Bush Legacy: Presidents Can Be Impeached After They Leave Office

The Chaco of Paraguay - Wish Bush Was There

If Alberto Gonzalez gets punk’d at speaking engagements, and Donald Rumsfeld has to be whisked out of France to avoid a war crimes indictment. what does the future hold for George W. Bush after he leaves office one year and six days from now?

Just as hindsight shows that Americans 30 years ago could have prevented the abuses of Bush and Cheney by prosecuting and imprisoning Nixon in 1974, we owe it to future generations of Americans to hold Bush and Cheney accountable for their crimes and incompetence today.

Chris Hedges probably has it right:

Bush will soon be reduced to the cipher he once was, left to spend the rest of his life trying to salvage a legacy of shame and deceit. In a just world he would be put on trial, if not by the International Criminal Court of Justice then by the U.S. Congress. He would be forced to face up to his lies and wars of aggression. But the moral rot that infects the nation has seeped into the bowels of the legislative as well as the executive branch.

There are many organizations and efforts dedicated to the impeachment of George Bush. And Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.) is leading a drive to impeach Dick Cheney — if you haven’t signed his online petition, do it now. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) introduced articles of impeachment against the vice president last spring.

But there is one insurmountable obstacle to impeachment this year, and it is not Speaker Pelosi — it’s the continued support for Bush by Republicans in Congress. Unless and until it is expedient for them to get rid of Bush and Cheney, the congressional Republicans have shown that they will block any move to hold them accountable.

So while it looks likely that the millions of Americans who believe the Bush-Cheney regime has committed impeachable acts — lying about the pretext for war, betraying a secret operation that tracked the WMD black market, spying on Americans without warrants, torturing prisoners and firing U.S. attorneys without cause, to name a few — will have to settle for the cold comfort of watching Bush and Cheney grow old in disgrace, there is another option for bringing them to justice:

It is possible to impeach someone even after the accused has vacated their office in order to disqualify the person from future office or from certain emoluments of their prior office (such as a pension).

Another take:

Does it sound farfetched for Congress to impeach and try someone who is no longer in office? It has happened! In 1876, Secretary of War General William Belknap [who served in the scandal-plagued Republican administration of Pres. Ulysses Grant], accused of accepting a bribe, resigned just hours before the House was scheduled to consider articles of impeachment. The House went ahead and unanimously impeached him, and by a vote of 37-29 the Senate rejected the argument that Belknap’s resignation should abort the case. The Senate proceeded with the trial, but Belknap was narrowly acquitted. A number of the Senators who voted for acquittal explained that they felt they lacked jurisdiction because of his resignation…

By contrast, when in 1926 Illinois District Judge George English, impeached for various acts of wrongdoing, resigned from office six days before the scheduled commencement of his trial in the Senate, the matter was discontinued. The same was true, of course, when Richard Nixon resigned just prior to adoption of articles of impeachment by the House.

The Belknap precedent aside, is there any logic to impeaching and trying an official who is no longer in office? One answer might be the value of establishing a precedent that certain misconduct is (or is not) impeachable … Evidence suggests that the Framers of the Constitution concurred in this conclusion — they did not regard resignation as automatically precluding impeachment or conviction.

The purpose of a post-term impeachment of Bush and Cheney would be to send a message to future rightwing cabals who intend to highjack the American republic that they do so at their own peril — that they will be brought to justice.

A strong case can be made that if Pres. Nixon had been impeached, followed by a trial and conviction in court on the obstruction of justice and other charges and sentenced to prison, even briefly, Bush and particularly Cheney would have felt less emboldened to behave like despots. (In fact, it’s doubtful Cheney would have been interested in the vice presidency if he’d felt constrained from looting the government for his corporate cronies.)

Just as hindsight shows that Americans 30 years ago could have prevented the abuses of Bush and Cheney by prosecuting and imprisoning Nixon in 1974, we owe it to future generations of Americans to hold Bush and Cheney accountable for their crimes and incompetence today.

