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All content © 2002-2005 Anne Zook

September 29, 2005
Today's Rant

I guess it's possible that democracy is not, in the end, a sustainable system. The natural result of a successful democracy is a certain level of complacency in a happy and prosperous population. Corrupt and venal men will always be waiting to take advantage of that complacency.

I just can't understand how even a group as short-sighted and greedy as this bunch managed to destroy so much of the country so quickly. Is that a testament to the fragility of the system, or of this country in particular, or is it, as the conspiracy theorists would have us believe, the end product of decades of behind-the-scenes manipulation? And if the latter, does that explain why the Democratic leadership is so notably absent? Are they a part of the shadow conspiracy? Or just equally incompetent and uninspired?

Okay, you might say that the current bunch is just finishing what the Reagan years started, and up to a point you'd be right although their willingness to go where even Reagan had the sense not to tread is sufficient proof of their essential ignorance of how the real world works.

It's still a mystery to me how people who pretend to be intelligent can actually read the foundations of these economic and military policies and not see the holes that even I can see gaping from every line, but I guess the human mind's ability to see what it wants shouldn't be underestimated. They want to believe in that insanity and thus is looks sensible to them. (I'm not unaware that my own disdain for their autocratic and elitist perspective could magnify my impression of the aforementioned 'holes'.)

(It almost makes you believe in the conspiracy theories, doesn't it? I mean, how else could this bunch have risen to the top of the heap? Being delusional isn't usually part of the fast track to success, but if you pair the inherited wealth people with the robber baron types whose fortunes were made possibly by the legislative actions of the inherited wealth people elected with the money of the robber barons...and it's a whole, incestuous spiral of interconnectivity.)

“The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” (Thomas Jefferson)

We've had the blood of patriots. It's still washing around the streets of New Orleans and Baghdad.

As for the blood of tyrants, I'll settle for their jobs.

Impeach Bush.

It's really the only answer. It's a pity that the lunatics on the right wing turned a last-resort tool, something that should have been reserved for serious issues around a sitting president, into a partisan attack toy to be used when someone whose policies you don't like are proving successful and I really hate to think that every president we have from now on is going to have to run the gauntlet of wingnut revenge but there's little else we can do.

The man is incoherent, incurious, and uncaring. He's unintelligent, uninformed, and unengaged. He's unqualified, incompetent, and dishonest.

Can we really afford three more years of this?

On the other hand, if we take a look down the line of the chain of command, can we afford any of them either? This is a truly scary place we're in these days.

Posted by AnneZook at 10:44 AM


Comments

I agree with the impeachment thoughts. Although America's constitutional tradition has so far avoided treating it as such, perhaps in the future impeachment should be treated as a "vote of no confidence" is used in Parlimentary systems.

Posted by: Lawrence Krubner at September 29, 2005 06:02 PM

I think we can survive another three years, if only because the collapse of the administration and the GOP look to be so profound that they may get almost nothing done over that period--especially if the midterms go badly.

(Don't remind me I said that if Bush nominates a fascist for the Court.)

Posted by: Jeff at September 30, 2005 04:29 PM

My fear, Jeff, is that the USofA voting public's notoriously short memory will wipe much of this from the table before we find ourselves facing another Presidential election.

Lawrence, I would have agreed with that idea, before this Presidency.

Even Reagan, a man who infuriated me constantly and totally, didn't make me grateful that impeachment existed as a potential method of extreme censure.

If we treat impeachment as a vote of "no confidence" then I confidently :) predict that it will become a game of retaliation...much as the Impeach Clinton move was afterwards revealed to be rooted in part in a desire to get "revenge" for the impeachment of Nixon.

As long as there's any danger that wingnuts might be in positions of power (that is, always), changing the nature of impeachment strikes me as a very bad idea.

Of course, right now I'm still optimistically hoping that the Right's failure to actually find Clinton guilty of any wrongdoing will serve as a 'check' on their pro-impeachment impulses in the future.

I'm also hoping that Republican distaste for the wingnuttery of the neocons helps keep the squalid remnants of that so-called "movement" squashed from now on. But I know that's really optimistic.

Posted by: Anne at October 7, 2005 02:38 PM

"As long as there's any danger that wingnuts might be in positions of power (that is, always), changing the nature of impeachment strikes me as a very bad idea."

On the other hand, in the 217 years that we've lived under the current Constitution, we have not ever removed a President from office for bad behavior. This strikes me as evidence that we are being too careful about impeaching Presidents. We did not get rid of Johnson or Grant, we did not get rid of Hoover after he'd help get us into the Great Depression, we did not get rid of Nixon through official means, we have not gotten rid of a single individual. Not once, not ever. And you and I can agree, some Presidents have been outright crooks. So why have we never gotten rid of any?

Clearly, the President is set up under our Constitution as a very powerful executive. We are the only democracy on the planet that combines the head of state and the head of government into one office. Does America have sufficient checks on the President? I don't think the Founding Fathers would be happy to see what a great imperial prince the office has become.

