The Right Coast

June 20, 2005
Impeach Bush Now!
By Tom Smith

Oh, alright, just kidding. But the inimitable Brian Leiter lashes out at various legal academics for arguing it can't or shouldn't be done, for constitutional or prudential reasons. Brian makes some good points amidst the fury. I must say, I have always been rather curious myself as to the normative basis of originalism. I think it is clear that whatever it is, it can't be any worse than, because "we" think it's a good idea, which sums up a lot of contemporary jurisprudence. I have never, however, gotten anything but rather impolite answers whenever I posed the question, so I've stopped doing so. I do think some thoughtful originalists wrestle with it from time to time. Still, it would be nice to have a full-dress, philosophically sophisticated answer to the question, So what if the original meaning of the whatchamacallit clause was X? If the answer was published in a 1991 article in the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, then the cite will do. Personally, I prefer the original meaning of the Constitution, but I admit it's just a preference, because as a matter of historical accident, I think the Framers had a much better understanding of how politics works, human nature, and law generally, than we do. David Souter. James Madison. I rest my case.

I notice Brian has chosen green as the color of his new blog format. Is green the new red?

As to whether a President can be impeached for lying to the American people, well, obviously not. I thought we settled that. Lying is a deeply personal matter, between a President and his or her family, confessor and close political advisors and fund raisers, whether indicted or not.

As to the Downing Street memos, I have only read news accounts of them, but if it really is the case that the Bush administration set out on a conspiracy to deceive the public into believing that war against Iraq was necessary because of the threat that Iraq had WMDs that they could at any moment put into the hands of terrorists, knowing as they did so that no such thing was true, well, that would certainly be a crime in my book, and I wouldn't shed any tears if a President were impeached for it. I don't happen to believe that's the case, and the bobbing to the surface of the Downing Street memos should not convince anyone that it is. I doubt it is even possible to find out something like that, but sure, investigate away. Oversight is something Congress can do that wastes money at a much slower rate than most of their activities.

More broadly, I think it is almost impossible for outsiders to judge whether the Iraq War was successful foreign policy or not until we see how it turns out. Disaster seems possible but not inevitable. In fact, if we stay long enough to thoroughly crush the "insurgency", I think it is likely to count as a significant victory for American power and prestige. Of course, that is precisely what many critics of the policy fear. I worry some about hubris in trying to democratize the middle east, but who knows.

And if you want to see someplace that reminds one of Europe before WWII, I suggest . . . Europe! Just don't wear a yarmulke.