The year 2006 will be historic for the nation, and probably for humanity. Texans Bush and Rove and their conspirators in the second Bush presidency have disgraced American democracy at home and in the world with debasements of our nation and our values that have now entered their climactic phase. What part will the rest of us Texans play in this decisive year?
As I have written in a review-essay that appears in the tenth-anniversary spring issue of Yes!, the quarterly of new solutions published in Washington state by David and Frances Korten (YesMagazine.org), we are living and working in the very days and nights of the American Emergency, the climactic American Crisis. Our elections are bought, and our government is run by and for the major transnational corporations. Bush announced in 2002 his illegal presidential policy that the United States can and will attack other nations first, waging war on them, when he so decides. He is now waging, as if he were doing it in our names, a bloody war of aggression against Iraq, which on the face of it is a crime against humanity under the Nuremberg principles that we and our allies established and enforced with hangings after World War II. The President, the Vice-President, and their factors sold this war to Congress with twistings and lies that were crafted to infuriate and terrorize us about Iraq’s alleged connections to Al Qaeda and mass-murder endangerments to us from Iraq itself, all of which literally did not exist. In polls now six of 10 Americans do not believe the president is honest. Yet he has three more years of dictatorial control over our nuclear and other arms and our Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps and seems now to be maneuvering to use that control to wage another aggressive war on Iran, with literally incalculable consequences.
We Texans are a major source of this deterioration into crisis. The leading Democrats of the state so dishonored the liberal traditions of their party that in the resulting political vacuum, Bush was elected Governor here, and from Austin he mounted the campaign that a 5-4 majority of the U.S. Supreme Court illegally decreed made him President. After that, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, from Sugar Land, crafted his scheme to use corporate money to widen the Republicans’ majority in the Texas delegation to Washington, D.C., battening down right-wing GOP control of the House and the Congress. The third President from Texas and his Republican Congress then waged aggressive war on Iraq, drove the nation into insolvency to further enrich the already rich, and just for good measure tore up the Constitution.
As we in Texas bear guilt for this we have also begun to join the resistance and revolt against it, starting with Cindy Sheehan’s brigades in Crawford. By happy accident the Texas trip-root that now threatens to help bring the Bush presidency crashing down, crushing itself under its own arrogance, hubris, and criminality, is a law against corporate money in Texas elections that was passed a century ago in the state’s populist afterglow. To uphold that law, Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle has braved ruthless contumely, as he had done often before in order to prosecute public officials he believed had violated the laws. While it is merely seemly to await the outcome of the trial of DeLay and his co-defendants on the charges that they laundered corporate money through Washington to elect Republicans to the House from Texas, in a speech in September Earle declared what he believes his prosecution is all about. “Corporate money in politics” has become “the fight of our generation of Americans….It is our job—our fight—to rescue democracy from the money that has captured it,” he said. “The issue that we’re faced with is the role of large concentrations of money in democracy, whether it’s individuals or corporations, the issue is the same.”
Since 1994, although the polls show a majority of Texan citizens support progressive reforms such as adequate taxation for equal education for Texas schoolchildren, the leaders of the disappearing Texas Democratic Party and their statewide candidates, finking out on every ethically important political issue, have proved again and again that nothing fails like failure. Rot-gut Republicans have swept every statewide office and achieved mercenary domination of the Texas courts, too. In my opinion, Texas Democrats ought to have concluded by 2002 at the latest that they should be choosing, from among the waves of the on-comers, entirely new sets of state and local party leaders and candidates. For example, rather than be taken in, even a jot, by the torrent of contemptuous abuse directed at Ronnie Earle by Tom DeLay, his lawyers, and that ilk, Texans should be realizing that—just as the dramatic prosecutions of Thomas E. Dewey in New York made him a Republican presidential candidate and now the populist prosecutions of Eliot Spitzer in New York State are making him a national figure—Ronnie Earle has fully qualified himself as a front-rank leader in Texas politics. For another example, this year, in my opinion—shared, by the way, by Jim Hightower—Texans are very fortunate to have running for Attorney General the lifelong labor lawyer and Democratic firebrand David Van Os of San Antonio. The Observer does not make political endorsements, but I may say here for myself alone that David, in my carefully considered personal judgment, is the Ralph Yarborough of his generation.
The national resistance to Bush, Cheney, Rove, et al., is coming into focus, too. John Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, which is the logical source for impeachment initiatives, has taken the significant step of calling for an investigation of Bush and Cheney with a view to censure, which obviously could metamorphose into impeachment. Tom Daschle, until recently the Minority Leader in the Senate, Sen. Edward Kennedy, and Nancy Pelosi, the House Minority Leader, are all calling for investigations of Bush and Cheney. Elizabeth Holtzman writes for impeachment in the current Nation, and the Internet is on fire with initiatives to impeach Bush and Cheney for crimes committed in office, foremost among them lying our nation into a war of aggression. Impeachment is unlikely as long as the House remains firmly in GOP control, but this year it would be gratifying to see citizens seeking the election of House candidates—whether Democrats, Republicans, or independents—who promise explicitly to vote, if elected, to impeach Bush and Cheney.
If impeachment does not become possible, let me broach with you the idea that a grand jury, federal or state, should indict Bush and Cheney for their manifold official crimes. Are we, as we are so often piously assured, “a nation of laws and not of men,” or is the President above the law if his party controls the House and can block impeaching him?
The Constitution is silent on whether a seated President and Vice President can be indicted, while in office, for crimes committed while they have held those offices. Constitutional lawyers are congenitally prone to announcing that this cannot be done because it would disrupt the ongoing business of the government. But it is time to do it, if necessary absent impeachment, for exactly that reason—to disrupt the continuation of THIS government.
I have not yet found one constitutional lawyer who can cite a Supreme Court case or any other judicial precedent prohibiting their indictment—if you know of one please let me hear from you. In 1973 Nixon’s attorney general said the President can’t be indicted, but why should Nixon’s attorney general bind us?
Committed to nonviolence, determined, in this post-Gandhi era, against violence, nevertheless we are once again in the position of the Framers of the Constitution. In the post-revolutionary emergency, the Founding Fathers took things in their own hands, violating their clear instructions from the states by proposing to create the United States, which the states then created. In the crisis we are in now we must not be misled by expostulating lawyers or posturing politicians. We the citizens can make up our own minds whether we can indict Bush and Cheney and, if they are convicted, throw them out.
May we close here, then, as we began two centuries and more ago, with the words of Tom Paine. “We have it in our power to begin the world over again,” he said. “The birth day of a new world is at hand… We are a people upon experiments. It is an age of revolutions, in which everything may be looked for.”
Ronnie Dugger is the founding editor and former publisher of The Texas Observer. Author of presidential biographies and other books and articles, he writes now from his office in Cambridge, Mass. His e-mail is [email protected]