March 9, 2006

Impeach Bush

Harold Meyerson casts a skeptical eye on the growing impeach Bush movement, and his purely pragmatic take is hard to challenge: impeachment is a political loser for Democrats trying to regain control of Congress, etc. But what he fails to note is that this is true only because Democrats have spent the last six years (or at least five of the last six years) rolling over for everything Bush wants and generally helping to establish his reputation as the Dear Leader, the one and only protector of the country. If the Dems had done their job and served as a real opposition party, there would be a broad base of voters who would be ready and willing to seriously consider impeachment proceedings now that Bush has finally crossed the line into high crimes and misdemeanors.

Now, you all know that I'm not a knee-jerk Bush hater. I have some acquaintences who have been screaming for impeachment since 2003, when it became clear that Bush was engineering false justifcations for war. But I felt then as Meyerson does: "Dereliction of duty and lying us into a war may be mortal sins, but that doesn't make them provable high crimes." If you dislike a president in this country, even if you dislike him immensely, the proper recourse is to vote him out (and hope the Supreme Court doesn't thwart you, but that's another story). But spying on Americans without a warrant, disappearing people and engaging in torture are clear violations of the Constitution and are certainly enough to justify launching impeachment hearings. The only argument against it is Meyerson's pragmatic one, and that's not quite strong enough for me for two reasons. While I want the Democrats to start winning elections as much as anyone, I think it's been proven that trying not to offend conservatives is a losing strategy. I'm not saying impeachment is a winning strategy either — I'm sure it's not — but my pessimistic reason number two is that I don't think the Democrats have a chance in hell of regaining Congress anyway, no matter what whistling past the graveyard you might be hearing over at Kos, so why not go ahead and stand up for Constiutitonal principles and let the chips fall where they may.

By the way, you won't be at all shocked that I opposed the impeachment of Bill Clinton way back when, as most folks not driven crazy by Clinton-hatred did. But I also said at the time that if anyone wanted to open impeachment investigations based on his culpability in the siege at Waco, I'd be more than happy to support that.

Posted by Daniel Radosh


But, and deep down in my libertarian soul I'm troubled by spying on Americans, doesn't FISA have a provision (#187, if my memory serves) stating that the president may conduct electronic surveillance of the agent of a foreign power for a period of up to one year without a warrant? I'm paraphrasing, of course. And wouldn't the behavior of Democrats undercut any attempt at impeachment, at least on the wiretapping issue? Again, I can't quote chapter and verse on this but the lead House Democrat on one of the intelligence committees had some very favorable things to say about the program once he was briefed on its nature and scope, having formerly been a critic. I had the impression that it was these NSA briefings that had changed a lot of minds in Congress and so the hearings seemed to have withered on the vine.

The wingnuts have been wooping it up over the foreign agent provision, but there's a good reason it was never part of the administration's official argument (considering what they tried to get away with in the white paper, you'd think this would be in there if it was even remotely relevant): the definition of foreign agent under the law is very narrow and almost certainly wouldn't apply to most of the NSA's targets. I have a very different impression on what's happening with Congress, but I don't think any minds are changed about the legality of the wiretapping. Rather, there are political calculations being made based on the fact that the White House has more or less successfully framed the issue with the public.

Interesting. You may well be right about the Congressional hearings going belly up due to mere political calculation. Still, and I suppose this is more a legal issue, can or should a president be impeached if he comes by the policies in question honestly? Meaning, that is, that Bush isn't a lawyer; if Justice Department/NSA attorneys say these policies are lawful, I would think most presidents would take that at face value. If, at some point, a president had said, "I know this is illegal but come up with some bullshit justification for me," it would be a different matter. I think it's really a question of interpreting the law and God knows that interpretations differ, at least on the wiretapping stuff. In any case, I think the Democrats would be crazy to seek impeachment for a multitude for reasons, the main one being that they should focus on winning their elections rather than running this fever dream of the month club approach to national politics.

I know some people think Bush is a dumbell being manipulated by his advisors, but I've never subscribed to that school of thought. He knows exactly what he's doing, and he's smart enough to not have to say it out loud.

As for what the Democrats should do, you're arguing Meyerson's case, which as I ruefully admitted is pretty rock solid, but only because the Dems have fucked everything up until now.

"I know some people think Bush is a dumbell being manipulated by his advisors, but I've never subscribed to that school of thought."

I don't think that's what Steve was saying.

Alright, jeez. If I can't set up straw men on my own blog, where can I do it?

But there's too much evidence that the administration quashed internal dissent on this issue (as on so many others) to ensure that only opinions justifying a pre-ordained outcome were permitted. I just don't buy Bush as being at the mercy of his lawyers.

I'm always amazed by posts like this, claiming that if only the Democrats had acted like a "real opposition party" everyone would be ready and willing to impeach Bush.

Consider an alterative theory, which I suspect is closer to the truth: The majority of Americans (barely) support Bush's actions and share his view of the world--and would be appalled by any pro-impeachment movement. Sure, his popularity ebbs and surges (every time it ebbs Eric Alterman writes a column arguing, See, everyone hates him!), but so far it surges whenever it counts.

What would Bush be impeached for? Misleading the country into war? As Bush himself has noted, we've already had our "accountability moment" on that. And he was re-elected.

