Monday, December 19, 2005

Ahh, Im-peach-ment Pie

Jonathan Alter at Newsweek has become the first major pundit to use the I-word in public:

Finally we have a Washington scandal that goes beyond sex, corruption and political intrigue to big issues like security versus liberty and the reasonable bounds of presidential power. President Bush came out swinging on Snoopgate—he made it seem as if those who didn’t agree with him wanted to leave us vulnerable to Al Qaeda—but it will not work. We’re seeing clearly now that Bush thought 9/11 gave him license to act like a dictator...
Bush was desperate to keep the Times from running this important story... because he knew that it would reveal him as a law-breaker. He insists he had “legal authority derived from the Constitution and congressional resolution authorizing force.” But the Constitution explicitly requires the president to obey the law. And the post 9/11 congressional resolution authorizing “all necessary force” in fighting terrorism was made in clear reference to military intervention. It did not scrap the Constitution and allow the president to do whatever he pleased in any area in the name of fighting terrorism...
This will all play out eventually in congressional committees and in the United States Supreme Court. If the Democrats regain control of Congress, there may even be articles of impeachment introduced. Similar abuse of power was part of the impeachment charge brought against Richard Nixon in 1974.
Mmm - tasty.

What's best about this swelling scandal isn't the mere fact of its existence: are any Kerry voters surprised by this authoritarianism? No, what's best about the scandal is the sheer superfluity of it. Bush had a legal route to the exact same end, the "FISA court" which can (and apparently always does) authorize domestic espionage of precisely this sort. But Bush, in this area as in so many others (Iraq, Social Security, disaster preparedness, prescription drugs), acted like the radical that we always knew he was: he rejected precedent and created stupid/silly/illegal/damaging innovations which may now - can we hope? pray? - might ironically curb his power, or even end it. It's a freaking Christmas miracle!