Monday, August 6, 2007

A Media Circus is not a Bad Thing

On August 3, I received this email from Jay Inslee, my representative to the U.S. House:

* * * *
Dear Mr. Adams:

This week, only after carefully considering the importance of maintaining a fair, credible and responsible Department of Justice, several of my colleagues and I introduced H.Res. 589, directing the Committee on the Judiciary to investigate whether Alberto R. Gonzales, Attorney General of the United States, should be impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors. Mounting evidence produced in testimony before House and Senate Judiciary Committees, has led me to believe that the Attorney General has besmirched his oath of office and that this Congress needs to initiate an impeachment investigation.

I, along with my fellow cosponsors of this timely resolution, have all served as attorneys prior to serving in Congress. As one time prosecutors, judges or even attorney generals, we take the responsibility of defending the US Constitution very seriously. When a public official gives cause to doubt that they have honored their oath of federal office, it is the responsibility of Congress to investigate their actions and hold them accountable if they have violated the law and betrayed the public trust. Recent conduct of Alberto Gonzales, the chief law enforcement officer of the United States, has called into question whether or not the Justice Department is equipped to uphold the law of the land and to stand up for the civil rights of Americans. After numerous discussions with Constitutional scholars on this issue, I have been convinced to turn to impeachment as a last resort in order to restore public faith in our justice system.

If the Attorney General has committed any offense, his lack of candor and dereliction of his constitutional oath calls for a deeper investigation of his fitness to serve the American people. The integrity and credibility of the Department of Justice must be restored. Our federal prosecutors must remain free to enforce our laws without the influence of political gain. This resolution follows a careful procedure of conducting a thorough investigation before the House would vote on articles of impeachment. As I pursue this resolution in Congress, I will work to bring to light these and other transgressions by our public officials.

* * * * *

It took me some thinking to figure out what Inslee was up to here. He is a reasonable and amiable person, not a hothead, so he wouldn’t be doing this without a well thought out strategy. The case against Gonzales is mainly that we don’t like him or trust him. It’s possible he has lied to congress, but that will be very hard to document. It is questionable if the house judiciary committee, even with a Democratic majority, would find for impeachment.

If it did though, the measure would then need a majority in the house. With Dems holding a thin margin, it is by no means certain that an impeachment resolution would pass the house.

If it did pass the house, there is no chance at all that the senate would convict, especially considering that the constitution calls for the vice president of the U.S. to preside over the process.

This impeachment gambit is therefore a known dead end. So what is Inslee up to? I’m pretty sure the idea is simply to help the Democrats win in ‘08. It’s not about impeaching Gonzales at all. It’s about focusing media attention, during the primaries and after, on outrageous administration actions and policies, since Gonzales is really just a Bush puppet. This is a long game to undercut the Republican national convention next summer.

Most Americans haven’t got the foggiest idea of what goes on in Washington or what is at stake when the constitution is trampled on. Impeachment hearings would provide a massive civics lesson that could only help the Dems.

The constitution says that articles of impeachment are “privileged” meaning they automatically rise to the top of the legislative agenda and must be debated before any other business. So Inslee, being a team player, would not have started this process without the advice and consent of House Speaker Pelosi, and quite possibly at her instigation, since she generally seethes with venom over the Bush administration. That means she calculates that by the time any impeachment debate begins in the house, it would have finished about all it could get done legislatively, and would be ready to go totally political in the run-up to the elections.

I have often wondered how anyone could go into national politics, knowing full well that “the people” generally don’t know anything about government and care even less. How could you hope to exercise leadership if nobody pays attention? This strategy gives a partial answer: To lead the people you have to put on a show for them. So Inslee is just as smart as I though he was.

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