2006-08-22

Presidential Law Breaking

The District Court ruling late last week dealt with wider legal issues than I was hoping would be settled. I am most interested in the Program's legality in respect to FISA, a federal law with criminal penalties for its violation. It was nice of her to rule that the Program is also unconstitutional, both in respect to the fourth and the first amendments, since that rules-out any shenanigans from the deplorable Specter Bill.

The real kicker, though, is whether or not the legal justifications for the Program mitigates the clear violation of FISA - an almost unanimously enacted law that no one has ever suggested was unconstitutional until the current scandal erupted. Judge Taylor's ruling left no doubt that the inherent powers of the President are derived from the Constitution, and therefore all exercises of those powers must adhere to the Constitution as well. Her ruling holds that President Bush has authorized the violation of FISA, a law with criminal penalties, for nearly five years. To preserve the rule of law in this country, what penalty should be assessed for this lawbreaking?

I, personally, do not yet support impeachment of the President. A censure resolution against the President should be enacted immediately, however, making it clear to the Executive that a time of war does not allow him to make and revoke laws as if he were the legislature. As Judge Taylor said, we have no hereditary kings in America - something the legislature needs to ensure. If, however, the President persists even after Censure, then impeachment becomes imperative. If President Bush continues his illegal Program after these rulings, he must be removed.

Censure is a light penalty for the scope and intent of these violations, I know. I'm applying a political calculus here, wherein I don't really want the Democrats to contemplate going down the impeachment road precipitously before the midterms. The acrimony that such a proceeding engenders would not be helpful to the progressive cause in America, so it should be avoided if possible. If we can get him to respect the Constitution and abide by the laws duly enacted under that constitution, then I think the danger is repaired and I can live with a chastened President Bush until January '09.

2 comments:

Feingold '08 said...

Great post overall, but I have to take issue with your stance on forgoing impeachment entirely. Granted, everything hinges on taking back the house this fall, but Diebold willing, our legislature then needs to perform the following three steps with mortal haste:

1.) Elect a progressive new speaker of the house with personal integrity and leadership qualities fit for a president (Hhrmph-FEINGold).

2.) File articles of impeachment against the president, vice-president and secretary of defense (at a minimum). As we all remember from the presidential succession song in grade school, "the Presidential Bone's connected to the VP Bone and VP Bone's connected to the Speaker Bone.." Well, it doesn't quite fit the songs original meter but it's got a nice ring to it!

3.) Begin the arduous process of rebuilding our international credibility and clout with a less corrupt and more capable leader at the helm (see item 1 for specifics).

As for the argument that people will be generally embittered by another round of impeachment proceedings, I say look at this guy's approval ratings. They're in the toilet! The country, Nay! the World demands a courtesy flush.
For anyone who's thinking that impeachment proceedings could drag on forever and take just as long as waiting for his lame-duck term to terminate naturally, let me give you a quick refresher on the Clinton impeachment timeline:

December 11, 1998: The House Judiciary Committee approves articles of impeachment.

December 19, 1998: House of Representatives approves articles of impeachment against Clinton

February 12, 1999: President Clinton is acquitted.


Why wait three years when we can right the proverbial ship in three months?!

Kepler said...

Excellent points. It'd be nice to get rid of him entirely, no doubt. But I'm certainly not going to talk about it until after the midterms. :)