CONSTITUTIONAL LAW IN THEORY AND PRACTICE THROUGH THE EYES OF AN IDIOT
The greatest virtue of Tim Russert's Meet the Press is perhaps its most overlooked one. Mr. Russert has the valuable talent of exposing people as retards, particularly people that you never would have suspected of suffering from that condition. In Western democracies, where empty platitudes like "no child left behind" and "sustainable, free, quality health care" are accepted without question, this is a great gift to creating informed opinion. The masses have a right to know which of their leaders are prone to uncontrollably drooling upon their own shirts. The fact remains that no one will actually do anything about it, but it's still nice to know who's a mouthbreather and who isn't.
From infancy, I've almost instinctively disagreed with Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) and everything he stands for. However, I never thought that he suffered from what I'll politely refer to as a "catastrophic learning disability." I had always assumed that the senator came upon his liberalism the way most people do, by being dropped on his head as a child. I've long called Wisconsin "the home of the pre-adolescent head injury" and I see no reason to stop now. I envision a day when the state embraces that motto and places it upon their highway signs and historical sites. This is a small dream, I know. But it's the small dreams that are the most likely to become big realities.
I am sad to report that Tim Russert set me straight about Feingold this Sunday past. Immediately after making the Director of National Intelligence, Admiral Mike McConnell, deeply uncomfortable, Mr. Russert stepped aside and allowed Senator Feingold to reveal that he is indeed blessed with an extra chromosome.
Feingold used his appearance on Meet the Press to announce that he would be introduce a resolution to censure President Bush, Vice President Cheney and perhaps even that guy who stands outside the White House and yells about the transmitter the CIA put in his teeth and pisses on himself. Feingold feels that the continuing threat posed by those people to the Constitutional order is just that great.
Well, I’m shocked by the administration, in particular the president’s response to the November election. Usually, when presidents are repudiated in elections, they say, “Well, maybe I ought to reassess.” Instead, he did just the opposite. He did this surge, which went contrary to the will of the American people. I think we need to do something serious in terms of accountability. And that’s why I will be shortly introducing a censure resolution of the president and the administration. One, on their getting us into the war of Iraq - in Iraq and their failure to adequately prepare our military and the misleading statements that have continued throughout the war in Iraq. And the second, on this administration’s outrageous attack on the rule of law, all the way from the illegal terrorist surveillance program to their attitude about torture, which we heard a little bit about today on this show. This administration has assaulted the Constitution. We need to have on the historical record some kind of indication that what has happened here is, in the words of Director McConnell, as you just quoted him, disastrous. Somehow we have to address that. And I think it’s a good time to begin that process.This plan is fraught with problems. First, the Constitution is very specific in how to deal with presidents with a proclivity for assaulting it. That would be a procedure known as impeachment.
Impeachment - a word that comes from the Latin, meaning "to kick the cocksucker out and make sure he never comes back" - requires a majority vote in the House of Representatives and a two-thirds vote in the Senate for conviction and removal from office. No president has been convicted and removed by the Senate. It is a deliberately difficult process. Were it otherwise, the United States would have had more presidents than Black Sabbath has had lead singers instead of the comparatively low number of 43 (or 42, depending on how you count Grover Cleveland.)
But what about the vice-president. None of them has never been impeached before, despite one pleading nolo contrndre to income tax evasion and another having actually murdered a former secretary of the treasury while in office. Neither Burr nor Agnew was impeached, so whatever Cheney did must've been pretty bad, huh?
MR. RUSSERT: Anybody else?Now that even bad acting isn't safe from the Democratic congress, Republicans like Arnold Schwarzenegger should be in mortal terror of being on the receiving end of congressional theatre criticism. I'm just thankful that Fred Grandy is no longer around to see this. To be fair, Cheney does a pretty wicked Aaron Burr impression, but that hasn't been very widely reported by the goddamn liberal media.
SEN. FEINGOLD: Potentially yes. I think when it comes to Iraq, obviously the vice president. Vice President Cheney has been one of the worst actors in American history in this situation.
Impeachment is hard and the Democratic Party operates under the principle that life should be as easy as possible. If they didn't think that Bush would veto it, they would pass a law mandating the serving of ice cream with at least one meal a day for every American except those who are lactose intolerant, who would get federally subsidized cake. That's where censure comes in.
Everything that Feingold has cited about Bush's conduct of his office is clearly impeachable and only a lunatic or an idiot would argue otherwise. Assaults on the Constitution are precisely what impeachment was designed to punish. And with a growing number of conservatives like Bruce Fein agreeing that the administration has repeatedly engaged in impeachable conduct, there shouldn't be much of a problem proceeding.
