Sunday, July 22, 2007

Rep. Holt on Impeachment

My representative Congressman Rush Holt (D- NJ 12th district) held a townhall meeting today, which I attended. There were many tens of people there. Troubling to me were that the number of incoherent (a PC term for scared sh*tless) people that were there for whom illegal immigration is the main source of terrorism - the build-a-wall-on-the border, fight-them-in-Iraq so they-don't-fight-us-in-Freehold types. The Congressman was very adroit in disentangling their concerns into the separate issues and then talking about how one might address them.

But I want to report here about what I remember of Rep. Holt's thoughts on impeachment of the President. It is from memory only, I don't even have notes, and is a composite of answers to several questions, and in my own words. So it is really what I heard rather than what he said.

Holt believes that he won his election to Congress in 1998 at least in part because of reaction to the impeachment of Clinton which he condemned as a partisan affair. He fears that if a substantial minority - even 25% - begin to have the attitude that "we lost the last elections, but we have impeachment - the country is in trouble. So the second of the two conditions he thought necessary for impeachment was that it not be seen as a partisan issue. So far no significant slice of Republicans have signed up for impeachment.

In short - impeachable though this President is, having a partisan impeachment would be worse than what we currently have. What happened with Clinton has to stop there, and not become a political custom.

Holt thought that the suspension of habeas corpus, the warrantless wiretapping, the policy of torture all rose to the level of impeachable offenses. He said that probably most people in the room could compose a Bill of Particulars for impeachment. But he did not think that the vast majority of Americans had any sense of what is at stake. To them, we are talking about the rights of some stranger, an unfamiliar looking person with an Arab-sounding name. Unless they themselves feel threatened, they will not sign on to impeachment. Still far too many of them tell him in essence, I'll sign away my rights if it makes me safer. So we have a job of education to do.

He said that the Declaration of Independence was a Bill of Particulars, and its virtue was that everyone at that time understood them. Everyone today would have a different set of grievances in their version of such, and until it became one, "our Bill of Particulars", (this is the first of the two conditions) impeachment would go nowhere.

Holt thought that rather than having this neon sign "Impeachment" at which half the country would turn one way and half the other, it was important to firmly mark out that "Habeas Corpus cannot be suspended", "Wire-tapping without a court warrant will not be allowed", etc.; impeachment in the current political climate would only be a distraction.

So as of now, Holt has not signed up on HR333 and is not considering impeachment as a real possibility.

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2 comments:

Analyzer said...

I never realized you were in central NJ! I'm from Edison and went to Rutgers. Where exactly are you, if you don't mind announcing it to the world?

CapitalistImperialistPig said...

My feeling is that if they don't impeach Gonzalez, Congress has largely become irrelevant. If a President of unprecedented weakness can defy the Congress and the law, how easy will it be for some future strong man to just brush it away.

If they can't come up with a bill of particulars for Gonzales, it has already become irrelevant.