Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Impeachment should now be on the table.

Here is my take on this week's Scooter Libby's sentence being commuted, and what the Democrats need to be doing.

While it's true that the Constitution grants the president the power of clemency and pardon, it has been generally held that presidents have used that power to show mercy or, in rare cases, make political amends -- not to protect themselves from exposure.

President Bush gave clemency to a man who interfered with an investigation of the President's own administration. He used the power to protect himself.

The Founding Fathers as they framed the Constitution were very sensitive to the need for checks and balances. The whole Constitution is a series of checks and balances. They recognized the potential for abuse of the pardon power; an abuse that we saw this week.

According to a Judiciary Committee report that was drafted in the aftermath of the Watergate crisis: "In the [Constitutional] convention George Mason argued that the President might use his pardoning power to 'pardon crimes which were advised by himself' or, before indictment or conviction, 'to stop inquiry and prevent detection.'

James Madison responded: "[I]f the President be connected, in any suspicious manner, with any person, and there be grounds [to] believe he will shelter him, the House of Representatives can impeach him; they can remove him if found guilty. . . .

"Madison went on to [say] contrary to his position in the Philadelphia convention, that the President could be suspended when suspected, and his powers would devolve on the Vice President, who could likewise be suspended until impeached and convicted, if he were also suspected."

Bush's written statement even states that he believes the jury was correct. Bush states that he acknowledges the guilty verdict. He is therefore saying he recognizes Libby's guilt, and is still granting clemency. In splitting the difference between those who supported and opposed a pardon for Libby, President Bush has opened himself up to an impeachable offense.

Therefore Impeachment for the President and Vice President can no longer be off the table for congressional Democrats. What the President and Vice President did was wrong, it was about the one millionth thing wrong that they have done, and it is now time that they pay for this.

Impeachment should now be on the table.

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