelligence … We take for granted that the president does have that authority.””

    Comment by Jacke — December 23, 2005 @ 7:37 pm

  11. Bruce –

    You have a good point — political pressure may very well force Bush to stop. But I don’t just want Bush to stop the practice, I want him to disavow the policy. I don’t want him to say “I was within my authority to do this, but I’ll stop now because I choose to”. I want him to say “okay, I was wrong, and the President does not have this power”. I don’t want any kind of precedent to be left standing.

    That doesn’t mean he necessarily needs to be impeached, but I believe the threat of impeachment needs to be real to force him to admit he was wrong.

    Comment by Bob — December 23, 2005 @ 10:21 pm

  12. Centrist Democrats hit anti-Bush tactics
    By Donald Lambro
    THE WASHINGTON TIMES
    December 28, 2005

    http://www.washingtontimes.com/national/20051228-122207-1549r.htm

    Comment by Jacke — December 28, 2005 @ 8:29 am

  13. Ah, The Washington Times. Now *that’s* an “unbiased, moderate” source if there ever was one.

    Comment by wildwest — December 28, 2005 @ 8:33 am

  14. Oh, really? I think nearly all of the press is biased, I was just getting off the porch to support my claim that it is primarily the extreme far left who is even considering impeachment discussions, at this point. I suppose you liked Bob’s source of Joe Conason much better? Here’s another little tidbit for you, saith the little dog:

    There’s another good article at the Washington Post today:

    “Eavesdropping and Evading the Law

    By David Ignatius
    Wednesday, December 28, 2005; A21”

    Since we’re just in an information gathering mode, and all. 😉

    Comment by Jacke — December 28, 2005 @ 8:55 am

  15. Now I’m not only far, I’m extreme, too? :-X

    Comment by wildwest — December 28, 2005 @ 10:12 am

  16. If you believe that the President should be impeached for doing his best to keep us secure by using his constitutional authority as the Commander in Chief to allow for listening in on phone conversations, conversations limited specifically to those between Al Qaeda terrorists and American citizens, then yes. Such a stance would mean that you do not wish for our federal agencies to be able to “connect the dots” to keep Americans safe from terrorist attacks. The articles I posted links, or referred, to establish the real problem, how do we harness and use this very vital technique in such a way that we can thwart future attacks but not allow for abuse? There has been no abuse, how do we legislate to make certain there is no future abuse? These are vital questions for our National security. The debate should not be about never utilizing this technology to safeguard our Country, rather it should be about how it is regulated. That is what the articles I referred to were discussing. Did you bother to read them or just dismiss them as biased. I ask because I did read Bob’s article, though written by a man who has written a book entitled “Big Lies: The Right-Wing Propaganda Machine and How It Distorts the Truth,” which does, don’t you think, show a bit of a bias? I did at least read it before I commented. What do you disagree with in the articles? Do you think we should just forget about trying to protect our Nation from terrorist attack? This is why the American people, by a majority, believe that our National security is best in the hands of the GOP, wildwest, ignore that fact at your own party’s peril, that is the point of the articles I referred to.

    Comment by Jacke — December 28, 2005 @ 10:50 am

  17. “If you believe that the President should be impeached for doing his best to keep us secure by using his constitutional authority as the Commander in Chief to allow for listening in on phone conversations, conversations limited specifically to those between Al Qaeda terrorists and American citizens, then yes.”

    Whew! Then I guess I’m not an extremist after all.

    Comment by wildwest — December 28, 2005 @ 2:17 pm

  18. Let me begin by saying that I have not yet formed an opinion on whether Bush’s actions in this particular case merit impeachment and removal from office. Media reports give us reason to be concerned and should certainly lead to a systematic investigation by Congress, which appears to be in the works.

    I do, however, have very definite opinions about the unrestrained exercise of power by any person or persons who believe they are above the law. Nobody in these postings has ever seriously suggested that the president should not use every lawful means to protect our security, despite Jacke’s intimations on 12/28/2005 @ 10:50 am. But did Bush act lawfully? And if not, were his actions an unfortunate mistake or a willful and arrogant abuse of power in contravention of the Constitution and relevant laws?

    I am not persuaded that anything in our Constitution, laws, or history permits the president to autocratically seize unrestrained power in the name of a “war on terror”, or any other war for that matter. And the president’s position as Commander in Chief of our nation’s armed forces does not imply that he has the authority to unilaterally suspend the civil rights and protections of the nation’s citizenry and to impose on all citizens the far more restricted rights, and the expectation of immediate subordination to his authority, characteristic of military discipline.

    The “war on terrorism” is as much about protecting our rights and laws as it is about preventing mindless carnage.

    Comment by Johann — December 29, 2005 @ 7:23 am

  19. Johann, I would refer you to the title of Bob’s post and these words, written by Bob:

    “Lest you think the headline of this post is just a bit of hyperbole, I’m serious. President Bush should be impeached. I do not take this position lightly, but have given it a lot of thought, and come to the conclusion that President Bush should be impeached.”

    All I have tried to convey is that it is rash to start calling for the President’s impeachment before congress has even looked into it. You yourself stated that that is *in the works.* I have no problem with that, what I have a problem with is the far left who seem ready to condemn and call for the impeachment of Bush at the drop of a hat before all the facts are even known. Can you deny that that is EXACTLY what Bob has done? Do you not think it a bit rash to seriously call for Bush’s impeachment BEFORE all the facts have even been considered? I have stated that I am not a constitutional lawyer. I’ll wait…Bob is unwilling to wait, he’s serious, he says so himself.

    Part of the FACTS are that we do not know that there has been ANY abuse of this power…we do not know that this power was used in any untoward fashion and all the evidence suggests, thus far, that it was used only in conjunction with terrorist communications generated from foreign countries to the U.S. Really, get a grip, people. The majority of Americans have more confidence in the way the GOP is handling National security issues than they have for the Democratic Party for good reason. It is just this sort of knee jerk reaction that Bob has displayed which causes the American people to be suspicious of the Democratic (read liberal) party.

    Comment by Jacke — December 29, 2005 @ 8:33 am

  20. “Do you not think it a bit rash to seriously call for Bush’s impeachment BEFORE all the facts have even been considered?”

    I think so. Perhaps Bob is jumping the gun a bit, though he certainly has a right to his opinion.

    Jacke, you state: “how do we harness and use this very vital technique in such a way that we can thwart future attacks but not allow for abuse? There has been no abuse, how do we legislate to make certain there is no future abuse? These are vital questions for our National security. The debate should not be about never utilizing this technology to safeguard our Country, rather it should be about how it is regulated.”

    Well, precisely. I question the part that says “There has been no abuse.” *As far as we know* there has been no abuse. Now, how to not allow for abuse? It is my understanding that that is what FISA is for. The way I understand it (and it may be in error) the President is required by law to obtain a warrant from FISA, and he can do it retroactively up to 72 hours after he has already begun spying, so his excuse that getting the warrant takes too much time doesn’t hold. And they have almost never refused to grant a warrant in their 20+ years of existence. The issue seems to be one of Bush wanting to bypass FISA altogether because he wants to be accountable to no one. In that case, the only way to guarantee there will be no abuse is to trust the man. Pure and simple.

    Comment by wildwest — December 29, 2005 @ 9:33 am

  21. wildwest writes:

    “Well, precisely. I question the part that says “There has been no abuse.” *As far as we know* there has been no abuse.”

    Yes, you are right, I should have worded that more the way you did, dang, it’s a…well, you know…to not be perfect all of the time! Grrrrr.

    In my OPINION, the VAST volume of paperwork which would be required would keep our Attorney General busy 24/7 requesting after the fact warrants. Do you want the Attorney General to be hog-tied with paperwork on warrants so that he has no time for anything else? This is just one question to consider. I’m sure there are others. That is why I think that rather than focusing all of our attention on chastising the President for doing his best to keep us safe in war time we should be focusing on how to continue to monitor phone calls from terrorist linked sources and assure that there can BE no abuse. The current system is not workable under all the stress of our new technologies. Do you agree with that much?

