The bankruptcy of the Democratic Party leadership’s position in Congress on impeachment was revealed in stark terms yesterday, when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that she would sue the president in court if he resorted to a signing statement to kill the next version of Congress’s Iraq funding bill.
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The only solution is to impeach the president over his signing statements, and there is no need to wait for the next one to take action. Bush has invalidated more than 1200 laws or parts of laws passed by Congress since 2001 using what are called “signing statements.”
Republican apologists for the president have noted that other presidents, including Clinton, also issued signing statements, which is true. But they fail to mention that other presidents did not use those signing statements to then ignore or invalidate laws passed by Congress. They merely used them to register their view that a law, or a part of a law, was unconstitutional.
Bush has made a wholly different argument. For the past six years, he has been claiming that because he is commander in chief in a time of war, by which he means the so-called “war” on terror, he has had what he calls “unitary executive” authority. By this he means that legislative and judicial power, as well as executive power, are all in his hands for as long as the threat of terrorism is with us. Since this “war” on terror never really ends, what he is claiming is that separation of powers no longer exists in America. Indeed, the Constitution itself is set aside. The president is a dictator during his term of office, and Congress is just a debating club.
At this point, it should be clear to anyone, including Speaker Pelosi, that the only remedy for this gross abuse of power by the president is impeachment. (Just as an aside: if Pelosi thinks Bush is breaking the law and exceeding his authority by using signing statements to ignore laws passed by Congress, why wouldn't seen use the Congressional remedy for such transgressions: impeachment?) Her resort to the courts implies an almost irrational belief that the system is still functional.)
Unfortunately for America and the Constitution, Pelosi is still hamstrung by her foolish insistence that “impeachment is off the table.”
As long as she continues to refuse to allow impeachment of President Bush, she cannot hope to stop the war, restore habeas corpus, undo the Military Commissions Act, stop illegal spying on Americans by the National Security Agency, or win passage of any significant legislation to deal with global warming. She cannot really do anything, because Bush will simply issue signing statements and use his claim of “unitary executive authority” to invalidate any legislation passed by Congress.
Pelosi needs to be told by her colleagues and by all Americans who care about the survival of the Constitution that this is not an issue for the courts. It is an issue that demands impeachment.
The Founding Fathers were clear that where abuse of power occurs, it is Congress, not the Courts, that must have the responsibility to take corrective action. Abuse of power is not a violation of the law, and so it is not something that the courts are likely to handle properly even under the best of circumstances. Abuse of power is a so-called “political crime,” which requires a political response, which is precisely why the Founders included an impeachment clause in the Constitution.
Pelosi has ducked this issue for long enough, and now she’s about to do serious damage to the nation because of her political cowardice.
If the American republic is to survive, it is time to impeach this president on a charge of abuse of power.
For several years now, MoveOn, one of the most effective grassroots organizers in the Democratic Party, has ducked the issue of impeachment.
Even though it is clear that most progressive Democrats want impeachment and are frustrated that the party's leaders are actively blocking efforts to get impeachment going, even though most of MoveOn's own members almost certainly favor impeachment, MoveOn, which claims to be a membership-driven organization, has refused to poll its own ranks to see if they want impeachment on the organization's agenda. This is true even though MoveOn polls its members all the time on other issues like war funding.
The time has come to call the question! MoveOn's three million active Democrats, if they all started demanding impeachment hearings, would be a powerful force compelling Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic Party leaders to stop their unconscionable stonewalling and to start honoring their oaths of office and standing up in defense of our battered Constitution.
If you want MoveOn to stop ducking this important issue, join Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, David Swanson, Cynthia McKinney, Medea Benjamin, Tim Carpenter, Bob Fertik, Elizabeth Holtzman, and me and sign the call for MoveOn to open a dialogue with its membership on the importance of impeaching President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.
In case you’re wondering why crude oil prices are down from last year, hanging around at about $60 a barrel, while gasoline prices have soared past $3.10/gallon nationwide, just check out the latest profit reports from the oil companies. They are at record levels.
