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July 01, 2007

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"Breaches", hilzoy: "breeches" are pants, and are not yet, AFAICT, grounds for impeachment. That is, of course, unless the Administration grants new and extraconstitutional powers to the Fashion Police.

Ack! Sorry, Katherine!

And PS: where is your blockquote from? It looks like another of your previous ObWings posts.

D'oh.

The error is mine, not hilzoy's. Actually, it's originally the Associated Press's but that's no excuse for repeating it.

and the blockquote is something I just wrote, which the formatting perhaps obscures.

Another question: why is that Democratic politicians can't rule out preventive war with Iran because "you can't take any option off the table", but they are so eager to take options off the table when it comes to the administration?

Even if you are going to eventually decide not to impeach the president, not to filibuster the bill, not to oppose the confirmation of the nominee, to pass an Iraq war funding bill without any conditions on it, there is no reason at all to announce that conclusion to the press ahead of time.

The Democrats are forever reassuring people that they are not going to take some rash step; harshly questioning a nominee moments before reassuring him that they'll confirm him no matter how he answers, telling the press that this vote is just "symbolic" and to "send a message" (which causes the press to lose interest, which means the vote doesn't even send a message).

seems like the Dems haven't grasped what the Republicans have, when it comes to what having control of government can do for you. in the past decade or so, the Republicans have been pretty successful at using government as a tool to do what they want, pushing and pulling on all of the levers and cranks they can find. it's not always pretty, and the whole thing creaks and groans when manipulated in ways its not used to. but it has worked for them.

on the other hand, the Dems seem to be comfortable in simply occupying the seats available, but not interested in trying to grab hold of the thing and force it to do what they want. impeachment is one lever they could use, procedural ruthlessness is another, legal shenanigans yet another. all of those levers are right there in front of them - yes, there are big warning signs nearby, but the Republicans have shown that there's no significant downside (and significant upside) to using those levers.

or, for another analogy, the Dems are driving like Florida grandmothers. the Republicans are driving like Boston cab drivers.

or maybe they just lack competent and aggressive leadership.

And if Obama mouthed the words suggested above, just imagine the paraphrased version you'd see next day on FoxNews and other Conservative news media:

Obama suggests if he's elected as President he will take measures to impeach Bush and Chaney.

After a constituent asked Barack Obama last week if he'd support the impeachment of President Bush or Vice President Cheney. Obama replied:

"Impeachment is the constitutional remedy for an official who personally commits high crimes or misdemeanors. The President and Vice President have seriously abused their power.... Although I haven't seen evidence of it yet... that may only be because so much of what they've done is still a secret... If the police think someone has done something wrong... they don't sit around having hypothetical debates about what the punishment should be. They investigate what happened. That's what we should do, too... after this President leaves office."

No candidate smart enough to bob and weave and duck is going to touch the impeachment issue -- it would elicit too much negative blow-back to be worth it.

"Obama suggests if he's elected as President he will take measures to impeach Bush and Cheney"

Huh? If Obama takes office, President Bush & Cheney will no longer be in office & no longer subject to impeachment.

But yeah, there may be some political risk, largely because other Democrats have been so eager to categorically rule it out. So what, I say. But I realize that Presidential campaigns are not known for saying "so what" to political risk. Even so. There are dozens and dozens of ways that Obama could've answered the question without implying that the Bush administration hadn't seriously abused their powers.

"Huh? If Obama takes office, President Bush & Cheney will no longer be in office & no longer subject to impeachment."

No, Katherine, Attorney Genearal Gonzales has advised Bush and Cheney that due to special provisions of the War Powers Act (1973) and the USA Patriot Act (2001) as long as hostilities are continuing in Iraq and the threat of domestic terrorism at home persists, Bush can indefinitely extend the time between the swearing in of the new President and the time he relinquishes authority as Commander in Chief and Leader of the Free World, and he can stay in the White House and continue to govern until he determines American objectives have been met on both fronts.

How about an answer like this one: "Impeachment should be about right and wrong, but unfortunately, it's really about political power, and there's one party in this country which has consistently refused to hold this President and Vice President accountable--the Republicans."

So, Obama will take office but Bush will still be president? Or does he get the title of "Leader of the Free World" the way that (the late) Kim Il-Sung is designated North Korea's "Eternal President of the Republic"?

As for Incertus' suggestion, wouldn't the Fox framing then be "Obama, asked about impeachment, admits that it is just about political power"?

could anyone Fox say that without being run over by the irony bus ?

That is, of course, unless the Administration grants new and extraconstitutional powers to the Fashion Police.

... They have come for your uncool niece....

Katherine:

Another question: why is that Democratic politicians can't rule out preventive war with Iran because "you can't take any option off the table", but they are so eager to take options off the table when it comes to the administration?

It's an excellent question, but I think an obvious answer suggests itself. Advocating preventative war with Iran will not per se lead the Republican leadership and the oh-so-serious Washington press corps to say mean things about the Democrats. (The GOP will say mean things about the Dems regardless, but at least the Democrats can console themselves that they tried very very hard to win praise by being Republicans, Jr.)

