Saturday, November 11, 2006

Impeachment no, investigations yes

I'm curious what advocates of impeaching Bush as a central item on Democrts' agenda think, really, they would achieve, even were they take the long and difficult journey there -- the end of which, most likely, would come near the end of Bush's term of office anyway. As Molly in NYC puts it:
You're basically "punishing" the guy by firing him a couple months early from a job he was never too keen on anyway.

Much better: We quietly start putting together a case for war crimes and arrange to remove the relevant immunities Bush et al insisted on for themselves. Note that, unlike impeachment, you don't have to be still in office to be tried for war crimes.

If you really believe that Bush is a war criminal -- and I happen to think it's likely -- then which do you think will be more likely to obtain adequate punishment for this administration: impeachment, or war-crimes trials?

There's a problem with that, though: Because the Republican Congress refused to investigate any of Bush's mis- and malfeasance, all we have so far is suspicions. We suspect, for instance, that the directives on torture that resulted in Abu Ghraib came from the top ranks of the administration, but we don't know that. We suspect that Bush and Cheney themselves were directly responsible for deliberately skewing the WMD intelligence on Iraq -- but that hasn't been established in congressional hearings, since there haven't been any.

So what Democrats should be calling for is thorough investigations, including probes into detainee-interrogation policies, NSA wiretapping, WMD intelligence, war profiteering, and Bush's military tribunals. We can demand all these legitimately, because there's significant evidence of wrongdoing in each of these areas. And it may well be that evidence will be uncovered leading to criminal indictments and impeachment.

But what we can't insist on is proceeding as if impeachment were the final goal of these investigations. We can't presume guilt. That, after all, has been a movement-conservative specialty the past 10 years -- everyone remembers the Clinton Rules ("The Golden Rule is that all rumors about the Clintons are true").

One of the really troubling aspects of the fundamentalist right is the way it thinks and argues: It always starts from a core of belief and then searches for evidence to support it. This is why it is so naturally inimical to scientific and educational endeavors, which proceed in the opposite fashion -- gathering as much evidence and information as possible and then drawing conclusions based on that.

Reflecting this, the standard approach of Republicans in the past decade and longer has been to make assumptions based on their personal preferences and biases and then proceed as if they were matters of fact. So when progressives take the same approach, I have to object.

For instance, if you really believe that Bush violated the law with NSA wiretapping -- and again, I think there's overwhelming evidence he did -- then that needs to be established and on the record before we leap to impeach. We need to let due process take its course, because it can take any number of surprising turns along the way. The key is in initiating the processes, which under the do-nothing Republican Congress was never going to happen. Now it can.

Of course, it would be ridiculous to take impeachment off the table, and the right's demands that liberals pledge to do so are absurd. We don't know what we will find when we investigate, and neither do conservatives. Or maybe they do, and that's why they're so eager to elicit these pledges.

But at the same time, it's wrong in any event to presume guilt and demand Bush's head before we have all the facts in hand. I didn't vote Democrat just to have them start acting like a pack of Republicans out of the gate.

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