Issue #51

Last Update May 5, 2007

Commentary February 19, 2007  Perhaps the present activities in the House and Senate are a shrewd maneuver by Democrats to build a concensus with moderate Republicans, but to us it feels like ineffective action or lack of action toward some vitally important goals. At the risk of being repetitive, there is nothing that Congress can do that is more important than stopping the Iraq war, preventing an Iran war, and restoring the rule of law to our executive branch. The way to accomplish these objectives is simple and practical. It consists of three actions, the most important of which can be done even if no Republicans join in.  

These actions are:

1. The House of Representatives must pass a resolution reminding the President and Vice President that the House has the power of impeachment, that only congress has the power to declare war, and that it will consider any attack on Iran that occurs without Congressional approval an impeachable offense.
2. The Senate must pass a resolution stating that just as Congress has the power to declare war, it has the power to withdraw that declaration.
3. The House and Senate must pass bills repealing the Military Commissions Act of 2006, restoring the Posse Comitatus Act, and repealing or significantly modifying the Patriot Act. 

The first action puts the President on warning that he will not survive in office if he attacks Iran. It requires no action from the Senate and cannot be vetoed. The second action puts the Senate on record as being willing to protect its constitutional powers, and carries the implied threat that if the President does not end the Iraq war, the Senate will do so. The third action removes the dictatorial powers supinely handed to the President by a Republican Congress. This will, in fact, require Republican participation, since the President is likely to veto any check on the powers he has grabbed. Given the current state of public opinion and the threat President Bush poses to Republican election prospects, 16 or 17 Republic votes out of 49 (50 if you count Senator Lieberman as a Republican for this purpose) should not be impossible to get, just difficult. 

Non-binding resolutions and tinkering with military funding just won't cut it. The House has to show its teeth, and the Senate must look as if there is a possibility of its supporting appropriate House moves. Impeaching Bush for high crimes and misdemeanors already committed may look like a distraction from resolving our current problems, but the threat of impeachment for future high crimes and misdemeanors will actually accomplish something. 

It was Republican leaders like Barry Goldwater that persuaded Richard Nixon to step down. This was possible for them to do because Spiro Agnew had already resigned and Gerald Ford, acceptable to both parties as an interim President, had been appointed in his place. Like Agnew, nobody wants a President Cheney, and Republicans would certainly not stand for an impeachment (or resignation) process that got rid of Bush and Cheney and left a Democrat, Nancy Pelosi, as President. 

If Republicans want to save their party in 2008, they must persuade the Vice President to resign for reasons of health (or one jump ahead of impeachment or indictment), and appoint a new Vice President with some concept of the real world. Only then can a latter-day Goldwater convince Mr. Bush that his imperial reign is over, and end "our long national nightmare". 

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