Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Impeachable conduct, but...

Commentary by Pat Murphy


Pat Murphy

Republicans who gunned for Bill Clinton from the start discovered that impeaching a president is a snap for even the slimmest reasons.

With special prosecutor Kenneth Starr's laundry list of alleged Clinton crimes in hand and a $60 million bill to taxpayers for investigations, the U.S. House filed two counts in the Articles of Impeachment involving Clinton's lies about sex. The U.S. Senate acquitted Clinton as not being a threat to the nation's well-being.

But the breast-beating moral outrage and political indignity that drove Republican "values" congressmen to try ousting Clinton has vanished.

If Clinton's klutzy personal indulgences were sufficient for impeachment, President Bush and Vice President Cheney should've long ago been thrown out of office for appalling threats to democratic government, their disregard for international conventions on the treatment of prisoners, their repeated lies, abuse of power and their attempts to silence critics by casting them as treasonous.

There's a problem.

Most Republicans, whose party loyalty runs deeper than statesmanship, and Democrats, who shamelessly quiver when challenged to lead, have been accessories to Bush-Cheney misconduct by rubberstamping and turning a blind eye to Bush-Cheney abuses.

The attack on Iraq, and the subsequent $300 billion-plus costs so far and tens of thousands of lives, was justified with presidential lies. Wiping out a robust surplus and plundering the treasury into unmanageable debt was dismissed as the price of "protecting" Americans. Seizing 14,000 "suspects," not charging them or providing lawyers, and, in many cases, holding and torturing them in foreign prisons, was declared illegal by the U.S. Supreme Court. Bugging U.S. telephones without seeking court orders also was ruled illegal.

However, this malfeasance isn't revolting enough for spineless lawmakers to impeach Bush and Cheney, whose crimes against the rule of law and assaults on civil freedoms are conspicuously and flagrantly more devastating to the American character than Bill Clinton unzipping his trousers. As the bumper sticker reads, "Nobody died when Clinton lied."

The United States is increasingly regarded as a lawless rogue and renegade. Another Bush-Cheney legacy: encouraging the Washington atmosphere of criminal corruption, masterminded by the president's indicted Republican Texas crony, Rep. Tom DeLay, who greased the way for Republican lobbyists such as the indicted Jack Abramoff to influence (and sometimes bribe) congressmen.

This bill of particulars, not to mention President Bush's contempt for environmental protections, normally would suffice for congressional rebuke of such presidential misconduct. But today's lawmakers, with rare exception, can hardly judge unethical behavior when their own standards are so miserably defective.

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