Democratic senators are already throwing monkey wrenches in Obama's seemingly uncontroversial tax-cut plan (give a $3000 credit to companies that hire or re-train workers. So what? If they don't hire or re-train, they don't get the credit.) This is how it started with the destruction of Jimmy Carter. The honeymoon was over before it began. The real signal is there will be no help for working people in the plan for this economic crisis. The bail-outs will be for those who don't need them. So as long as you're not going to get what you hoped for when you elected Obama, you may as well fight to the bitter end for the rule of law. There is still plenty of time for an open-and-shut impeachment of George Bush, one hour, on the single article of defying congressional subpoenas. It's still not too late to avoid the history which will be written on the walls of the planned Bush Impeachment Archives Building, somewhere in Texas.
To those pooh-poohers, never-happen-you're-a-nut commentors who prowl these diaries, please can it. It's not a substitute for clever. And your disregard for the Constitution and the rule of law makes me want to puke.
At the start of the 21st Century, the three-way system of checks and balances incorporated into the United States Constitution failed for the first time. The Constitution's provision for the impeachment of presidents had been vigorously used by Congress in the past for a wide range of sometimes controversial abuses. But in 2006, upon accumulation of evidence that the Bush administration had usurped power in many ways, including illegally spying upon millions of Americans, violating Constitutional rights, and selling a war under false pretenses, then-Speaker-of-the-House Nancy Pelosi declared that impeachment was "off the table." The opposition party, the Democrats, had just won a 233 to 201 majority in that year's elections. The fact that Pelosi felt the need to make this her first major statement after the elections was a clear indication of how strong sentiment for impeachment had become.
The exhibits highlight the precedents which were set when members of the 110th Congress did not fulfill their oath, required to be sworn upon taking office by Article Six of the U.S. Constitution, to "defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic." Precedents in history are not easily overturned. Once set, they become defenses for more of the same. This Archives and exhibit space is dedicated to those who saw what was at stake, who spoke out, and who left to future generations a legacy of vigorous resistance to these precedents.
Wartime Powers Declared Indefinitely
The claim of powers during war to detain American citizens, without trial, charges, or contact with the outside world for the duration of a war has, rightly or wrongly, long been a staple of presidents. After 9/11, George Bush became the first president in American history to proclaim a war which had no end. The impact to the American Bill of Rights, the "inalienable rights" proclaimed by Thomas Jefferson, was clear as day. Although the Sixth Amendment guaranteed to every American the right to a trial by a jury of his or her peers in peacetime, war became the permanent state.
As an example of circumstances which the Founders could not foresee, the "war on terror" was perfect. Technology now allowed a relative few, striking from a position of invisibility, to do as much damage in a short time as an army. However, the Constitution's elastic construction allowed for many circumstances the Founders could not foresee. It gave Congress the power to impeach for "high crimes and misdemeanors," a deliberately vague category of offenses. Impeachment was flexible enough to encompass any reach for power which failed the president's highest duty, sworn before taking office, to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." That Constitution includes the Sixth Amendment of the Bill of Rights, the right to a jury trial.
By failing to impeach George Bush, the 110th Congress allowed the precedent of permanent wartime powers to stand, and Sixth Amendment rights are no longer "inalienable" as Jefferson declared. These rights are now subject to the pleasure of the president and the executive branch.
Court Review Neglects Novel Facts of War on Terror
The Fourth Circuit Court opinion, written by Judge J. Michael Luttig, never addressed any differences in "factual situation" which might distinguish the traditional form of war, against a nation-state with a tangible army, from the War on Terror, against a terrorist network with no formal hierarchy, no industrial military weaponry, and no national base. In traditional war, at some point, it would be impossible to maintain that the war had not come to an end. The War on Terror presented no such limitations. Soon after 9/11, George Bush took pains to proclaim the War on Terror's infinite time horizon, by announcing in a speech before a joint session of Congress on September 20, 2001, that it was "a task that does not end." The Luttig court made no mention of this difference from previous wars, nor the peril it might pose to the Constitution.
After his 3 1/2 years of isolation and torture during military detention, Padilla was nonetheless ruled fit to stand trial. His lawyers objected that the isolation and torture had rendered him mentally incompetent, that he was a broken man. He was convicted and sentenced to 17 years in prison regardless. He is now incarcerated at Supermax Federal Prison in Florence, Colorado.
The most important result of the Padilla case was to firmly establish the precedent that American citizens may be held, tortured, and denied access to the civilian courts indefinitely, upon their designation by the executive branch as an "enemy combatant," in the open-ended "war on terror."