Monday, February 13, 2006


Let's Play...Name the Impeachable Offense!

Which of the following is an impeachable offense in the US?

- Spying on American citizens without a warrant
- Shooting an innocent man in the face at point-blank range
- Establishing torture camps all over the world
- Receiving consensual oral sex from an adult

Take your time, now…

None of the above.

Presidential authorization of wiretapping without a warrant is legal under Article II of the Constitution if the country is in a state of war, which it is thanks to an act of Congress following 9/11. Lincoln did it, Woodrow Wilson did it, and FDR did it. For that matter, Clinton did it too via the Echelon program, and we weren't in any sense involved in a war at the time.

Shooting somebody accidentally isn't a crime.

I am seriously concerned about torture and what is going on at Gitmo et al. But it is hardly clear that the existence of "torture camps", if that's what they are, is an impeachable offense.

Clinton wasn't impeached for getting oral sex; he was impeached for lying about it to a grand jury. I don't agree with the decision by the congresscritters of the day to bring that to the level of impeachment -- censure would have been more appropriate, and I thought then and still do think that the whole situation from beginning to end was embarassing and shameful. But the fact is that oral sex was not why Clinton was impeached.

Impeachment is serious business, so let's at least get the facts straight before using impeachment to get back at somebody, even if they deserve it.

This is an interesting test, and thankfully Robert did take his time--apparently more time than was taken to actually create the question.

Thanks, Robert, for being "ever vigilant."
Okay, if you want to be pedantic, let's.

To claim that Lincoln authorized wiretapping is to believe that telephones were invented before telephones were invented. Nice try, though.

Actually, shooting somebody accidentally can fall under the category of 'negligence,' which can be a crime. Nice try, though.

Congress did not declare war after 9/11. Nice try, though.

Nor did Congress repeal the FISA act of 1978, which would not have applied to Presidents Wilson or Roosevelt. Again, nice try.

Extraditing people for the purpose of having them tortured is a crime.

But you're right about Clinton. It was a shame and a scandal that he was impeached over lying in a civil deposition in a case that was ultimately dismissed.

I appreciate the vigilance.
Any reasonable reading of the powers of Congress either has to admit that (a) the Authorization of Military Force is a declaration of war or (b) the AUMF (and any AUMF, not just the post-9/11 one) is beyond Congress's powers.

As for Tubby... well, Tubby ran "torture camps" too. Tubby's administration also engaged in extraordinary renditions. He also bombed at least two sovereign nations (Sudan and Afghanistan) without Congressional authority. And, as Robert points out, Tubby's NSA did the same things the current NSA is accused of doing.

Neither the current nor former presidents shot anyone in the face, accidentally or on purpose, so #2 is a non-sequitor.

And, ultimately, the Jones case was not dismissed: it ended in a settlement (i.e. he paid Jones off to end the case). Tubby was also punished severely by the Arkansas Bar for lying under oath.

In any event, impeachment is a political decision of the Congress, not a legal one. None of these four events warrant impeachment unless they are beyond the bounds of behavior Congress (and, by extension, the public) is willing to tolerate. Unless Democrats want to rehabilitate the president's popularity in a hurry, they would be well-advised not to make the same mistake Republicans made in 1998 by overplaying their hands.
I feel your pain, DD.
Dean: Might I point out that, to assume wiretapping only occurs on phonelines is, well, myopic.

Actually, the telegraph was heavily used in the Civil War, as was "tapping in" to the telegraph lines.

I suppose, if one wishes to be truly myopic, one could argue that Bush hasn't actually "wiretapped" where Lincoln actually did, since the NSA has been listening to transmissions, sans wires, for years.

The Prof
Any reasonable reading of the powers of Congress either has to admit that (a) the Authorization of Military Force is a declaration of war or (b) the AUMF (and any AUMF, not just the post-9/11 one) is beyond Congress's powers.

(A) No, it was explicitly created to be something other than a declaration of war, and (B) the power to declare war lies with Congress.

Read the Constitution. It's in Article 1, Section 8. Check, if you think I'm lying.

Creating a bill that's a half-assed semi-declaration of war is not outside their jurisdiction.

Here's the killer question: Bush is arguing is that as Commander in Chief during wartime, Congress cannot abridge his right to prosecute the war as he sees fit.

So I ask you: according to this argument, what can't he do?

How is this not a declaration of a dictator?

What restrains him now, if he rejects the restraint of law?

Think hard.

The answer is "nothing."

Which is crap.

Just because he says the Constitution doesn't apply to him anymore doesn't necessarily make it true.

This guy here lays out the tenor of modern debate nicely. Bush has overstepped his bounds badly, and his response to it is "bite me, I can do what I want."

No, he can't.

The weird part is seeing the pundits turn against all the conservatives and Republicans who oppose Bush's illegal power-grab. That's ugly.

When the very right-wing paper The Washington Times writes that the President is out of control, you know it's bad.
If I hear, "we're at war" one more time, I'm gonna be sick.
The Washington Times is a right-wing paper? Not according to this study:
The AUMF covers the ground typical of a declaration of war. For the debate read "Congressional Authorization & War on Terrorism" (

and the ensuing debate...
The Washington Times isn't a right-wing paper? Heh. That's funny.

The UCLA study cited by Anonymous claims that there are no right-wing news sources in the major media, and that only two, the Washington Times and Fox News, weren't leftist.

To quote Santa Claus, "ho ho ho!"

The methodology employed by the review is, to be charitable, hilarious.

As far as the second Anonymous post, it dodges the issue of the definition of "Commander in Chief." Is a CiC essentially an elected king, or is he bound by law? That's the issue. Bush says he can circumvent laws he doesn't like. The laws say otherwise. Simple as that.
Not to be overly argumentative, but jerkwater wrote: "Bush says he can circumvent laws he doesn't like." Do you have a cite for that, or is that perhaps a reflection of your interpretation of his actions relative to your interpretation of the law-perhaps filtered through a more left-leaning set of eyewear?
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