From On the Left Tip: Impeachment 101-- Past and Present
Tuesday, September 13, 2005I.B.C. member and contributor RenaRF from the blog On the Left Tip prepared this excellent summary (It is also posted over on The Daily Kos, please go comment there too.):
Impeachment 101 -- Past and Present
A few things before we start. I am going to assume that IBC members really do want to impeach Bush. Let's face it - the vast majority (if not all) of us have wanted him gone since an instance of Judicial activism put him in office in 2000... But just wanting him gone and actually building a credible case for his removal are two different things.
I'm not a lawyer. I have no exceptional knowledge of the Constitution of the law outside of what I can glean from reading other blogs and from doing some research on the internet. My opinions and reasons may lack legal rigor - but they need to be put out there as a jumping-off point for serious vetting. Great journeys begin with a single step and this is mine, offered with the hopes that bright people will mold and change and add and grow this into something entirely possible.
Two Presidents in the history of the United States have been impeached. Andrew Johnson, 17th President of the United States, and William Jefferson Clinton, 42nd President of the United States.
Johnson, a Southern Democrat who ascended after Lincoln's assassination, was impeached when he violated the Tenure of Office Act (a law passed by Republicans in Congress designed to eliminate Johnson's power to dismiss office holders without the Senate's consent) by attempting to fire Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton. Bill Clinton, in the infamous "Monica Lewinsky Affair" was impeached for grand jury perjury and obstruction of justice. Neither President was convicted (source can be found here).
The most infamous near-miss is, of course, Richard M. Nixon, who resigned rather than face impeachment.
Impeachment procedures are spelled out in the US Constitution in Aricle I, Sections 2 and 3. Impeachment grounds are definited in Article II, Section 4. The grounds themselves are deceptively simple:
Section 4 - Disqualification
The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.
(All Constitutional source material can be found here.)
Impeachment then, to me, seems to have a vague standard as to grounds. I found one very interesting quote, however, and one from which I believe there are substantiated grounds to impeach the 43rd President of the United States, George W. Bush. It says:
...many experts agree that there are different standards for impeachable and criminal conduct. In the words of Dean John D. Feerick of Fordham University School of Law, in an article published in 1984, "Most authorities agree--and the precedents are in accord--that an impeachable offense is not limited to conduct which is indictable. Conduct that undermines the integrity of a public office or is in disregard of constitutional duties or involves abuse of power is generally regarded as grounds for impeachment. Since impeachment is a drastic sanction, the misconduct must be substantial and serious."
(My emphasis added - source can be found here.)
What follows is my interpretation of "impeachable offenses" as perpetrated by George W. Bush, 43rd President of the United States, in his conduct during the 2005 disaster of Hurricane Katrina.
In December of 2004, the Federal government, via the Department of Homeland Security issued its United States National Response Plan. Thanks to an excellent diary by georgia10 at Daily Kos, I am now fully enlightened that the National Response Plan is essentially a contract that the government signs to ensure that "Incidents of National Significance" receive right and proper Federal support. The President's role in this is to:
"...lead the Nation in responding efficiently and ensuring the necessary resources are applied quickly and effectively to all Incidents of National Significance."
Further, under the President's oversight as spelled out above, Federal agencies are expected to provide:
- initial and/or ongoing response, when warranted, under their own authority and funding;
- alert, notification, pre-positioning and timely delivery of resources;
- proactive support for catastrophic or potentially catastrophic incidents using protocols for expedited delivery of resources.
The National Response Plan also lays out the circumstances by which the Federal government can expedite and circumvent certain restrictions and regulations when incidents of national significance are declared.
On Friday, August 26, 2005, Louisiana Governor Blanco formally requested that the President declare a state of emergency as hurricane Katrina approached. On Saturday, August 27, The President complied and issued this Statement of Federal Emergency. When the President signed this document, he invoked Title V of the Stafford Act which deemed hurricane Katrina an Incident of National Significance and transferred responsibility to the President of the United States.