If the move for post-term impeachments took hold, Republicans would doubtless object — but just seven years ago it was GOP legal types who floated the idea of a post-presidential, second impeachment Pres. Clinton because they didn’t like the pardons he granted as he left office.

But, assuming current trends play themselves out, the dynamics of the upcoming 111th Congress could be quite different from any in recent memory. Conviction on impeachment charges requires 60 votes in the Senate, and it is quite possible that Democrats could end up controlling as many as 55 Senate seats, if not more. The split in the House is also likely to widen in favor of the Democrats. (And, technically, Speaker Pelosi only took impeachment “off the table” for the 110th Congress.)

It is also possible that Bush is aware he could be brought to justice after he leaves office. What else would explain the rumors that he purchased 100,000 acres of land in the Chaco region of Paraguay two years ago?

16 Responses »

  1. nikolai January 15, 2008 @ 12:07 pm

    OR… the little prick will declare war on Iran and linger like the little cling-on he is…

  2. Krashkopf January 15, 2008 @ 3:03 pm

    Impeach. Prosecute. SAVE AMERICA.

    — Naomi Wolf

  3. jeffreydj January 15, 2008 @ 3:10 pm

    “to get rid of Bush and Cheney, the congressional Republicans have shown that they will block any move to hold them accountable”

    I’m not sure what power the minority party in the House holds that worries Mr. Ponder so greatly, but I can assure him – it only takes simple majority votes to get an impeachment referral out of committee and through the House. Therefore, the Repubs couldn’t do a thing to stop it, only failing to corral all the Dems in the House would keep impeachment from progressing.

    Not sure? I suggest that you fire up some ten-year-old memory cells, and check out an impeachment vote back in 1997. It went the way I just described, except the “R”s and the “D”s were flipped.

  4. Jon January 15, 2008 @ 3:38 pm

    The Senate is the jury. It takes 60 to convict. Last time I checked, Republicans had about 50 votes, including Lieberman (and with possible exception of Hagel).

    If and when 10 Republican senators decide that it’s in their best interest that Bush should go, he’ll either get word and resign or face the music.

  5. bob January 15, 2008 @ 4:16 pm

    It takes 2/3 of the Senate to convict.

  6. Anonymous January 15, 2008 @ 5:14 pm

    Maybe we’ll turn Paraguay into a nucular test site at the opportune time.

  7. Corey Mondello January 15, 2008 @ 6:56 pm

    There will never be impeachment.

    Politicians like Bush are pigs !

    They will….HAVE ruined America and the rest of the world.

    I wonder when we be bombed?

  8. Jon January 15, 2008 @ 8:46 pm

    Yes, Bob is right. About 16, not 10, GOP senators in this Congress would have to turn on Bush.

  9. Diane B January 15, 2008 @ 9:22 pm

    Look, it will happen the two of them will go to jail for what they have done.

    As our Country suffers from what they have done to us economically, while spying and violating all of our liberties and freedoms that we have always cherished. They will go to jail!!!

  10. Alan January 16, 2008 @ 8:40 pm

    You don’t need any senators to impeach. That is done by the house, and only requires a simple majority. You need senators to convict, which requires 60.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impeachment#Process

  11. Madelyn January 17, 2008 @ 4:02 am

    Alan, didn’t you read the page you referenced. “The impeachment-trial procedure is in two steps. The House of Representatives must first pass “articles of impeachment” by a simple majority” … then “Next, the Senate tries the accused” …then “In order to convict the accused, a two-thirds majority of the senators present is required”. So, more than a simple majority (2/3) of Senators are necessary to impeach.

  12. Magginkat January 18, 2008 @ 11:39 am

    I have been writing, faxing, calling & even did web sites calling for the impeachment of these thugs since they seized office.

    Three months after that worm wiggled his way into the Oval Office the SS turned up at my door. Yep,I, a disabled grandmother was being investigated for a letter that went to a nasty Florida congressman who had preached his vile to several gay students who went to his office to ask for his help in passage of a hate crimes bill.