I suspect that we need more checks on the President. Either the term should be reduced to 2 years, instead of 4, or impeachment should be made more easy. The 2 year term might have benefits, since so often the President is a lame duck after the first 2 years, and the last 2 years of most 4 year terms is a waste. An election after 2 years would give them the chance to refresh their mandate, or to be replaced by someone else who would hold a mandate. However, changing the Constitution is hard, and I don't think we'll see it happen, so perhaps, realistically, if we want to see more checks on the President, we might encourage the Congress to be more free with impeachments.

I'm not personally worried by illegitimate impeachment proceedings. The President comes out of them refreshed, as Clinton surely did. If the Congress wants to go after a popular president when they have no case, then the Congress will be punished. Newt Gingrich destroyed himself and hurt the Republicans when he tried to impeach Clinton. Look at how well the Democrats did in the 1998 elections.

Posted by: Lawrence Krubner at October 7, 2005 09:54 PM

On the other hand, in the 217 years that we've lived under the current Constitution, we have not ever removed a President from office for bad behavior. This strikes me as evidence that we are being too careful about impeaching Presidents.

Okay, I have a very high view of your intelligence, so I'll just remind you that you probably know the answer to this already. Sit down and contemplate the Two Americas in front of you.

Pre-television America, let's call it 1776 to 1960, shall we? When people got their news from the papers or the radio and, lacking mindless distraction of endless channels of television idiocy, actually thought and discussed politics among themselves. Politicians weren't media personalities and your local representative wasn't just a name on a campaign poster. Personal honor and integrity still meant something and destroying someone's reputation was not a media stunt, it was a serious matter. Before Dallas and we all got distracted wondering Who shot J.R.? people had both the time and the inclination to think long-term about serious matters.

Post-television America, drowning in sensationalism and becoming attuned to cliff-hanger episodes, sound-bite thinking, and a constant escalation of emotional manipulation. Where today's good guy is tomorrow's bad guy and next week he shows up as the emcee of a game show. No harm, no foul, no consequences.

Pre-television...184 years...no impeachments.

Post-television...45 years. Nixon was going to be impeached if he didn't resign. He was involved in criminal behavior. These are facts. Clinton faced threats of impeachment and, short of a small lie about a personal matter to a grand jury, he committed no crimes at all. There is talk...not yet loudly or wide-spread, but there is talk of impeachment proceedings against Bush, depending on the outcome of several investigations currently underway. (And, not incidentally, several scandal-and-fraud plagued Reagan-era appointees are operating again under the Bush Administration's wing. No harm. No foul. No consequences.)

I think you see where I'm going with this. This is not the world that "impeachment" was crafted for. And yet, constitutionally, impeachment is the only weapon we have against a sitting President. It's been damaged by the Right's use of it as a toy for political payback against Clinton, but it's still all we have.

I don't think the Founding Fathers would be happy to see what a great imperial prince the office has become.

I agree.

They knew that in honest hands, sufficient power would be needed to truly "lead." But because they foresaw that a day might come when such hands were not honest ones, they built checks and balances into the system. Since then, it seems to me that the Federal government has been engaged in a constant struggle to tip those checks and balances in one direction or another. (For the record, I approve of that. That they struggle, I mean. A continued struggle means that true balance is still within reach. Stagnation would benefit no one.)

I suspect that we need more checks on the President. Either the term should be reduced to 2 years, instead of 4, or impeachment should be made more easy. The 2 year term might have benefits, since so often the President is a lame duck after the first 2 years, and the last 2 years of most 4 year terms is a waste.

Criminy, Lawrence! Our politicians already spend 80% of their time campaigning, and now you want the Presidency to be nothing but one, long campaign?

And, to be fair, two years is simply too short an amount of time to really push through or implement any serious policies. It boggles my (not television-obsessed) mind to hear someone speak of four years as too long a time to go the same direction. (Even if, looking at the current Administration, the idea of going three more years in this direction makes me cry.)

Presidents wouldn't be lame ducks without term limits. Have you considered that? We forced "lame duck" into the lexicon by passing term limits for Presidents. If Presidents faced the possibility of a third term, they wouldn't be lame ducks the last half of their second terms...and they'd still have to be responsive to their Parties and the voters.

Newt Gingrich destroyed himself and hurt the Republicans when he tried to impeach Clinton. Look at how well the Democrats did in the 1998 elections.

Um...I'm not seeing the damaged Republicans you're talking about. I see a Congress and a White House in Republican control. Beyond the one election cycle, what damage do you see that the Republicans suffered? (Unless you're arguing that the current crop of neo-cons somehow gained power in Republican leadership circles because of Gingrich's fall?)

Anyhow, the point is that if Congress spends four or six years obsessing over impeaching a President purely out of spite, that's a lot of time wasted and hundreds of millions of dollars thrown away. The time and effort wasted on going after Clinton could and should have been spent reviewing corporate oversight mechanisms, watching the economy to insure the "boom" was stable, and working to make certain the poorest classes were benefiting. It should have been spent governing. (Imagine what the amount of money wasted pursuing Clinton could have done if poured into our school system. We could have entirely rebuilt the infrastructure of much of the country's poorest school districts.)

