Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Olbermann makes the case for Resignation

[This blog entry was originally posted on my DailyKos Diary.]

MSNBC's Keith Olbermann had a "Special Comment" segment on tonight's Countdown. In it he makes the strong case, backed by precedents back to the Constitutional Convention of 1787, that both George Bush and Dick Cheney need to resign from office, for exactly the same reasons that Nixon recognized that he had no option but to resign. Just one snip:

I accuse you[, Mr. Bush,] of subverting the Constitution, not in some misguided but sincerely-motivated struggle to combat terrorists, but to stifle dissent.

I accuse you of fomenting fear among your own people, of creating the very terror you claim to have fought.
I remember Watergate vividly, even though I was only 10 years old, because I watched the hearings on TV. It wasn't the politically motivated burglary that brought down Nixon — although it might have in due course — it was the cover-up, the fundamental departure from the rule of law, that represented a betrayal of the oath of office.

I have always felt a certain affinity for James Madison, as well as for the other President for whom I am named, Abraham Lincoln. It was "Uncle James" who said in Philadelphia in 1787 that if the President abused the power of clemency to protect someone who was judged to have committed a crime in following the President's orders, that the Congress would impeach and remove him. That level of obstruction of justice rises to the level of flouting the oath to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." The inescapable requirement for the Constitution to work is that no person is ever above the law, but Bush has precisely placed himself, Mr. Cheney, Mr. Gonzales, and now Mr. Libby out of the path of legal accountability for their actions.

The right-wingers are still talking about a variety of excuses for the clear-cut preferential treatment for a man for no possible reason other than his personal relationship with the President and the Vice President. "There's no underlying crime!" Neither was there in Martha Stewart's case. She obstructed justice to thwart the effort to examine her stock transactions, even though it was determined that no crime had been committed. The crimes of perjury and obstruction of justice are made more serious if they are concealing a more serious crime. However, in this case, the fact that no underlying crime has been proven rests partly on the fact that Scooter Libby continues to obstruct justice by refusing to disclose certain matters of context for his perjury. Did the Vice President order Scooter to disclose the identity of an undercover CIA agent as political retribution for someone who spoke out against the administration's case for war in Iraq? It's very possible that only Dick and Scooter know. And the fact that Bush commuted the sentence for Scooter, rather than pardoning him outright, makes him complicit in the obstruction of justice, because Scooter can hide behind his 5th Amendment rights as long as the appeals process drags on, and now he has the luxury of doing so with the knowledge that he will never spend a day in jail.

"The sentence was excessive!" It was within the sentencing guidelines for what was, in fact, a serious crime. Further, the recommendation of the parole board was for a sentence of at least 16 months in jail, as against an average of 64 months for the 3/4 of people convicted for perjury and obstruction of justice who get jail time. To cut to the chase, if Bush had commuted Scooter's sentence to "time served" on his way out of the White House, I'd grumble a lot less. I still wouldn't agree with the decision, but at least I would view it as within the realm of reason. Scooter would still have served about the same as the lesser sentence that was recommended. But instead Bush issued a commutation today, without a formal request, even though he's only granted 3 commutations in 6½ years.

I submit that anyone who pretends to an ounce of objectivity will admit that letting Scooter off with zero jail time was nothing short of cronyism.

Keith Olbermann (truly the closest thing to his hero and my own, Edward R. Murrow, on the air today) began with a quotation from almost a half-century ago:
“I didn’t vote for him,” an American once said, “But he’s my President, and I hope he does a good job.”
I'll let Keith explain who said it and in what context, but the point is that President Bush has proven himself unworthy of that nonpartisan patriotic trust. He has been miserably incompetent, both in the aftermath of a hurricane and in the planning and conduct of a major war, and now he refuses to uphold the rule of law. Bush and Cheney must go.

Of course, since this scandal potentially implicates both Bush and Cheney, and in any case it is clear that both must resign if they have any care at all for the welfare of the nation, we will then have a remarkable outcome: President Nancy Pelosi. On the one hand, it will be historic for being not only the first time a woman has been President, but also the first time that the Presidency has changed parties mid-term. On the other hand, though, as I well know from living in her district, Nancy Pelosi has been used as a symbol and a recruiting poster by the rabid right, because she hails from that "liberal" city of San Francisco. As a practical matter, then, she would be compelled to build a national unity government in order to be able to govern. Something close to half of the Cabinet would need to be Republicans, and she would have to turn the secrecy of the Bush White House on its head, preserving the executive privilege of private deliberations, but with full public view of who took part in them. It's a pie-in-the-sky dream, needless to say, because Bush has shown no willingness to accept anything "reality-based." Maybe Poppa can talk some sense into him, because "41" also took an oath to the Constitution, and because Junior is tainting not only his own legacy but also his father's. I'll just hold my breath waiting, shall I?

On the hopeful end of the spectrum, though, the program that immediately follows Countdown is Scarborough Country, hosted by a former "Contract with America" Congressman from the Florida Panhandle, Joe Scarborough. Joe is definitely a conservative Republican, but he's a smart guy with a genuine sense of personal integrity. In other words, he is willing to stand up and criticize Bush. Joe's been away the last couple of weeks, but the fill-in host, Dan Abrams, is cut from similar cloth (although without the Capitol Hill résumé). On tonight's show, Abrams had a "My Take" segment in which he said:
I fear this is another example of a disdain for the courts and for rules that attempt to ensure equal justice for all.
In other words, there are some courageous Republicans willing to speak out against Bush's abuse of authority. There is hope yet.

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