Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Ten days since my last post. I can't believe it; I can't remember when I last let so much time lapse between posts around here. I don't even really have an excuse. I haven't been sick, haven't been working extra. I've just been looking idly at all kinds of stuff on the Web, and felt a strange sick dread at the thought of starting a new post. I have been reading offline quite a bit, which has eaten up lots of time and energy, and I don't feel bad about that. And I've been getting plenty of ideas, maybe too many for me to choose from.

Anyway. "ITMFA," of course, means Impeach the Motherfucker Already. The abbreviation derives from the edgy advice columnist Dan Savage, who of course had George W. Bush in mind. That would have been a good idea, but of course the Democratic leadership made sure it never got off the ground, and Savage abandoned the call after a few months. Now we have a new Criminal-in-Chief violating the U.S. Constitution and just begging for removal from office, though we all know that accountability is for ordinary schlubs like you and me, not for the rich and powerful. But -- judging by the reactions of Obama apologists online -- it seems that increasing numbers of people are discussing the possibility anyway.

I first became aware of this when my friend the ambivalent Obama supporter e-mailed me a link to Michelle Bachmann's latest antics, adding:
This is the only reason I wouldn't want to see President Obama impeached. She or someone like her (or worse) might become our next President. Considering her record of homophobia and xenophobia, it could be a MUCH worse disaster than what we have now...
I wrote back:
I agree, but only to a point because it means impunity for his crimes. I know Bachmann is a pig, but the point is that Obama is a criminal. Yes, it could be worse. We could have Bachmann. We could have Stalin. We could have Hitler But that doesn't make Obama any less deserving of impeachment.
My friend replied:
If I had any faith in the people running the system, I'd happily lead the charge for him to be impeached. I have no faith in them at all. :(
Then one of my Facebook friends complained about Glenn Greenwald's detailing of the grounds for impeaching Obama: "Why does Greenwald want to impeach Obama? I didn't know he wanted to have a Republican president instead." I took the easy way out and retorted in comments that Obama is a Republican president, continuing and extending many of Bush/Cheney's worse policies. The trouble with Rob's complaint, though, as I found when I read Greenwald's comments, is that Greenwald didn't call for Obama's impeachment. What he said was this (emphasis added):

AMY GOODMAN: By your analysis, do you consider this an impeachable offense, Glenn Greenwald?

GLENN GREENWALD: Well, I mean, anytime the president violates the law in a significant way, impeachment is supposed to be one of the leading remedies. So I think the President is clearly violating not only the War Powers Resolution, but also the Constitution. Article I, Section 8, assigns the war-making power to Congress, not to the executive. And even executive-power-revering jurists like Antonin Scalia have said that Article II, the Article II power that makes the commander — the president the commander-in-chief, really means nothing more than, when there’s a war that starts, the president is the top general. He directs how the war is prosecuted. But the idea that presidents can start wars on their own, without any congressional authorization, violates not just the law but the Constitution. So, sure, in theory, when the president violates the law and the Constitution, that’s an impeachable offense. At the same time, we’ve set a very low standard for our tolerance of rampant presidential law breaking. If George Bush and Dick Cheney weren’t impeached for their rampant crimes, it’s hard to see Obama being impeached for this.

That's not exactly a clarion call for putting Obama in the dock; it's more of a weary acknowledgement that, given American contempt for the rule of law where the powerful are concerned, it's not going to happen, even though Obama has committed impeachable offenses.

So it would appear that my friend Rob, like so many Democrats, owes the Republicans an apology. They don't really object to Bush's crimes -- indeed, they don't really consider them crimes, or they'd consider them crimes when a Democratic President commits them -- but they wish they could have had an excuse for removing him from office. (Shades of the Republican coup against Bill Clinton.) Since they don't appear to believe that Bush really did anything wrong, their only reason must be that he is a Republican. I'd like to believe that I have better reasons for hating Bush, or Obama, than mere party loyalty, especially since I don't belong to either party.

At times like this I realize all over again that despite what many people consider my gross cynicism about the government of the United States, I'm really a naive little boy who believes what he learned in Social Studies class: that people who commit crimes should be punished for them, no matter if they are rich or powerful, because everyone is supposed to be equal under the law. I now see that people in government, and many outside of it, think that the law is a tool for settling personal or partisan scores. The Republicans who went after Clinton wanted payback for the impeachment of Richard Nixon, aside from hating Clinton for all kinds of convoluted reasons. (I should mention that I think Clinton had committed some serious crimes, possibly impeachable ones, but having an affair with an intern wasn't one of them.) The only reason anyone who mattered could have seen for trying to impeach George W. Bush was something similar; it couldn't be because he'd actually done something wrong.

Now that President Obama has made his own contempt for the Constitution blazingly clear, his acolytes choose almost consciously not to see it. Why, Rob cried, would Glenn Greenwald want to impeach Obama? Considering that Greenwald had carefully explained how Obama is flouting the law and the Constitution, I have to say that's a willfully stupid question. The answer would be, because he's committing impeachable offenses even as we speak. What better reason could Rob ask for?

Which takes me back to my friend the ambivalent Obama supporter. I've written a few posts in the past in which I've addressed the problem that a president's success is commonly measured in terms of passing legislation -- any legislation, even bad legislation. If he fails often enough, he's weakened politically, though come to think of it that's only a problem if he then tries to pass some good legislation, which Obama hasn't shown much interest in doing. But once again I am rubbing my own nose in the fact that the political classes don't care about the quality of the legislation: it's not how you play the game, it's whether you win or lose.

At which point the cry goes up: But then you're siding with the Republicans! What will happen if the Republicans take over? O waily waily waily ... One other problem with Rob's position is that impeaching Obama will not give the US a Republican president -- Joe Biden is still a Democrat as far as I know, and as Vice President, it would be he who would become President if Obama were removed. So Rob's objection is mere alarmism; two strikes against him. Even granting that there are marginal differences between the Republicans and the Democrats, the net effect of this approach to politics is to let the Republicans win. As Avedon put it at The Sideshow the other day, quoting Chris Floyd:
"Again, I say what I have said here over and over (and will keep on saying): This is what you are supporting, enabling and continuing when you support the Obama Administration. Whether that support is wholehearted -- if you, like Kevin Drum, proudly shut down you own brain and defer supinely to Obama's superior wisdom -- or whether it is reluctant, defensive, 'to keep the other guys out' because you desperately hope the Democrats might possibly be marginally better, the results are still the same: murder, brutality, violence, corruption, chaos and suffering." Like I said last week on Virtually Speaking Susie, I have been voting against Republicans all my life, and it hasn't worked. This all has to change.
I'll go on voting against Republicans, as I presume Avedon will, but I know that if any real change is going to come, it won't come from voting. It'll come from some form of direct action, because that's where change has always come from.

Meanwhile, though, the Obama apologists are confusing the issue, perhaps deliberately, though they do seem to have surrendered to irrationality too thoroughly to realize what they are doing and saying. I basically agree with the Ambivalent Obama Supporter that impeachment would let the Republicans look like they have principles, so it's probably a bad idea. But that doesn't for a minute require me to pretend that Obama isn't a criminal, just like Bush, or hasn't committed impeachable offenses, just like Bush. Anyone who pretends otherwise, given the overwhelming evidence, is a cheap party hack who deserves and will get my eternal contempt. That might be a place to start: attacking Obama and his groupies with principled arguments. "You're either for us, or you're against us" was another Bush line that the Obama groupies have embraced, but they shouldn't be allowed to get away with it. I can call Obama a criminal without thinking that the Republican aren't criminals too.