Is Impeachment Imminent?
In several months, President George W. Bush will be forced to leave office after serving two four-year terms. He, like his predecessor William Jefferson Clinton, must adhere to the Constitutional restriction. However, unlike Clinton’s tenure, the Bush presidency has suffered dismally low approval ratings. But irony abounds. Another dissimilarity seems to favor Bush: Clinton endured an impeachment trial while Bush escaped unscathed—or did he? While a Presidential act on the part of Clinton put the Oval Office and ovaries in the same sentence, the reframe, “When Clinton Lied Nobody Died,” struck a responsive chord with a forgiving public. Contrariwise, this same American public feels it has been gang raped by Bush, Chaney, and Rove—an unholy trinity if ever there was one say some. Can the proletariat strike back with an impeachment before President Bush leaves office? What does impeachment entail?
As one source puts it, “The word ‘impeachment’ derives from Latin roots expressing the idea of becoming caught or entrapped, and has analogues in the modern French verb empêcher (to prevent) and the modern English impede. Medieval popular etymology also associated it (wrongly) with derivations from the Latin impetere (to attack). (In its more frequent and more technical usage, impeachment of a person in the role of a witness is the act challenging the honesty or credibility of that person.)” Not surprisingly, the British came up with the idea of impeachment. Virginia (1776) and Massachusetts (1780) followed suit. Nearly two and a half centuries later in 2006, General Sir Michael Rose renewed the call for the impeachment of Prime Minster Tony Blair “for leading the country into the invasion of Iraq in 2003 under false pretenses.”
While impeachment can take place on the federal and state levels, the Constitution limits it to “The President, Vice President, and all civil officers of the United States.” These can be impeached and removed from office for “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” Seen as being somewhat vague, Gerald R. Ford, House Minority Leader in 1970, proffered that “An impeachable offense is whatever a majority of the House of Representatives considers it to be at a given moment in history.” Impeachment is the first part of a two-stage process to forcibly remove a government official by a legislative body. The second stage of the process is actual conviction. Many people believe that when the President is impeached it means he is automatically and unceremoniously removed from office.
This is a common misconception. In reality, impeachment is simply formal charges against the President of the United States (or certain other officials or persons serving in a governmental capacity). So, in plain English, if you’re the President, impeachment means you’ve been charged with something, not actually found guilty and convicted of that something. As one encyclopedia states, “An official who is impeached faces a second legislative vote (whether by the same body or another), which determines conviction, or failure to convict, on the charges embodied by the impeachment.” In fact, impeachment is quite similar to, or may even mirror, indictment in criminal law.
Illustrating the parallel was when the Grand Jury met prior to the 2004 child molestation case against Michael Jackson to determine whether there was enough evidence against Jackson to send the case to trial. In a one-sided presentation of the “facts” in his case, it decided that there was sufficient “evidence” to warrant a trial. Finding sufficient evidence is called an “indictment,” hence he went to trial, only to be found “not guilty” of all ten charges against him. Succinctly put, what “indictment” is to the citizen is “impeachment” to the President. In 1999, President Clinton was impeached or formally charged, but was never convicted. Subsequently, he was allowed to stay in office. Were he to be convicted, he would have been forcibly removed from office. This is what a growing number of people, including politicians, want to see happen to Bush. They want him forcibly removed from office for several reasons.
According to CNN, last week “Judiciary Chairman John Conyers, D-Michigan, ticked-down a list of items that included, in his words, ‘the politicization of the Department of Justice, the misuse of signing statements, the misuse of authority with regard to detention, interrogation and rendition, possible manipulation of intelligence regarding the Iraq war, improper retaliation against critics of the administration...and excessive secrecy.’” Reportedly, in December 2005 Conyers chaired a subcommittee on the possible impeachment of Bush. In this latest effort, Ohio Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich, who has introduced articles for the impeachment of Vice-President Chaney, was Conyers’ star witness. Earlier this year, January 29, 2008, to be exact, an additional two dozen Congressional representatives cosponsored the articles, including House Judiciary Committee members Tammy Baldwin, Keith Ellison, Hank Johnson, Maxine Waters, Steve Cohen, and Sheila Jackson-Lee. Representatives Luis Gutierrez and Robert Wexler have been vocal in their calls for impeachment of the Vice-President as well.
Kucinich ran for President in 2004 and 2008. According to the New York Times (April 27, 2007), he stated the following during a debate: “This is a pocket copy of the Constitution which I carry with me, because I took an oath to defend the Constitution. We’ve spent a lot of time talking about Iraq here tonight and America’s role in the world. This country was taken into war based on lies. This country was taken into war based on lies about weapons of mass destruction and Al Qaeda’s role with respect to Iraq, which there wasn’t one at the time we went in. I want to state that Mr. Cheney must be held accountable. He is already ginning up a cause for war against Iran. Now, we have to stand for this Constitution, we have to protect and defend this Constitution. And this vice president has violated this Constitution. So I think that while my friends on the stage may not be ready to take this stand, the American people should know that there’s at least one person running for president who wants to reconnect America with its goodness, with its greatness, with its highest principles, which currently are not being reflected by those who are in the White House.” This past June Kucinich also delivered 35 articles of impeachment against President Bush to the U.S. House of Representatives.
Some insist that divine retribution is in store for Bush, Chaney, and Rove for what they’ve done. Critics have hoped what happened to King Herod happens to Bush. “On a set day,” says the Bible, “Herod clothed himself with royal raiment and sat down upon the judgment seat and began giving...a public address. In turn the assembled people began shouting: ‘A god’s voice, and not a man’s!’ Instantly the angel of Jehovah struck him, because he did not give the glory to God; and he became eaten up with worms and expired.” (Acts 12:21-23) Whether an angel strikes Bush and worms thereafter consume the President remains to be seen. What also remains to be seen is if either Bush or Cheney is impeached. Either way, like all of us, someday they’ll have to answer for their actions. Amen.
Word for the Week (or is it “Weak”): inexpiable: “not capable of being atoned for.
Dr. Firpo Carr n can be reached at 800.501.2713 or