In contrast to that outrage, the FISA court stuff is way too arcane and ambiguous to impeach Bush on. The Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel support Bush's interpretation of the FISA law--and while the OLC is not purely objective, they aren't just partisan hacks, either. I heard the OLC head on NPR, and while I disagreed with him on the law, he hardly sounded like a cheerleader for "high crimes and misdemeanors."

I am profoundly opposed to Bush. But impeaching a President because you can't find a candidate who can beat him is something we should leave for the Republicans.

I'll try to make this my last comment because we all have lives to get on with. Even beyond being a political loser, I think the whole concept of impeachment is a case of jumping the gun, so to speak. A portion of the American left has spent the last few years latching on to these sporadic enthusiasms, like the Downing St. Memo, NSA wiretapping, Bush is wired for sound at the debate, and the like, not as simple political issues but as the Holy Grail that would bring Bush down, peel the scales from the eyes of the public at large, etc. As none of these things has done the job, they're not going to wait any longer for the next potentially impeachable offense: they're going ahead with impeachment anyway. I realize, Daniel, that you honestly believe that certain of these things are impeachable offenses, and perhaps you're right. But reasonable people can disagree on these matters honestly, at least I hope they can. On some of the more legalistic issues like wiretapping, there are differing legal interpretations. On an issue like torture, in lieu of a record of any order from Bush to go ahead and torture, the Constitution be damned, it's a case of jumping to conclusions and, because of that, a political non-starter. And, just to clarify, I'm not saying that the various scandals cited here don't raise serious issues: they do. Also, this histrionic view of politics on the radical left certainly has its twin on the radical right. I think we can all agree that, at the point in our lives when we first evinced an interest in politics, we didn't think we'd get to the point where the political landscape was so patently ridiculous, juvenile and ferociously anti-intellectual much of the time.

The reference "The politics of salvation" in


could perhaps explain the
"full speed ahead" tack on "faith-based"
preferences initiated recently.

So, where would something like this fit into the equation?

"[B]efore 9/11 Germany was the main basis for Al-Qaeda operations around the world".

"In the Cold War confrontation, we accepted as a matter of principle that geopolitical victory will be won by those with whom the third world will go. ..."
-- former KGB chief analyst Gen. Nikolai Leonov

East Germany's foreign intelligence service, the Hauptverwaltung Aufklaerung (HVA), headed by Markus Wolf, was part of the Ministerium fuer Staatssicherheit (MfS or Stasi).

"As much treasure as the Stasi spent on spying against the West, if not more, went to support the so-called liberation forces in the Third World".
-- John Koehler, Stasi: The Untold Story of the East German Secret Police. Westview Press, 1999, p.297

According to Koehler, Liberation forces, including the PLO and other terrorists Organizations, were trained as "secret police forces and intelligence departments" so as to align the Third World as pro-Soviet and anti-West.

Thus, Wolf's Stasi global network had agents and assets in many of the most sensitive positions and troubling spots of the world, with strong ties and extensive contacts in The Middle East and countries like Cuba, Libya, etc., a network tied into terrorists groups, front companies, and global organizations.

Come the the early '90s, many of these Stasi assets found themselves adrift, unemployed and with pasts that made them open to manipulation.

"Most countries have a greater thirst for intelligence than can be satisfied by their own agencies. They therefore set up networks of cooperation--both formal and informal--with other countries, agencies and even individuals, which can lead to some very curious relationships."
-- Intelligence Warfare, p. 45, Crescent Books, 1983

"Intelligence is not the subversion of a foreign government or political party. Intelligence is not the kidnapping or murder of foreign (or one's own) statesmen or agents. Intelligence is the gathering of information that can enable a government (or a business concern, or an individual) to gain advantages over rivals or competitors, or at least to survive. Intelligence is the processing, or analysis, of information to determine how much of it should be passed on as useful and reliable."
-- Intelligence Warfare, p. 15, Crescent Books, 1983

So what has changed since 1983?

CIA "Operation Rosewood" raided Stasi Normanenstrasse headquarters in Berlin, When the Wall fell. A group of Stasi generals knew that there were three complete copies of Stasi files, including HIV secret agent files. One paper copy at Normanenstrasse and was trashed by the public. Another complete set on paper is in Moscow with the SVR. The CIA captured the third (a microfilm) "war reserve", a complete copy that had been stored for safekeeping in another Eastern block country - in case of war and a need to destroy the Normanenstrasse files. The Stasi generals had "walked in" and proposed to sell the microfilm copy to US intelligence, and a deal was made for $1 million.
-- Intelligence, N. 92, 25 January 1999

Secret detentions, torture, mass spying, and "snitch culture"? Do you recognize Stasi playbook - standards and practices?

Okay, I think we got off on a bit of a tangent here.
And do we really have "mass" spying and "snitch culture" happening?
And the way I see it, East German Stasi=Bad; Malibu Stasi=Good. (Simpsons joke; couldn't resist).

Off tangent from Jim Treacher's query?

How about the Berlin (style) Wall slated for the borders?

No Alex Jones nor Al Martin conpiracy buff here (yet),
(ok,... maybe some John Young from Cryptome), but:

"[M]ost people have built in 'slides' that short circuit the mind's critical examination process when it comes to certain sensitive topics. 'Slides', is a CIA term for a conditioned type of response which dead ends a person's thinking and terminates debate or examination of the topic. For example, the mention of the word 'conspiracy' usually solicits a slide response with many people."

--Author and de-programmer FRITZ SPRINGMEIER

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