The "I-word" is back.
The revelation that President Bush secretly authorized a domestic spying program has incited a handful of Congressional Democrats to discuss his possible impeachment. And while continued Republican control of Congress makes such a move extremely unlikely, the word is reemerging into mainstream political discourse.
A long time ago - before the Iraq invasion, before the elections in '02 and '04, before all the unprecedented governmental violations of trust we have discovered and endured - I wrote something for a book.
"This is America," I wrote. "At bottom, America is a dream, an idea. You can take away all our roads, our crops, our people, our cities, our armies - you can take all of that away, and the idea will still be there as pure and great as anything conceived by the human mind. I do very much believe that the idea that is America stands as the last, best hope for this world. When used properly, it can work wonders. That idea, that dream, is in mortal peril. You can still have all our roads, our crops, our people, our cities, our armies - you can have all of that. But if you murder the idea that is America, you have murdered America itself in a way that ten thousand 9/11s could never do. No terrorist can destroy the ideals we hold dear. Only we can do that."
The breaking strain has been reached, and those ideals we hold so dear are indeed in mortal peril. The President of the United States of America has declared himself fully and completely above the law. The Constitution does not matter to him, nor do the Amendments. Laws passed to safeguard the American people from intrusive governmental invasion have been cast aside and ignored, simply because George W. Bush finds it meet to do so.
What has provoked fresh discussion of impeachment is the President’s admission that he has ignored the law’s requirements and that he intends to keep doing so. The impeccably conservative legal scholar and former Reagan aide Bruce Fein explained the deep implications of the President’s arrogance:
“If President Bush is totally unapologetic and says, ‘I continue to maintain that as a wartime President I can do anything I want—I don’t need to consult any other branches,’ that is an impeachable offense. It’s more dangerous than Clinton’s lying under oath, because it jeopardizes our democratic dispensation and civil liberties for the ages. It would set a precedent that … would lie around like a loaded gun, able to be used indefinitely for any future occupant.”
So now we really see what it's come to. The law is just a nuisance to these people. They don't feel like "marshaling arguments" or doing the "paperwork" that the law requires – the law, mind you, that was written to protect people's civil liberties, and the arguments/paperwork that are specifically required to make sure there is a check on Presidents whose henchmen are conducting surveillance operations on political enemies (ie. civil rights, anti-war, environmental, animal cruelty, and poverty relief groups).
We are supposed to feel ok about all of this because, as the New York Times noted, "Mr. Bush and his senior aides have emphasized since the disclosure of the program's existence last week that the president's executive order applied only to cases where one party on a call or e-mail message was outside the United States" (as if that means law breaking is acceptable). But even this inadequate explanation has been exposed as a lie. As the Times noted, the illegal surveillance program "has captured what are purely domestic communications."