    Comment by Jacke — December 30, 2005 @ 8:04 am

  22. “The current system is not workable under all the stress of our new technologies. Do you agree with that much?”

    No, because I know absolutely nothing about how the current system works.

    As far as I know (which admittedly is not much) it is not the Attorney General, but FISA who grants warrants for searches. And as far as I know it was the President, and no one else, who was ordering the ostensibly illegal searches. If he can keep track of them, I think FISA can. Besides, it is supposedly illegal for the President to call for the searches without warrants from FISA. If oversight of the President’s activity is too stressful, what is the alternative to simply trust the President not to abuse it?

    Comment by wildwest — December 30, 2005 @ 9:49 am

  23. “chastising the President for doing his best to keep us safe in war time”

    That’s not what they’re doing.

    Comment by wildwest — December 30, 2005 @ 9:50 am

  24. http://www.commondreams.org/views05/1229-35.htm

    Comment by wildwest — December 30, 2005 @ 9:55 am

  25. FISA grants them, I believe it is the Attorney General who is required to request them from FISA, if my understanding is correct.

    Prematurely calling for impeachment of the President is chastisment, wildwest, anyway, in my opinion. It is politically motivated by those on the left who have been looking for any excuse to impeach him or to find something in his presidency which would serve the purpose of giving them some sort of footing on which to call for impeachment. You are more than welcome to disagree, but that is MY opinion.

    Comment by Jacke — December 30, 2005 @ 10:28 am

  26. Your link:

    http://www.commondreams.org/views05/1229-35.htm

    Says, in part:

    “In the United States, President Bush is acting UNDER APPARENTLY SELF-GRANTED POWERS powers to “authorize” the National Security Agency (NSA) to spy on Americans — OF COURSE, ONLY ON AMERICANS THREATENING TERRORIST ACTS.”

    The first emphasized statement shows the bias of the author, it is NOT *APPARENT* that these “powers” were self-granted as they appear to have been granted by our founders in the constitution, and every ruling of FISA since has consistently endorsed those “powers.” The second emphasized statement, is FACT, as you said, as we know it today. This is unfortunate for the biased author who evidently felt he had to mention that fact to be considered credible, to serve his purposes I am sure he would have just as soon not felt forced to mention that fact.

    Comment by Jacke — December 30, 2005 @ 10:44 am

  27. …and of course, the original article doesn’t say POWERS powers, that was my imperfection agin, dang it!

    Comment by Jacke — December 30, 2005 @ 10:47 am

  28. Yes, calling for impeachment is chastisement. I should have specified that it was not for “doing his best to keep us safe in war time” that he was being chastised. It was, rather, for breaking the law.

    Comment by wildwest — December 30, 2005 @ 10:59 am

  29. “It was, rather, for breaking the law.”

    Not so fast, bucko! Let’s let this unfold before making judgement, that’s all I’m asking.

    Comment by Jacke — December 30, 2005 @ 1:05 pm

  30. “Not so fast, bucko! Let’s let this unfold before making judgement, that’s all I’m asking.”

    Yes, but I’m not the one passing judgment. I’m just sharing the issue as I understand it, which may be wrong. And pointing out that breaking the law is an impeachable offense. “Doing his best to keep us safe in war time” is not, and I don’t think anyone is giving that as a reason. Those were your words.

    It will unfold. I have no idea what will transpire. Keener minds than mine will hash it out. Meanwhile, we need to protect ourselves from terrorists and spying needs to be free of abuse. On that you and I are in full agreement.

    Comment by wildwest — December 30, 2005 @ 1:36 pm

  31. When you say that Clintons sex act was just immoral, you are wrong, in Washington D.C. it is also a federal offence to commite adultrey, punishable up to 1 year in prison. That seems like grounds for impeachment to me

    Comment by Matt — January 13, 2006 @ 5:53 am

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