In a letter to constituents, Congressman Barney Frank argues against impeachment. As a fellow pragmatic progressive, it might appear to be the height of hubris for me to disagree with him, but I do. He is an old personal friend for whom I have nothing but respect. But, on this, I disagree. For our Constitution's security, America needs impeachment.
As always, his focus is on practicality: "The fact is there is zero chance of an impeachment proceeding resulting in the removal (since this would put many members who concurred with administration policies) in the difficult position of voting in effect to impeach themselves."
Excellent point, until you look at the text of HR 333, which offers members of congress significant distance: "Article I: The Vice President of the United States, Richard B. Cheney, has purposely manipulated the intelligence process to deceive the citizens and the Congress of the United States by fabricating a threat of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction..."
Article II states Cheney "purposely manipulated the intelligence process to deceive the citizens and Congress about an alleged relationship between Iraq and al-Qaida."
Finally Article III points out Cheney has "openly threatened aggression against the Republic of Iran."
Now it is true that folks like Sen. Joseph Lieberman have also threatened Iran, but on the other charges, Congress was deceived, themselves victimized by the crimes. So taking up impeachment against the vice president in no way requires members to impeach themselves. From a cold, purely political calculation, impeachment serves them well politically.
Then there is the little item of the Constitution. The framers put impeachment there to protect us from royalty. Since his tenure with President Richard Nixon, Dick Cheney has insisted Congress has no right to participate in decisions relative to war. He argues for a unitary executive, which is quite different from a constitutional presidency. In other words, the Constitution be damned.
If Congress fails to act against this assault on our foundation, that is a very dangerous precedent this Congress ought not set.
The harm which has been done to our country? Torture has been institutionalized, habeas corpus eviscerated, and illegal spying made routine. Our Constitution has been trampled on. For the future of the country we love, Congress can not let them get away with it.
Conservative Constitutional scholar Bruce Fein, who served in the Reagan Justice Department, is an advocate of impeachment. He recently said on my radio show that Cheney "is seeking institutionally to cripple checks and balances and the authority of Congress and the judiciary ... kidnapping people and throwing them in dungeons without any legal accountability are standards that are totally anathema to a democratic society devoted to the rule of law."
He points out Cheney "has no understanding of or respect for Congress's critical role in the governance of our nation." Fein is outraged that Congress has not sought to "immediately sanction his excesses ... We have a Congress that basically is an invertebrate."
Should Congress fail to impeach, Fein worries that the Constitution "will disappear on the installment plan."
America's founders understood a president is highly likely to try to overreach and for that reason put into law legislative checks and balances to the executive branch. If Congress fails to accept that responsibility, we move ominously closer to realizing the unitary executive as imagined by Cheney.
So while Barney Frank and Nancy Pelosi insist it's not practical, the fact is we've seen Congress walk and chew gum at the same time. Should Congress abdicate its responsibility and take no action on impeachment, the legislative's rightful power will have announced its surrender, a shattering deviation from our nation's foundation. Thomas Jefferson understood that a president is not a king. For America to remain America, impeachment is essential. Burt Cohen is a resident of New Castle and a former New Hampshire state senator.
© 2007 Seacoast Online