Once Upon a Time… has a post called “Yes: I TOLD YOU SO” written by Arthur Silber. It is an excellent post and worth reading in its own right. The question is: why are Democrats so unwilling to pursue impeachment? Mr. Silber provides an explanation.
The Democrats will never pursue hearings or investigations of the Bush administration beyond a certain point the Democrats consider “safe,” they will not object to the administration derailing any case of moment by invoking the state secrets privilege, they keep telecom immunity alive, and the Democrats act in countless other ways to bury and cover up the crimes of the Bush gang, because there is one eventuality they fear more than any other: if there were ever to be a finding — by a court, in Congressional committee, or anywhere else — that the Bush administration, including the president himself, in fact ordered criminal acts, then they would have to begin impeachment hearings. It is inconceivable that even this repellent Congress could ignore, for example, a court determination that Bush had ordered torture — which, as Turley pointed out, would constitute a war crime as defined by U.S. courts. The same would be true of any finding that the administration, perhaps including the president himself, had committed a crime by ordering illegal domestic surveillance.
Democrats are not avoiding impeachment because they think there is no cause, or because the evidence is weak, unsubstantial or irrelevant. They are avoiding impeachment because they are afraid the system will uncover the mother-lode. Once a federal judge rules the administration knowingly violated U.S. law, Democrats and Republicans hands will be forced. The blanket corruption that envelopes both parties will be exposed for all to see.
Democrats are more than happy to play the non-binding oversight role, aware not to poke to hard and fully aware of Republican safe words. Democrats could have grilled General Petraeus in his congressional testimony. They didn’t. Instead, they rushed to condemn anyone who would dare question where the General’s loyalty lies, to the President or to the people. Leading Democrats are faster and show more conviction criticizing their own base than they ever show going after Republicans.
The mainstream Democratic party is never going to leave Iraq. The goal in Iraq is to quell violence enough to get an amenable client state. Democrats are careful to promise a new direction, but not commit to leaving. The corporate gouging bonanza will lessen. The U.S. will have its permanent military bases to project power a.k.a. bomb countries that don’t listen to Washington.
The majority of Democrats are not incredibly indisposed to bombing Iran. I think some of them would prefer that Bush did manage it before he left office, it would give Democrats a fall guy. However, I do think that the fervor has reduced recently because of public reaction to the idea and bureaucratic kick-back. Definitely not off-the-table, but put on the back burner temporarily. However, it is certainly more of a possibility than Democrats as a party honestly pursuing impeachment.
Using this perspective, it is important to examine the one impeachment that would have succeeded: Richard Nixon. As Noam Chomsky wrote in 1973 “Watergate: A Skeptical View,” the reason for Nixon’s imminent removal from office before he resigned was not crime, but rather the targets.
Watergate is, indeed, a deviation from past practice, not so much in scale or in principle as in the choice of targets. The targets now include the rich and respectable, spokesmen for official ideology, men who are expected to share power, to design social policy, and to mold popular opinion. Such people are not fair game for persecution at the hands of the state.
In 1973, Chomsky also predicted the predicament we are currently facing.
More generally, the President’s position is that if there is some objection to what he does, he can be impeached. But reverence for the Presidency is far too potent an opiate for the masses to be diminished by a credible threat of impeachment. Such an effective device for stifling dissent, class consciousness, or even critical thought will not be lightly abandoned.
If the choice is between impeachment and the principle that the President has absolute power (subject only to the need to invoke national security), then the latter principle will prevail. Thus the precedent will probably be established, more firmly and clearly than heretofore, that the President is above the law, a natural corollary to the doctrine.
A corollary Frontline dubbed “Cheney’s Law.”
9/11 happened as a response to U.S. policy. The terrorists were trying to send a message, and it wasn’t that they hated our freedoms. The targets were the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and most likely the White House. The symbols of our corporate, military, and executive power. The very institutions that in turn have made Iraq the endless, hopelessly expensive meat-grinder that it is.
A connection that the leaders of this country didn’t want its people realizing. So, it made up an irrational narrative of a backwards people, playing on the racism, bigotry and patriotism of the nation. Any examination was immediately shouted down as giving comfort to the terrorists and possibly treasonous, certainly unpatriotic and un-American (whatever that truly means). Deviating from past policy or even starting to question the policy of our elites would be proof of the terrorists winning.
So, what can we do about it? We need to unseat the elites. It starts with destroying the structural, mathematical artifact that causes the two party system to arise. We need to change the way we vote, as I’ve suggested before. Not just from Democrats to Republicans, or vice-versa, but to allow people to vote for third-party candidates without undermining their position. Stepping outside our corrupt two-party rule will be a major first-step to achieving a better democracy, and in the long-run the only meaningful one.