Well, there wouldn't be a problem if Democrats weren't such fucking cowards. The Democratic caucus in both houses are terrified of being seen by the public as overly partisan if they bring justice unto the House of Bush. I may be an old-fashioned romantic, but I remember reading about a time when protecting the Constitution from grievous wrongs was more important than something as transitory as this week's polling numbers. Unfortunately, this was a long, long time ago.
Having said that, there really isn't much for the Democrats to be afraid of. Since they assumed power in January, the approval rating for Congress has fallen to a mere 19%. I'm not sure that your polling can actually go any lower than that. I haven't checked or anything, but I'm pretty sure that even Pol Pot could get 22% approval depending on how you phrased the question. It could be even higher if you point out that Pol Pot is fucking dead.
It would be nice if people like Russ Feingold weren't nutless wonders, but things are what they are and all the wishing in the world won't make it any different. That's why Congress not only has a lower job approval rating than Pol Pot, it's why they deserve it.
So that leaves us with censure. As I mentioned earlier, there are three basic problems with censure; it is utterly inconsequential to pretty much everyone, it's violently unconstitutional, and it makes everyone who proposes it look like a moron.
Censure is a parliamentary rule within each house of Congress. Therefore, it stands outside of the Constitution, which said that Congress may establish their own operating procedures. Which is fine, so long as those rules apply only in their respective houses. The House of Represntatives may not censure or move to expel a U.S Senator and the giggling would never end if someone suggested that they could. The House and Senate are seperate, co-equal partners in the Legislative Branch. Each has their own parliamentary rules which cannot be involuntarily imposed on one another.
Only someone who has received several sharp blows to head, is a Democratic senator, or is dumb enough to give money to MoveOn.org believes that one or both houses of Congress can do to the Executive Branch what they can't do to one another. The Constitution couldn't be clearer about the relations between the branches of government. If Congress doesn't like the actions of the Executive or Judicial branches, they may either impeach their officers or they may shut the fuck up.
Furthermore, the Constitutional procedure for impeachment clearly states that the Senate can institute no punishment other than removal and disqualification to hold office. It stands to reason that if the Congress can do no more than remove someone from office, then they can also do no less. Actually, that's not entirely true. I suppose that upon conviction, the Senate could impose a censure on a president and allow him to continue in office, but impeachment and conviction would be necessary first steps to overcome the separation of powers hurdle written into the Constitution.
Ordinarily, that would end the debate, but some shithead lefties with even more time on their hands than I have keep bringing up the fact that the Senate once censured Andrew Jackson. Since the only people who seem to know trivia like that are sexless geeks like me and lefty shitheads, I'll bring the rest of you up to speed.
Led by Sen. Henry Clay of Kentucky, the Whig-controlled Senate in 1834 censured President Jackson on a 26-20 vote after he called for the removal of federal funds from the control of the Second Bank of the United States. The censure resolution stated the president had "assumed upon himself authority and power not conferred by the Constitution and laws, but in derogation of both."
The censure backfired. Jackson was able to remove the federal deposits and Congress never renewed the charter of the Second Bank. Democrats were emboldened by the censure and came to Jackson's defense. Jackson's supporters played on anger over this issue in the 1836 elections. After Democrats retook control of Congress in 1837, senators expunged the censure from the Senate journal. During a ceremony, the secretary of the Senate literally struck out the censure with black ink.
The net effect of the Senate's censure was precisely nothing. If you don't believe me, go to your wallet and take out a $20 bill. See that handsome feller pictured in the center of it? Say hi to Andrew Jackson. I hope to Christ that Senator Feingold isn't aiming at putting George W. Bush on the currency. I practically invented cruel and twisted humour and that's going too far even for me.
The fact that no one remembers that Jackson was censured pretty much takes care of Feingold's concerns about "the historical record." But the impeachment of Bill Clinton will ensure that generations to come will be intimately familiar with his various misunderstandings with the trial judge in Paula Jones's civil suit, a federal Grand Jury, the word "is," and Monica Lewinsky's mouth. Shit, the only reason that people today know that Andrew Johnson was president at all is the fact that he was impeached. God knows that Johnson and Clinton didn't do much else with their time as president.
If Senator Feingold - or any of the other 534 creatures in Congress - want history to know what a criminally twisted Constitutional deviant President Bush is, they should impeach the motherfucker. Or they should shut the fuck up. It would also be nice if they remembered that there's actually very little that Bush did that they didn't vote for themselves, but I'm not expecting miracles.
Easy Listening Recomendation of the Day: Exhuming McCarthy By: R.E.M From: Document
Labels: Fun With Politics, The Smart Boy Blues