Friday, February 24, 2006


Lewis Lapham lays out the case in the latest issue of Harper's Magazine (Vol. 312, No. 1870, March 2006, "The Case for Impeachment," pp. 27-35).

He reviews the facts collected in the report made by Rep. John Conyers pursuant to his HR 635 calling for "a select committee to investigate the Administration's intent to go to war before congressional authorization, manipulation of pre-war intelligence, encouraging and countenancing torture, retaliating against critics, and to make recommendations regarding grounds for possible impeachment." The report, as Lapham notes,

borrows from hundreds of open sources that have beomce a matter of public record--newspaper accounts, television broadcasts...magazine articles... sworn testimony in both the Senate and House of Representatives, books written by, among others, Bob Woodward, Geroge Packer, Richard A. Clarke, James Mann, Mark Danner, Seymour Hersh, David Corn, James Bamford, Hans Blix, James Risen, Ron Suskind, Joseph Wilson. As the congresmane had said, "Everything is in plain sight; it isn't as if we don't know."
So the facts Lapham builds his argument with are largely known, especially by the audience of this blog. It is his conclusion, then, that is interesting:

The heavy volume of angry protest on the Internet, reflected in the polls indicating the President's steady decline in the popular esteem, suggests that at least half of the American electorate, in the red states and the blue, knows that the Bush Administration operates without reference to the rule of law, also that the President believes himself somehow divinely ordained, accountable only to Jesus and the oil companies, at liberty to wave what he imagines to be the scepter of the Constitution in whatever ways he deems best. But in the news media they find no strong voice of dissent, in the Democratic Party no concerted effort to form a coherent opposition.

Which places the work of protecting the country's freedoms where it should be placed-with the Congress, more specifically with the Republican members of Congress. What else is it that voters expect the Congress to do if not to look out for their rights as citizens of the United States? So the choice presented to the Republican members on the Judiciary Committee investigating the President's use of electronic surveillance comes down to a matter of deciding whether they will serve their country or their party. I don't envy them the decision; the rewards offered by the party (patronage, campaign contributions, a fat retirement on the payroll of a K Street lob-bying firm) clearly outweigh those available from the country-congratulatory editorials in obscure newspapers, malicious gossip circulated by Focus on the Family and Fox News, an outpouring of letters and emails from grateful citizens not in positions to do anybody any favors....

It isn't the business of the Congress to punish President Bush. Any competent court in the country could arraign the President on charges identical to those brought against the crooked executives at Enron and Tyco International (fraud, misuse of stockholder funds, manipulation of intel-ligence) and send him off to jail dressed in an orange jump suit. Nor is it the responsibility of Congress to sit in moral judgment; the sermons can be left to the Reverend Pat Robertson and the Yale Divinity School. It is the business of the Congress to prevent the President from doing more damage than he's already done to the people, interests, health, well-being, safety, good name, and reputation of the United States-to cauterize the wound and stem the flows of money, stupidity, and blood.

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