    I sent a copy of my response to Jeb & Junior.

    But the secret service was not asking about the email at all. In April 2001, five months before 9-11, they were questioning me about my “terrorist training”, how many terrorist training camps had I attended, what were my travel plans, where was I hiding my arsenal, etc”. They topped it off by asking how many mental hospitals I had been in.

    Well, we know know who should be in the mental hospital and it ain’t me! I’ve managed to hang on to my sanity in spite of all the vile things this gang of thugs have done to this country.

    When I wrote about this harrassment at the hands of the Secret Service & warned that this was a sign of things to come I was called a liberal nut. That was the most polite name I was called by the way!

    I know that I don’t have to tell anyone here that my warning was child’s play compared to what these nasty thugs have done to this country & it’s constitution.

    I have seen several comments on a variety of forums where people have suggested that we put pressure on Republican congress people. I agree. We need to put the fear of God in them by bombarding them with letters, emails, phone calls or whatever. We should start with the ones who are up for re-election.

    Several groups had an impeachment call in day on Wednesday of this week. Heck, I say any day is an impeachment call in day and I use one or more of these 800 numbers to call my Congressmen…..

    800 828-0498, 800 614 2803 and 866 340 9281

    I know that both of my Senators have 800 numbers for in-state phone calls to one or more of their local offices. Check yours and call them!!

    We have to do what the freepers do and flood them with calls every day.

  13. Christy January 21, 2008 @ 4:30 pm

    Prez Hillary Clinton, beholden to Big Business, would NEVER allow Bush’s impeachment to happen.

  14. Madison January 21, 2008 @ 5:42 pm

    I don’t know. She might enjoy it. Besides, the president has nothing to do with it. Impeachment is an action of the Legislative Branch, which is equal with the presidency.

  15. b-love April 2, 2008 @ 8:54 am

    I THINK MR.BUSH AND CHENEY SHOULD BE IMPEACH BECAUSE THEY LIED ABOUT WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION. MR.BUSH WENT OVER TO IRAQ FOR THE OIL. 4000 VETRANS LOST THERE LIVES FOR MR.BUSH AND CHENEY GREED FOR OIL AND BELIEVE ME ITS IN THE BIBLE MR.BUSH AND CHENEY IS GOING STRAIGHT TO HELL!! MR.BUSH TOOK LIVES FOR NO REASON BECAUSE HE WANT TO BOOST GAS PRICES UP. MR.CHENEY CONTRACTS THE REBUILDING OF IRAQ MR.CHENEY IS GETTING RICH OFF OUR TAX PAYER DOLLARS MR.BUSH AND CHENEY NEED TO GO TO JAIL FOR DECEIVING AMERICA LIED TO AMERICA CHEATED AGAINST AL GORE MR.BUSH KNOW HE LOST. JEB BUSH CHEATED FOR HIS BROTHER AND FLORIDA ALL OF THEM NEED TO GO TO JAIL.REMEMBER MR.BUSH AND CHENEY HAVE KILLED 4000 VETRANS FOR NO REASON BECAUSE OF THERE GREED AND THE LORD IS GOING TO GET THEM AND EVERYBODY ELSE THATS INVOLVED WITH THESE 4000 VETRANS BEING IN HARMS WAY FOR THERE GREED MR.BUSH AND CHENEY IS RIPPING AMERICA OFF AND THEY NEED TO BE INVESTIGATED AND IMPEACHED AND GO TO JAIL AND ROTT. LET TAKE TIME TO THANK ABOUT ALL THE LIVES THEY TOOK. AMERICA NEED TO INVESTGATE MR.BUSH AND THE SAUDIS.

  16. […] have done to our democracy, the military, the economy or our standing in the world. As has been noted before, they will only receive the same mild rebuke given to Cheney’s old boss, Richard Nixon: They will […]

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