There was something almost surreal about the debate in the Judiciary Committee regarding Senator Feingold’s proposal to censure President Bush for breaking the law by conducting warrantless wire taps within the United States. Whether or not the resolution itself is politically wise or legislatively viable is not as important as the fact that the debate surrounding it is worth having.
However, Republican Senator Sessions, in a rambling and factually questionable statement, reverted to issues that had nothing to do with the matter at hand and relied on the time-worn tactics used by Republicans to justify almost anything this president decides to do as long as his actions are framed in terms of “the war” and national security. Since the “war on terrorism” is often described as something that could rage on interminably, it would seem, then, that the public is expected to get comfortable with the idea that certain civil rights and constitutional protections may become moot by executive decision.
Mr. Sessions made a point of saying that one body of government is not meant to be overruled by another. But, in fact, our system of checks and balances may often impact the actions of various governmental branches, i.e. presidential powers may be modified by legislation or judicial interpretation. Further, Sessions stated erroneously, that our troops are in Iraq fighting the people who attacked us. That was never the accepted or provable rationale for invading Iraq although the president and others have repeatedly tried to make that case, all evidence to the contrary.
In his remarks Lindsey Graham agreed with Sessions that censure was “inappropriate” and that the president was a man of fine character- – honest, forthright and decisive, in fact pretty much a paragon of virtue. He also harkened back to the unpleasantness surrounding the impeachment of President Clinton in which he was a prime mover in the House, as if that were something to be avoided especially now that his president was in trouble.
Orin Hatch brought his special brand of legalize to the proceedings by suggesting that censure is not a real option even if the president were engaged in wrongdoing which all Republicans say that in any case he is not. According to Hatch a president may be impeached but there is no provision that allows for censure, although that very idea was introduced as a possible offset to impeachment in Clinton’s case without any legal opinion being offered that it should not be brought to a vote.
You would think Republicans would steer clear of citing the dreadful exercise in trivia that defined the impeachment and censure measures during Clinton’s presidency. As transparently partisan as that whole brouhaha was it rings even more hollow these days when Democrats are accused of politicizing the mess in Iraq, the deceptions that got us there and the erosion of our civil rights in the aftermath. How shallow and irrelevant the charges against Clinton seem today as President Bush tests the limits of the public’s willing suspension of disbelief.
The current Republican mantra (and it can be heard in talking points absolutely everywhere) is that “history” will bestow its mantel of honor upon this president, celebrating his forward-looking policies and his genius at reconfiguring the Middle East. But it is increasingly clear that we have absolutely no idea what we are doing and with whom we are dealing there. And, as we continue to build huge military bases in Iraq even as we tell the world we intend to quit the place as soon as possible, our intentions become harder to fathom and increasingly suspect.
If in the future, history passes judgment about this president’s actions it is likely to be that in another “march of folly” and, having learned absolutely nothing from historical imperatives, a Western power attempted once again to lay claim to lands in The Middle East at tremendous cost and to its profound regret.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *