Friday, January 06, 2006

City Council of Arcata, CA Urges Impeachment

Last night the City Council of Arcata passed a resolution urging impeachment proceedings against Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld.
The resolution lists a series of allegedly impeachable offenses, including “the crime of misleading the American people and Congress into waging an unnecessary and brutal war in Iraq,” “the criminal failure of the president to respond adequately to the Hurricane Katrina disaster,” “torturing human beings in violation of the Geneva Convention” and “ordering the secret surveillance of American citizens.”

Councilman Dave Meserve and Councilwoman Harmony Groves penned the resolution that passed 3-2 Wednesday, joined by Councilman Paul Pitino, with Mayor Michael Machi and Councilman Mark Wheetley dissenting.

”All elected officials swear to uphold and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” Meserve said. “This obligates us to act when the president violates the Constitution. We hope that other cities will join us in demanding the impeachment of Bush and Cheney.”

They've been leading the impeachment fight for months now and clearly hope that it will be taken up by a member of California's Congressional delegation. That's not terribly likely, especially seeing as the backlash against Clinton's impeachment arguably was responsible for off-year Congressional gains for Democrats, sky-high approval ratings for Clinton as he left office and the election of his wife to the Senate. But Barbara Boxer deftly floated the I-word recently after John Dean (of Watergate fame) said that Bush was the first president to admit to committing impeachable offense when he confessed to having authorized the NSA to spy on US citizens.
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) sent a letter on Monday to four unidentified presidential scholars, asking them whether they think Bush's authorization of warrantless domestic spying amounted to an impeachable offense.

Boxer wrote that her interest was sparked after former Nixon White House counsel John Dean said the surveillance order was an impeachable offence.

"I take very seriously Mr. Dean's comments, as I view him to be an expert on presidential abuse of power. I am expecting a full airing of this matter by the Senate in the very near future," she wrote.
I'm not deluding myself that this guy's gonna get impeached; hell, I'm not even convinced it's the right thing for Democrats to pursue right now. But it can only help to subtly poke Bush with the impeachment stick whenever we can.

Congresswoman Jane Harman Trying To Redeem Herself

On December 21, Congresswoman Jane Harman (CA-36) said the following:

As the Ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, I have been briefed since 2003 on a highly classified NSA foreign collection program that targeted Al Qaeda. I believe the program is essential to US national security and that its disclosure has damaged critical intelligence capabilities.

This was unfortunate since it was mere days after The New York Times originally broke the story that Bush had authorized the NSA to spy on US citizens and thus made Democratic attempts at framing the issue with a unified voice difficult. The message should have been that yes, certain members of Congress were briefed but there was absolutely no oversight and that this was just another example of executive overreach.

So, yesterday Representative Harman wrote a letter (oooh, a letter) to President Bush saying that the fact that only 8 members of Congress have been briefed on the NSA program violates the National Security Act of 1947, which allows such limited briefings only in the case of "covert action." Her problem seems to be that since the program is no longer covert, Bush is now required by law to have full Congressional briefings.

Does this strike anyone else as sort of nitpicky? Could a Democrat please approach this issue from a position of strength and not as an apparently impotent whiner? Even Senator Rockefeller's hand-written letter to Cheney putting his reservations about the program on the record (since legally he could share it with no one) was spun by the media as the actions of an eccentric.

Democrats should be spouting the results of a new report by the Congressional Research Service, an independent research arm of Congress, from every mountaintop. From The New York Times:

President Bush's rationale for authorizing eavesdropping on American citizens without warrants rests on questionable legal ground and "may represent an exercise of presidential power at its lowest ebb," according to a formal Congressional analysis released today.
Yes, that's right, it was released on a Friday afternoon -- classic. Further:

The the first formal assessment of a question that has gripped Washington for the last three weeks: Did President Bush act within the law when he ordered the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans?

While the Congressional report reached no bottom-line conclusions on whether the program is legal or not, it concluded that the legal rationale appears somewhat dubious. The legal rationale "does not seem to be as well-grounded" as the Bush administration's lawyers have suggested, and Congress did not appear to have intended to authorize warrantless wiretaps when it gave President Bush the authority to wage war against Al Qaeda in the days after the Sept. 11 attacks, the report concluded.

Representative Harman will be on Fox News Sunday this weekend. Hopefully she will not let this report get buried as surely the administration hopes it will be.

He May Have Left Congress But He Just Won't Go Away

Wow, every time you think it can't get worse for Congressional Republicans (or former Congressional Republicans as the case may be), it does. Take disgraced ex-California Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham, who resigned in November after pleading guilty to taking $2.4 million in bribes. Time Magazine is reporting that he wore a wire in meetings with some of his colleagues at the behest of federal investigators as part of his plea. It's not yet clear who will be swept up in this net, just that he wore a wire "at some point during the short interval between the moment he began cooperating with the feds and the announcement of his guilty plea on Nov. 28." Glad to see Duke's not out of the news quite yet. Here's hoping to see a few other of his fellow culture of corruption cohorts shed a few tears of contrition themselves.