Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Lawfullness makes a comeback... too late.

Today brings the good news linked that President Bush will not authorize the NSA spy program going forward. The administration intends to operate under the auspices of the FISA court in order to wiretap telephone calls to the United States.

A lot of punditry are greeting this as a victory for constitutional principles and seem to be willing to close the book on the entire sordid affair. I am not willing to let it go so easily. The President is guilty of repeatedly violating the law, and allowing him to wrap up the question by bringing himself into compliance with the law, while being preferable to no correction at all, is not an acceptable resolution.

To me the entire issue is emblematic of the question of how this administrations misdeeds will be dealt with. Is simply admitting the error and taking steps to correct it going forward sufficient. I say no. The example set by this administration and our response to it will set the bar for future generations of American leadership. We allow the President to escape the recourse set forth by the constitution only at the peril of future generations of Americans.

What President Bush wishes to do in the NSA spy case in particular is to, in effect, have us forgive him for blatant lawlessness with a promise to not commit those crimes going forward. The analogy may be drawn between the administrations approach, and the person chronically guilty of shoplifting, who, when first caught, expresses their intention to continue the behavior going forward. Only when the situation is such that the shoplifter is compelled to answer for that behavior (a Democratic takeover of Congress) do they agree to correct their ways. Would that person not be held to account for the past transgressions? Why then ought the President be allowed to have blatantly broken the law, even proclaiming his determination to continue the practice when it became known, with impunity?

It is not just desirable to impeach this President. I consider it imperative. Given the disdain shown by this President to lawfulness when it did not suit his purpose to be lawful, our generation will either give the constitution meaning, by following the recourse provided in that document when faced by lawlessness in our leadership. Or future generations will only consider impeachment a highly partisan maneuver. Used only when the party in opposition wants to sully the legacy of the President, ala Clinton for an extra marital affair. The nation, our progeny, and the entire world knows full well. If Clinton was eligible for this recourse because of a stained blue dress, then Bush's rampant lawlessness leading to the subverting of the 4th amendment, and the deaths by Americans by the thousands virtually cries out for impeachment.

To not do so will be for us to subvert the constitution in our own way.

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