Sunday, August 19, 2007

Lede of the Day: From Belknap to Gonzales

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Make sure to check out this interesting piece in the Times by Adam Cohen. Here's the opening:

William Belknap, Ulysses S. Grant’s disgraced secretary of war, is experiencing a revival. Impeached in 1876 for taking bribes, he has become the inspiration for a movement to remove Attorney General Alberto Gonzales from office. Impeachment is usually thought of as limited to presidents, but the Constitution not only allows the impeachment of Cabinet members, in Belknap’s case, it was actually done.

Could it be done now? Although much of the impeachment talk has involved Bush and/or Cheney, why not Gonzales? Consider his shady, inconsistent testimony before Congress. Consider his role in the firing of the U.S. attorneys -- whatever the specifics, and much is still not known for certain, he either authorized the firing (injustice) or had no idea what was going on under his own nose (incompetence). Consider his role in Bush's illegal domestic surveillance program. Consider his partisanship, the common denominator of his tenure both in the White House and at the Justice Department.

"Impeachment was one of the important checks and balances the founders built into the Constitution," Cohen reminds us." At state ratification conventions, it was promoted as a tool for Congress to rein in any officeholder who 'dares to abuse the power vested in him by the people.'" (See Federalist 65.)

It is time -- it has been time for a long time -- for Congress to check and to balance, to do what it is supposed to do according to the Constitution. Impeachment is a dirty word in some parts -- even in some parts of the Democratic Party.

But aside from the obvious political considerations -- impeachment could be unpopular and likely would not succeed (Gonzales would resign first, but Democrats don't have the votes regardless) -- is there a reason not to go ahead with it?

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  • The only reason I can think of is spinelessness. The Congress couldn't even stand up to Bush on his FISA bill shredding. If they won't uphold the constitution they surely won't engage in oversight of the cabinet.

    By Blogger cwilcox, at 10:46 PM  

  • I think you're right, cwilcox. The Democrats' cowardice (putting it nicely) on FISA hardly fills me with confidence that they will do the right thing with respect to Gonzales (and the rest of them).

    Although I think the Democrats have been admirably sensible with their legislative agenda, they've disappointed many of their supporters, myself included, with respect to some of their campaign issues (such as global warming), as well as with respect to investigating the corruption and malfeasance of the Bush Administration. Where are all those investigations we thought were coming?

    By Blogger Michael J.W. Stickings, at 1:40 AM  

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