Republicans had had control of the White House for a long time and they were furious at losing it. They went after Clinton like rabid pit bulls. They'd have tried to impeach him for a hangnail if they hadn't found anything else to use. If impeachment were even easier, wingnuts would be using it against every President.

Posted by: Anne at October 8, 2005 11:42 AM

"When people got their news from the papers or the radio and, lacking mindless distraction of endless channels of television idiocy, actually thought and discussed politics among themselves."

So people in the 1870s got the news about Grant being drunk all the time and selling off railway rights in exchange for large amounts of money and, since the people had time to really think about political issues back then, they discussed the matter and decided that impeaching an alcoholic bribe-taker would tip the balance of power too far in the direction of Congress?


"I think you see where I'm going with this. This is not the world that "impeachment" was crafted for. And yet, constitutionally, impeachment is the only weapon we have against a sitting President."

If you feel that impeachment is the wrong approach, are there any approaches you approve of for censoring a President who's done wrong?


"Since then, it seems to me that the Federal government has been engaged in a constant struggle to tip those checks and balances in one direction or another. (...A continued struggle means that true balance is still within reach. Stagnation would benefit no one.)"

Good point.


"Presidents wouldn't be lame ducks without term limits. Have you considered that? We forced "lame duck" into the lexicon by passing term limits for Presidents."

A very good point.


"Um...I'm not seeing the damaged Republicans you're talking about. I see a Congress and a White House in Republican control."

I only meant the short term damage that was done in 1998. The Democrats did very well that year. I recall journalists said it was the first time since 1938 that the President's party had gained seats in the 6th year of an administration.


"Anyhow, the point is that if Congress spends four or six years obsessing over impeaching a President purely out of spite, that's a lot of time wasted and hundreds of millions of dollars thrown away."

Can you think of any way to stop Congress from doing this? It seems to me whenever one party is in the control of militant factions, and the President is of another Party, then this kind of thing is inevitable.

Posted by: Lawrence Krubner at October 8, 2005 09:08 PM

I'm always posting gross generalizations, even when, at the moment I'm hitting the "publish" button, I know I'm getting myself into trouble. I knew it with that somewhat flippant response to your comment, and let me apologize.

Where I was going, and my own hasty editing lost the point, is that people discussed the issues that appeared in the newspapers, or that affected their daily lives, in more depth than we're told people do today. And that, whether or not they knew about his problems (and some would have, because some newspapers did print that sort of thing), it's clear that their overall impression of him was not negative enough to move them to agitate for impeachment.

Whereas the threatened Nixon impeachment did have a lot of popular support...and support was growing, which is why the Republican Leadership persuaded Nixon to resign.

The Impeach Clinton move was largely a Rightwing fabrication supported by partisan opinion writers and complicit journalism. It was not a grassroots movement.

If you feel that impeachment is the wrong approach, are there any approaches you approve of for censoring a President who's done wrong?

I don't feel that impeachment is the wrong approach for censoring a president who has done wrong. I was just expressing a concern that we've already spent years and tens of millions of dollars on one revenge-based impeachment move and that if we now impeach Bush, even for good cause, we'll be facing a never-ending cycle of revenge. The threatened impeachment of Nixon was warranted, but that didn't stop the Republicans from seeking revenge. Is there any reason to believe they wouldn't do it again?

Can you think of any way to stop Congress from doing this? It seems to me whenever one party is in the control of militant factions, and the President is of another Party, then this kind of thing is inevitable.

Well, I can think of one obvious solution. Stop electing wingnuts.

Yeah...I'm already being flippant again.

Politics has never been, by and large, a "clean" institution and our system of checks and balances certainly leaves the door open for corruption. Our system is about compromise. About give-and-take. It's quite natural that 'doing a deal' to get a good piece of legislation passes gradually evolved into 'doing a deal' to get a good campaign contributor a little reward.

In Anne's World, everything comes back to education...voters knowing the system, knowing the responsibility, and taking part in the process. I know you've heard that tune before, so I'll spare you this time.

(Hooray! I wrote a short answer!)

Posted by: Anne at October 10, 2005 10:16 PM

"In Anne's World, everything comes back to education...voters knowing the system, knowing the responsibility, and taking part in the process."

I guess that is true. Education might be especially powerful in getting the working class re-involved in politics, as they were 50 years ago.

Still, I have to say, I live in the South (in Virginia) and the worst wingnuts I know tend to all be college educated.

Posted by: Lawrence Krubner at October 12, 2005 03:36 PM

It's not my argument that education cures wingnuttery, although I do think a solid, objective view of history and economics could cure a lot of it. Just that I think we're better off if the wingnuts actually have some intellectual understanding of what they're advocating.

A belief that's held from that kind of position is one that can be changed, if your world view changes.

On the other hand, beliefs that are a matter of blind faith or emotionalism are much harder to change...even if you want to change them.

Posted by: Anne at October 13, 2005 09:55 AM