The answer for this seeming contradiction is simple: Americans are being robbed blind by the oil industry.
Sure, the oil companies, and their PR and lobbying agency, the American Petroleum Institute, will give you all kinds of reasons for higher gasoline prices at a time of falling crude prices: problems at two refineries in Texas and Oklahoma, rising demand or whatever. But the real answer is that there is simply no competitive market in this industry.
As Tim Hamilton, a researcher and petroleum industry consultant with the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, observes, the oil companies all store their crude oil and refined gasoline in the same tanks, and all know exactly how much inventory each other company has, so they don’t have to meet and collude on pricing in order to reap the huge rewards of deliberate supply constraints.
Says Hamilton, “Years ago, you had companies that would try to guess when the other companies were going to have supply shortfalls of gasoline in the summer. They’d ramp up their own gasoline refining and then supply the market at a lower price and eat their competitors’ lunches, the same way General Motors would do if Ford had a problem on its assembly line. But today, no oil company would do that. They all benefit by keeping the supplies tight.”
Hamilton says that the oil industry has in practice conspired to limit refining capacity, so that companies can keep pushing up the price of gas artificially—only they’ve done this without ever having to meet in secret and cut a deal, because they all have complete competitive information on each others’ inventories, internal pricing, and refinery capacity.
“There’s no correlation any longer between crude oil prices and gasoline prices,” he insists. “Crude could drop to $10/barrel, and you could still have gasoline go to $4/gallon. All the crude oil price does is set a floor on gasoline prices.”
As an indication of how much control the oil industry has over retail gasoline prices, Hamilton points to a study he did, looking at the price of gas approaching Election Day. His results are truly disturbing.
The oil industry has been a solid backer of Republicans for many years, giving 80-90 percent of its campaign contributions to GOP candidates—particularly during the two Bush terms. What Hamilton discovered is that this support hasn’t just been limited to campaign contributions. In fact, the oil industry appears to have clearly tried to minimize voter anger at Republicans late during the election cycle by pushing prices at the pump down just ahead of the voting. In the period 2000-2006, Hamilton found that each non-federal election year—2001, 2003 and 2005, gasoline prices didn’t decline during the month of October, but each of the election years—2000, 2002, 2004 and 2006—they fell, with the most dramatic drop coming in October 2006—a period when crude oil prices were rising sharply. Each time, gasoline prices rose again quickly right after the election was over.
“This is a set of coincidences you’d be hard-pressed to explain by anything but planning,” says Hamilton. (And incidentally, it would be interesting, when Congress gets those Karl Rove emails from the Republican Party and the White House mainframe computer, to see if there are any to the American Petroleum Institute.)
The whole situation makes a joke of Bush proposals for opening up the Alaskan North Slope to more oil exploration, or for Republican calls for an easing up on environmental regulations for new refinery construction. Says Hamilton, “The price of oil produced in Alaska will be set in Saudi Arabia, and any new supply of crude from Alaska won’t affect American gasoline prices in the slightest. And as for new refineries, why would any oil company want to spent $1 billon or more to add refinery capacity so they could get less money for the gasoline they’re selling? There isn’t enough money in the federal treasury to subsidize the building of new refinery capacity in America.”
The irony here is that it is higher prices for gasoline that might eventually convince Americans to use less gasoline, and to reduce the production of greenhouse gasses. But where those higher prices in Europe come in the form of taxes, which can then be used to subsidize public transportation or retirement and healthcare programs, in the U.S. the higher prices simply go to the bottom line of the oil companies, and into the pockets of oil company shareholders, leaving public transit, retirement and healthcare programs under funded, and leaving lower-income workers stuck with higher bills to get themselves to and from work in their cars.
Until the public recognizes that the illusion of competition carefully maintained by the oil industry and its backers in the government is just that—an illusion—this astounding rip-off will continue.
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