The Lights Are On, But Nobody's Home

The longer the so-called impeachment process drags on, the more frustrating and irritating it becomes. As an exercise in futility, as well as a typical waste of taxpayer dollars, it is a spectacle almost unparalleled in American history. It is a complete mis-use of the mechanism of impeachment that demeans our legal process, and distracts time, energy and money away from important issues.

The impeachment process was designed by the framers of the constitution to guard against the imposition of an "imperial presidency," the kind of abuse of power to enhance the executive's personal influence and control, especially by illegal methods, that we saw in the Nixon White House - or even in the Iran-Contra affair. Here an individual executive or a coterie working under the executive's protection consciously and willfully acted against the will of congress and in violation of duly enacted laws, in secrecy, to promote their own personal policy objectives and enhance their own power.

It was exactly this kind of chicanery that the framers of the constitution had in mind. They were well aware of the propensity of powerful individuals to want to increase their power, and of the temptations to abuse it. They wanted to provide a remedy of last resort to allow the legislative branch- by extraordinary effort - to meet the threat of such abuses.

Instead what we have is a display worthy of the front pages of the National Enquirer (where it has been running for over a year with great success). The idea that a congress would be so petty as to spend four years of effort and over 40 million dollars of taxpayer money on this nearly fruitless, open-ended investigation is incredible. In the department of unintentional self-satire, this whole performance is right off the charts.

It is a foregone conclusion, supported more than two-to-one by the American public (despite media campaigns to make it seem dramatically in doubt) that the Senate Republicans will not be able to attract enough cross-over votes to gain the two-thirds majority necessary to convict the President. Without the dogmatic partisan obedience Republicans showed in the House,the Bill of Impeachment would never have gotten to the Senate. Yet these supposedly educated and principled men force all of us through this just because they can.

If there is an abuse of power in this process, it lies far more with the House of Representatives than with the President. Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Henry Hyde, who has give new depth and subtlety to the meaning of the word "hypocrite," said that this effort should not go forward unless it was bi-partisan - which is exactly what the founding father's intended. Yet he led the Republican majority to push the bill through by the most strictly partisan manipulation of the parliamentary process.

Those are our dollars that are being wasted. That is time that we are paying our legislators for - when they should be attending to the peoples' pressing business - that is being wasted in this trivial, vindictive exercise. It makes us look ridiculous and weak in the eyes of the world and it encourages cynicism and apathy at home. Millions of citizens see their elected representatives acting directly contrary to the "will of the people" and justifying their arrogant actions with high-sounding moral pronouncements that are absurd when juxtaposed with even the little we know about their private behavior.

In a sense they are testing us, to see how much we will accept. The results of the November 98 election were not enough to convince them of our seriousness. They imagine we will forget what they have done as soon as it is over and that their power over the media and their support from big business makes them immune from responsibility to the people they are supposed to represent.

We have a remedy. We need to use it. If we deluge our legislators with an outpouring of opinion, let them know that we want this ended, the real business of the country attended to, they will respond. Even the densest and most complacent among them must know somewhere in their hearts that the American government really is by the will of the people.

Think of it as a mid-term election. We need to vote with our letters, phone calls, our presence at demonstrations, our e-mails and our communications with our friends and neighbors, to let these men know that we hired them to help direct the government for the common good, not for their personal gain or satisfaction. But we must act. Write, call or e-mail your legislators today and let them know where you stand. End this sorry farce, and let us get back to work.