My preferred answer to questions about impeachment goes something like this:

And the media's reaction would be: "tl;dr, oh wait u want 2 impeach!? Clinton blowback old busted Karl sez u r all traitors lolololol now we talk about Thompson's manly smell" It's a sucker's bet, best to let reality keep its course and let Bush sink the GOP into the Tory wilderness. If the Hague comes calling after the inaguration, well... all options are still on the table.

(You could also shorten Obama's reaction to "I'd rather run against President Bush than President Pelosi. Sorry, Nancy!")

It's an interesting point you make, Katherine. Myself, I think "The 'I' Word" may indeed come back "on the table", should the appropriate scandal come to light. I think Nancy Pelosi's demurrals in 2006 were effected primarily for poitical reasons - not wanting to paint the Democrats as BDS-addled vengeance-seekers in order to woo fence-straddlers or "undecided" - but, like most political promises, it, too may find itself "superceded by events". No suprise.

But I also think the triggering scandal* will have to be something along the lines of a good old-fashioned lobbyist/payoff/kickback imbroglio: the Bush Administration has done too good a job over the last six years in shrouding its abuses in the threadbare excuses of "wartime" or "national security" or "just hardball politics". What is needed, IMO, to galvanize public interest (and overcome the Republican Noise Machine) is something grubby enough - like payola** - that can't just be spun away.

* Note: I personally think any number of current scandals are grounds to toss out several of this criminal regime's offcials: but I'm trying to be realistic.

** Alternatively, a Nixonian-style domestic-wiretap flap, or some other egregious abuse of surveillance.

Katherine - your suggested response comes down to acknowledging that stonewalling works. It's an encouragement to keept lying, dissembling, obfuscating, and cheating until it's too late to do anything about it.

I suggest a more robust principle: The guilty flee where no man persueth. If they insist on hiding things, it's legitimate to assume that the things they are hiding are very bad indeed. If they refuse to obey subpeonas, impeach.

Jay C, I don't see it. Suppose for example that senior NSA officials were willing to testify that they were ordered to provide surveillance information on the Democratic Party before the 2002, 2004, and 2006 elections. Would that lead to impeachment? Likely not. The GOP could argue first that it wasn't illegal, that the President has the right to do that. At the same time they could argue that there was no proof that Bush knew about it. And they could argue that the accusations were politically motivated, that it's just Democrats trying to stir up trouble.

The media would have to turn against the GOP before an impeachment became plausible.

J Thomas:

To take your points in reverse order:

And they could argue that the accusations were politically motivated, that it's just Democrats trying to stir up trouble.

Well, this is what they have done/would do/ will do in any case: so far it hasn't worked out very well for them: no reason to expect that it will in the future.

At the same time they could argue that there was no proof that Bush knew about it.

Again, a standard argument, and as Iran-Contra sadly proved, the hardest one to pin down. But I suppose that a lot will depend on who is willing to run the risk of jail time to protect whom.

The GOP could argue first that it wasn't illegal, that the President has the right to do that.

Not so much "the GOP", I think as "the Bush White House" who would be on the front line of any "surveillance" scandal: and of course, they (and their Congressional enablers) would stonewall: the issue of "legality" is the whole point: that's what a real investigation would determine.

...ordered to provide surveillance information on the Democratic Party before the 2002, 2004, and 2006 elections.

If with proper court authority & warrants: a national shame, and an enormous embarrassment to the Administration, but not (AFAICT, IANAL) impeachment-worthy: if NOT: lawyer up and start packing for Paraguay. Adios.

And as for your coda:

The media would have to turn against the GOP before an impeachment became plausible.

I think that "The GOP would have to finally turn against the Bush regime" might be a more accurate assessment.

This, btw, is why I think a simple "financial" scandal would be a much better opportunity to toss Administration crooks out on their keisters: "follow-the-money" is a much easier storyline to deal with.


"Breaches", hilzoy: "breeches" are pants, and are not yet, AFAICT, grounds for impeachment.

Actually, in the early days of the Republic, wearing trousers rather than breeches would have been regarded as a highly-charged political statement, a gesture of sympathy with the radical republicans of the French Revolution (the "sans culottes"). Jefferson, though known to be sympathetic to the French Revolution, never dared wear trousers. By the time of the Madison Adminstration, however, things had calmed down somewhat, and Madison became the first president to wear trousers to an official function without serious incident.

Katherine, will you be old enough to run for Senator from Illinois in the event that Obama is elected President or Vice President?

I'm only half joking.

But it does bring to mind a question -- what is the local buzz about who might succeed Obama? It's hard to imagine keeping a man with 350,000 individual donors and close to a half-million MySpace supporters off the ticket.

No idea. I'm horrendously badly informed on Illinois politics, because:
(1) I'm new to the state
(2) The free newspapers are no good (I used to rely a fair bit on the Boston Phoenix for local coverage)
(3) I don't subscribe to the Tribune.

