by Dave Lindorff
bankruptcy of the Democratic Party leadership’s position in Congress on
impeachment was revealed in stark terms yesterday, when House Speaker
Nancy Pelosi announced that she would sue the president in court if he
resorted to a signing statement to kill the next version of Congress’s
Iraq funding bill.
Suing Bush over a signing statement, given the number of Federalist
judges that this administration has named to the federal district and
appellate courts, and to the US Supreme Court, is not just an exercise
in futility; it is a dangerous tactic which could backfire disastrously
by leading to a ruling that it’s perfectly constitutional for a
president to ignore laws passed by the Congress. Does Pelosi really
want to risk such a catastrophe?
The only solution is to impeach the president over his signing
statements, and there is no need to wait for the next one to take
action. Bush has invalidated more than 1200 laws or parts of laws
passed by Congress since 2001 using what are called “signing
Republican apologists for the president have noted that other
presidents, including Clinton, also issued signing statements, which is
true. But they fail to mention that other presidents did not use those
signing statements to then ignore or invalidate laws passed by
Congress. They merely used them to register their view that a law, or a
part of a law, was unconstitutional.
Bush has made a wholly different argument. For the past six years, he
has been claiming that because he is commander in chief in a time of
war, by which he means the so-called “war” on terror, he has had what
he calls “unitary executive” authority. By this he means that
legislative and judicial power, as well as executive power, are all in
his hands for as long as the threat of terrorism is with us. Since this
“war” on terror never really ends, what he is claiming is that
separation of powers no longer exists in America. Indeed, the
Constitution itself is set aside. The president is a dictator during
his term of office, and Congress is just a debating club.
At this point, it should be clear to anyone, including Speaker Pelosi,
that the only remedy for this gross abuse of power by the president is
impeachment. (Just as an aside: if Pelosi thinks Bush is breaking the
law and exceeding his authority by using signing statements to ignore
laws passed by Congress, why wouldn't seen use the Congressional remedy
for such transgressions: impeachment?) Her resort to the courts implies
an almost irrational belief that the system is still functional.)
Unfortunately for America and the Constitution, Pelosi is still hamstrung by her foolish insistence that “impeachment
is off the table.”
As long as she continues to refuse to allow impeachment of President
Bush, she cannot hope to stop the war, restore habeas corpus, undo the
Military Commissions Act, stop illegal spying on Americans by the
National Security Agency, or win passage of any significant legislation
to deal with global warming. She cannot really do anything, because
Bush will simply issue signing statements and use his claim of “unitary
executive authority” to invalidate any legislation passed by Congress.
Pelosi needs to be told by her colleagues and by all Americans who care about the survival of the Constitution that this
is not an issue for the courts. It is an issue that demands impeachment.
The Founding Fathers were clear that where abuse of power occurs, it is
Congress, not the Courts, that must have the responsibility to take
corrective action. Abuse of power is not a violation of the law, and so
it is not something that the courts are likely to handle properly even
under the best of circumstances. Abuse of power is a so-called
“political crime,” which requires a political response, which is
precisely why the Founders included an impeachment clause in the
Pelosi has ducked this issue for long enough, and now she’s about to do serious damage to the nation because of her political
If the American republic is to survive, it is time to impeach this president on a charge of abuse of power.
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