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It is in the prosecution of some single object, and in striving to reach its accomplishment by the combined application of his moral and physical energies, that the true happiness of man, in his full vigour and development, consists. Possession, it is true, crowns exertion with repose; but it is only in the illusions of fancy that it has power to charm our eyes. If we consider the position of man in the universe,—if we remember the constant tendency of his energies towards some definite activity, and recognize the influence of surrounding nature, which is ever provoking him to exertion, we shall be ready to acknowledge that repose and possession do not indeed exist but in imagination. - Wilhelm von Humboldt, The Sphere and Duties of Government (The Limits of State Action) (1854 ed.)

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Maha says impeachment would mean an exoneration

Nat Hentoff ("History Will Not Absolve Us") provides another corrective to Maha's reluctant support for impeachment.

Update: Maha was not too happy with me (see comments). Is this headline any better? "Maha says an almost certain/highly likely failed impeachment means an exoneration"


maha said...

Did you actually read my post before you decided it needed a "corrective"? And before you wrote that extremely misleading post title? Especially since I support impeachment, the post you linked to and misrepresented supports impeachment, and Hentoff wrote nothing whatsoever that "corrects" me, or about which I am unaware?

I've been blogging my ass off for more than five years because I want the Bushies to be investigated, and I want them indicted, tried, and punished for everything they can be indicted, tried and punished for. It's the central purpose of my life these days.

But you see, child, impeachment is only an indictment. It's an accusation. It is not a guilty verdict. The House impeaches a president, and then the articles of impeachment are sent to the Senate. The Senate puts the impeached president on trial. And then the Senate decides if the impeached president actually is guilty of what he is accused of, and if so, if those acts are serious enough to remove the guy from office.

So, if the House impeaches the President, and the Senate finds him not guilty, I can see the Right taking that as an exoneration.

In other words, it is possible that impeaching Bush won't make a damn bit of difference if the Senate votes to let him off the hook. And that is extremely likely given the current makeup of the Senate.

Now, if you go back to the post you linked to, you will see that I did not say "impeachment" would exonerate Bush. I said that if he were impeached but not convicted and removed from office, THAT would amount to exoneration. Because, dear, it probably would.

So I inject a note of caution, yes. I'm old; I've seen things. Well-intended actions backfire if they aren't followed through correctly. Excuse me for thinking.

. said...

I get that you worry about the success of impeachment and the consequences of a failed conviction. Fine. But in my mind Hentoff's article reminds those who hold your same opinion (or any of the other "Bush ought to be impeached, but we should not because ..." positions) that, basically, we have an overriding moral obligation to impeach. I simply do not think your position is defensible from a historical perspective.

Here are a couple of quote from Hentoff that I think are the "corrective":

If we, the people, are ultimately condemned by a world court for our complicity and silence in these war crimes, we can always try to echo those Germans who claimed not to know what Hitler and his enforcers were doing. But in Nazi Germany, people had no way of insisting on finding out what happened to their disappeared neighbors.


Whether or not there is another Nuremberg trial—and Congress continues to stay asleep—future historians of the Bush administration will surely also refer to Leave No Marks: Enhanced Interrogation Techniques and the Risk of Criminality, the July report by Human Rights First and Physicians for Social Responsibility.

You said:
... I can see the Right taking that as an exoneration

Of course I assume you agree that the Right will spin any and everything so that hardly means anything yes? The Right will have the ability to say at any point in the future: 'Dems were in power and never impeached so plainly they did not believe Bush broke any laws.'

You said:
... it is possible that impeaching Bush won't make a damn bit of difference if the Senate votes to let him off the hook

And not impeaching certainly will not make a bit of difference. Plus, I can not imagine you believe there would be zero negative consequences to Bush and the Right? Your argument is that the net could be positive for them. I get it -- just do not agree.

I also think it is reasonable for me to say you feel impeachment would exonerate Bush because you feel a conviction to be extremely unlikely. I think your are making the following logical argument: Impeachment with a failed conviction equals exoneration; conviction highly unlikely; therefore highly likely that impeachment mean exoneration. You pretty much say so in your comment!

Finally, speaking of consequences of people's actions, why are you so insulting generally? You seem to get mad at people a lot which is fine (stakes are high), but the insults?

Casey said...

Just because we have a moral obligation to try and convict Bush/Cheney for war crimes, it does not follow that we have a moral obligation to start the impeachment process. There are other ways to prosecute and convict a person, and using the impeachment process because he/she happens to be a sitting president is just one. Would it be wiser to wait until they are out of office?

. said...

No, I do not believe it would be better -- or even a good idea -- to wait. First, waiting and punishing Bush after he is president I think would look vindictive. But more importantly, a major goal is to demonstrate that the President overstepped his powers and put in place both the legal and moral/institutional expectations in that Presidential power has limits.

I was too young for Nixon/Watergate but, the way I understand it, a major goal was to do exactly this. I do think people see Nixon's impeachment as an indicator that there is and ought to be limits on power and on the legal side, the FISA court was put into place then right?

(Same goes for any official -- impeach during their tenure not after.)