I really should start at least reading some local columnists, though; it's pathetic.

OT- CNN reports Libby headed to slammer.

Interesting, Katherine. I think there's more than enough circumstantial evidence of high crimes and misdemeanors from Cheney to initiate impeachment proceedings.

I honestly don't know what could persuade the mainstream press that impeachment is worth considering. Possibly a completely verifiable recording of Bush and Cheney personally ordering the torture of major media figures; nothing short of that seems likely to sink in.

Incertus/Brian: I want to quote you on that. I want *everyone* to quote you on that.

Impeachment should be about right and wrong, but unfortunately, it's really about political power, and there's one party in this country which has consistently refused to hold this President and Vice President accountable--the Republicans.

In fact, you should send it as a Letter to the Editor of the paper of your choice.

OT- CNN reports Libby headed to slammer.

OT- yay.

"I don't subscribe to the Tribune.
I really should start at least reading some local columnists, though; it's pathetic."

You don't have to subscribe; you just have to click:

http://www.chicagotribune.com/

why is that Democratic politicians can't rule out preventive war with Iran because "you can't take any option off the table", but they are so eager to take options off the table when it comes to the administration?

This is a question many of us are wondering.

It goes to the heart of why, despite a majority in Congress, a President with a terrible approval rating, nothing but blue skies for Democrats in the polls and fund raising departments, we see the rightwing media machine smiling from ear to ear and acting as if they're enjoying that fabled majority for life. Either the whole lot of them are taking something, or they know something we don't about how things really stand. Perhaps they had those grins surgically implanted, but they make the Cheshire cat look depressed. What's up with that?

I guess they all got a bounce last week with the SCOTUS rulings (God knows the robed ones made me sick to my stomach again and again) and know that regardless of who takes the White House, they've got that branch of goverment all sewn up for the foreseeable future, but still you'd think most of the Democrats were Asimov-esque Lieberman clones the way they can't seem to do anything in violation of the seeming first law of politics : A Democrat may not challenge a Republican's abuse of the Constitution, or, through inaction, allow a Rebpulican to come to justice.

This is why my initial interest in Obama has all but evaporated. I know I'm supposed to think that he's thoughtful, but all I see is endless hedging, straddling, "triangulating". I see little difference between Obama's behavior and the kind of finger-in-the-wind caution that helped the Dems lose to such odious, truly vile people as Newt Gingrich and George "Man-Child" Bush.

'why is that Democratic politicians can't rule out preventive war with Iran because "you can't take any option off the table", but they are so eager to take options off the table when it comes to the administration?'

Because, as I once yelled at my copy of _Starship Troopers_, people aren't puppies. That is, the politics of impeachment and the problems of diplomacy with Iran are pretty different.

Oh, they're different. Well, I'll never make an analogy again.

The point is that assuring people that you will never under any circumstances take a certain step--whether it be filibuster a bill, vote against a nominee, pass a blank check Iraq war funding bill--destroys your leverage. Why should a nominee produce embarrassing documents if you're going to confirm him anyway? Why should the President compromise if you've already told him he'll get his way if he refuses?

I think it's actually okay to take options "off the table" publicly if they're inherently immoral. For instance, the Democrats shouldn't threaten the White House with military strikes. But I think there's a much *bigger* moral problem with threatening preventive war than threatening standard, lawful legislative maneuvers.

"Well, I'll never make an analogy again."

No, the right response is to explore what the differences are, if you happen to think the analogy was useful. For example, how the threat, or the refusal to withdraw the threat, will be received in the various cases. Or whether the presence of extra differently-motivated actors (the public, the media, etc.) in the latter case makes makes that reception very different. Or whether the differing likelihoods of positive outcomes in the two cases require different approaches. And from my perspective, all that adds up to dropping the analogy and asking directly what the Democrats are trying to achieve and why. Pelosi at least is on record as saying that she thinks impeachment isn't achievable, and presumably trying and failing would be extra bad.

That said, I think your proposed revision of Obama's remark is excellent; I have no idea why he's taking that tack unless this is just the consequence of his central "new kinds of politics" plank - a big part of my unease with him.

I see that Scooter isn't going to jail. I guess that's one more reason not to pay attention to Republican preening on law and order. Maybe someone will ask Guiliani if this counts as a 'broken window.'

No big deal--they can just shorten "law and order" to "order".

Obama's statement on Libby - it answers some of the criticism in Katherine's post, I think.

Obama's statement on Libby - it answers some of the criticism in Katherine's post, I think.

In what way?

Obama says "This is exactly the kind of politics we must change so we can begin restoring the American people’s faith in a government that puts the country’s progress ahead of the bitter partisanship of recent years."

Obama is still pretending that the problem is "bitter partisanship" rather than grave and intentional breaches of executive authority committed by the President and Vice President.

It's actually confirming Katherine's criticism, not answering it.

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