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The rehabilitative power of impeachment

For those who share the sentiments expressed below but don't know how to put them into words, I offer this form letter as a means of letting Speaker Nancy Pelosi know how you feel. She can be reached at 235 Cannon House Office Bldg, Washington, D.C. 20515-0508/ fax: 202-225-4188.

Dear Speaker Pelosi,

I hesitate to impose on you because I know you bear an enormous burden. These are anxious times for all of us, what with that abominable war and the threat of more terrorism and the precipitous deterioration of everything that once made America the envy and hope of the world. For a Joe/Jane Blow citizen like myself, it's impossible to imagine what it must be like for you, since not only do you have to contend with everything I just mentioned, but you also have to go to work every day with wankers like John Boehner and Bill Sali.

But like many Americans, all Democrats, most independents, and a growing body of conservatives concerned that the integrity of the Constitution is being compromised beyond salvation, I fear time is running out on our only chance to undo the damage Bush and his accomplices have done to the infrastructure that holds our freedoms in place. Not to overwork this metaphor, but I regard the administration's assaults on long-standing and worthy legal conventions such as civilian trials, court-approved warrants and habeas corpus as stress fractures in the foundation of the system that has served us so well for over two centuries. And as we know from tragic experience, it is usually the seemingly insignificant cracks that eventually bring the whole shebang crashing down, whether it be in airliners, bridges or democracies.

As one of the most powerful people in our government, you know better than I that if Bush and Cheney continue to get away with the lawlessness that defines their presidency until they are safely out of office, they will have cut the template for any future abuse that any future executive deems justified. Ours is a culture built on precedents, sometimes intended—as in the way we interpret the law—and sometimes accidental—as in the way general attitudes evolve. It's obvious to me that if Bush/Cheney are not held accountable for their transgressions against the legal edifice that much better men than they erected, those transgressions will pass on like mutated genes to those who follow.

Yet you have refused to consider the one and only recourse citizens have for bringing these usurpers to account. How could you declare that impeachment is "off the table" when the power to impeach is as necessary to the health and viability of the Constitution as the Bill of Rights? Various people have speculated that you fear an impeachment would rally Americans around Bush out of sympathy, just as it did for Bill Clinton. They believe you are playing it safe because, as things stand, Democrats have an excellent chance of taking the White House and dramatically increasing their majority in Congress.

Maybe so. But speaking as a dedicated Democrat, I don't want future Democratic presidents exercising Bush hand-me-down imperial powers any more than I want future Republican presidents doing it. This goes beyond party loyalties. This has to do with the legacy—be it tarnished or bright—we will bequeath our descendants.

Besides, I question whether there would be such a sympathetic surge for Bush, especially when the details of what he's been up to are made clear. Americans, by and large, understand that putting one's self beyond the law is a great deal more serious—and punishable—than Clinton fibbing about a you-know-what.

As to the potential horror of forcing Bush from office and leaving Cheney in his place, the solution is simple. They both must go. Nobody of any political persuasion seriously believes Bush thought this mess up himself, anyway. And to nip in the bud any accusations that you, Madam Speaker, would impeach both Bush and Cheney so you could assume the office, that too is simple. To remove all doubt of your intentions, you must vow to resign once the trial is complete. Same goes for Senate President Robert Byrd. Yes, you both have to go, along with Bush and Cheney. That would install the Secretary of State as president, but a few months of Condaleeza Rice will be easier to stomach than the thought of Bush's crimes continuing on in perpetua as established policy.

But possibly your reluctance to hold these men accountable comes from a fear the American people can't take the stress and turmoil of an impeachment. Maybe you're thinking, as Gerald Ford did when he let the venomous Nixon off the hook, that we've been through all we can take.

Let me tell you something, Ms. Pelosi, that you may have forgotten after 20 years in Congress. We Americans may look—at a casual glance—like a bunch of over-fed, self-indulgent, spoiled, pampered and profligate Eloi who don't want anything more tempestuous than a kitchen makeover to come between us and our next cheeseburger/football season/American Idol tryouts. And maybe as a society, that's exactly what we've become.

But take us one at a time, or one family at a time, or one community at a time ... and we're tougher than a saloon full of Marines. Look around. Individually, with our loved ones by our side, with our neighbors by our side—hopefully, with our leaders by our side—we come eyeball to eyeball with the most horrid, debilitating, soul-crippling crap God can throw at us, and we stare it down. You name it: floods in our river towns, tornadoes on our farms, bankruptcy on our financial records, birth defects in our babies, AIDS in our cities, cancer in our breasts, hunger in our poor, suicide in our teens, Alzheimer's in our elders, addictions, deaths, depressions, wars ... day after day after day, one of us at a time, we face it all and manage to plug on.

So don't tell me we can't stomach a measly impeachment, especially when we know it's for the health of America. There is a sense in the land that our own leaders have become our enemy—or, at the least, are doing as much harm to the nation as our enemies could ever hope to do—and you, Ms. Pelosi, may be the only person on Earth who can do anything to stop it.

Signed, _________________________

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