Sunday, July 08, 2007

Reviving Censure


Before yesterday, there was a public consensus that Dubya is a bad president — but not that he can’t be tolerated in office a moment longer. . . . Now, an easily digestible, commonsense argument about Bush's lack of a moral compass has been laid out clearly for everyone to see: We have a president who coddles the criminals in his own administration.
Which isn't to say that the mere fact of the Libby commutation will convince the public of that argument by itself, particularly with the invisible whisperers of the Bush regime fanning out to spread their misinformation, and their loyal press courtiers doing their best to help. Someone needs to make the case, and to do it in a visible public forum.

One problem here is that an overt impeachment inquiry carries so much baggage that it can become a distraction by itself, changing the subject from Bush's corrupt action to whether it genuine warrants removing him from office. And while fact-finding hearings can help fuel our rhetorical fire, testimony from "legal scholars [and] pardon experts" may cause the moral focus of the issue to be lost in a sea of minutiae.

A motion to censure the President, however, might be the right tool to cut through the clutter. It would make a simple declaration -- that even if Bush has the technical right to commute Scooter's sentence, in the view of the Congress, he has sent the most corrupting message a president can possibly send to his administration ("If you break the law while working for me, I'll make sure you never spend a day in jail"), and it was morally wrong for him to do it.

It's a message that needs to be sent for future generations, so that Dubya's pseudo-pardon isn't treated as an accepted precedent. On a practical basis, it begins to lay out a public case for a possible impeachment. And on a purely political level, it would firmly establish Bush and his apologists (including the craven supplicants campaigning for the 2008 Republican nomination) on the wrong side of a clear moral divide -- an absolutely essential step in debunking the essential GOP mythology of firm, paternal rectitude.

The Republicans will respond as they always do, with counter-accusations and smoke machines. But if the Democrats speak plainly and insistently, they can repeatedly drag the subject back to its core: That when an official in his administration breaks the law, the President has no business interfering in that official's punishment. And he should be censured for it.

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