At best President George W. Bush is guilty of dereliction of duty. Somewhere in the middle of the severity scale he's guilty of criminal negligence. At the severe end of the spectrum he's guilty of involuntary manslaughter through his failure to execute the duties prescribed by the National Response Plan. Each and any of these offenses shows a disregard of Constitutional duty.
In July of 2004, FEMA completed its now-infamous "Hurricane Pam" exercise. Hurricane Pam was a simulation of a Category IV hurricane hitting parts of southeast Louisiana - a Category IV hurricane that was not as strong as hurricane Katrina.
From this CNN article on September 9th, the simulation predicted:
... the flood would leave swaths of southeast Louisiana uninhabitable for more than a year.
Flood waters would surge over levees, creating "a catastrophic mass casualty/mass evacuation" and leaving drainage pumps crippled for up to six months. "It will take over one year to re-enter areas most heavily impacted," the report estimates."
More than 600,000 houses and 6,000 businesses would be affected, more than two-thirds of them destroyed. Nearly a quarter-million children would be out of school. "All 40 medical facilities in the impacted area [would be] isolated and useless," it says.
Local officials would be quickly overwhelmed with the five-digit death toll, 187,862 people injured and 196,395 falling ill. A half-million people would be homeless.
"Federal support must be provided in a timely manner to save lives, prevent human suffering and mitigate severe damage," the report says.
The President knew. The Hurricane Pam simulation was on the record in this Administration. The President's claims of "no one knew the levees would fail" is patently inaccurate and disingenuous. Plenty of people knew - but he didn't.
It seems to me that stupidity and lack of intellectual curiosity should be some kind of crime given the loss of life that it has perpetrated in the case of Katrina. However, I would again say that the President was criminally negligent through this ignorance and that he failed to show proper regard for his Constitutional duty to protect the American people.
Today, September 13th, 2005, two owners of a nursing home in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana were charged with 34 counts of negligent homicide for failing to evacuate all the residents of the nursing home they managed. A quick summary of the story reveals that the owners had a good business reputation and simply waited too long to evacuate the patients in their care. As the water started to rise, they evacuated as many as they could and left the others to die.
Louisiana Attorney General Charles Foti Jr. said the following:
"We feel we have criminal negligence," Foti said. "They did not follow the standards of care that a reasonable person would follow in a similar circumstance." (Source - CNN.com)
I don't see a very far leap from these business owners and their failure to safeguard the lives of those in their care with the President of the United States, responsible via the National Response Plan and a delcared state of emergency in Louisiana and his failure to not only safeguard the lives of his citizens but also his failure to save untold hundreds in the predicted flooding that ensued. That's criminal negligence again and the addition of negligent homicide.
A few stray facts:
Returning to the Presidential Statement of Federal Emergency Assistance on Louisiana, note the parishes listed in the statement. Now take a look at this US Census map of the parishes in Louisiana. NONE of the parishes in the greater New Orleans area are listed in the Presidental statement.
Dr. Bong Wei, Chief of Staff at Chalmette Medical Center in New Orleans, told CNN's Anderson Cooper that an offer to help the sick and dying at New Orleans' Armstrong Airport was rebuffed by FEMA. The told Dr. Wei that neither he nor his staff could help with the sick people due to liability concerns. A FEMA official suggested that Dr. Wei and his staff could help by mopping floors, which they readily did. People died around them and they weren't allowed to render assistance, assistance they were qualified to render and which was desperately needed.
I omitted more than I included. There are countless stories that bolster any eventual charges - I welcome their addition to what I have outlined here.
I don't think anyone will ever be able to separate the unnecessary loss of life from those which would have been claimed by the fury of a natural disaster such as Katrina. But after that storm passed, as the levee's broke and New Orleans rapidly flooded, as no help arrived, as people went hungry and died of dehydration, all of those deaths are the responsibility of George W. Bush.
- Dereliction of Duty
- Involuntary Manslaughter
- Criminal Negligence
- Negligent Homicide
- Disregarding Constitutional Duties
- Undermining the Integrity of the Office of the President of the United States
Impeach George W. Bush.