I find it inherently interesting and often invaluable to hear other people's points of view as well as provide my own. I can't tell you how many times I have had my opinion expanded by simply turning an issue on its side and considering it from another's viewpoing, whether they are a person with whom I agree or not.
I was an early supporter of impeachment. In principle, it's the right thing to do. But politically, particularly after the November 7 election, I had gone somewhat softer. Right or wrong, I'm thinking politically and realizing that 2008 is right around the corner and a 1994-esque move (ala the Republicans targeting Clinton) to constantly subpoena, investigate, and potentially impeach didn't seem to serve political ends.
Richard Dreyfus changed my mind last night in his appearance on Real Time with Bill Maher.
I'm going to literally transcribe from my DVR Dreyfus' statement with respect to impeachment. It's powerful and everyone should read and at least consider it.
The general subject was whether or not ethics will be a central concern addressed by the new Democrat-controlled Congress. From there, though, it took a very interesting turn. All emphasis in the transcripts is mine.
MAHER: And you think he [the President] should be impeached? I mean, what would that get you? Cheney as President?
DREYFUS: The two reasons that one would argue against impeachment are the Vice President and the Democratic Congress. But I'm not in favor of impeachment. I am in favor of the process. And I believe that unless the society stands against certain things, they will have endorsed certain things. Like torture, leaving the Geneva Convention...
MAHER: Right. That is well said.
DREYFUS: ...and lying to the Congress about the reasons for war. And once the Republicans are placed in the position of having to endorse torture, you've got a bad problem on your hands. And we do not realize that this is not about impeachment - it's about the other branches of the government doing their duty so that you don't hand off to a liberal or a conservative - the President - swollen powers when no one ever turns power away. No one ever says "oh no thank you - we're not going to use that".
And so whoever gets to be President will use the power handed to this President. And we will rue that day unless we stand in some way against that, even in a minority report. Even if we... if you lose an impeachment hearing - whoever "we" are - then at least you have a body that says we stand against these things. And unless you do that, then you're for them.
One word: powerful. There was further discussion of a more general nature later in the show where Dreyfus also weighed in, and I really felt that his following commentary, coupled with his thoughts on impeachment, struck a perfect chord.
The lead-in was the discussion of the guy being beaten by the LAPD. One of the other guests, Tom Morello, was lamenting our numbness and wondering why we weren't in the streets with pitchforks and torches over such a thing. Dreyfus weighed in. This is a long transcription but it's worth reading every word.
DREYFUS: That's the constancy that you can learn. You can actually learn the constancy of curiosity, and the constancy of outreach. You can learn that it is ok to keep asking the questions, and to be dissenters. And if you don't - if you're not taught it - then you don't know it. But we owe ourselves and the United States that we will pass off to our children to re-learn the tools of reason, logic, clarity, dissent, civility, and debate. And those things are the non-partisan basis of Democracy and without them, you can kiss this thing goodbye.
It is up to us - it wasn't because of a conspiracy that that this left - it was thoughtlessness - and what you have to do is get it back. And what happens now in this partisan-addicted country of ours is that Democrats are afraid that if they send their kids to Civics classes they might not come back Democrats. And Republicans are afraid their kids won't come back Republicans. But Civics - the expertise needed to understand western enlightenment and civil liberties is not something you're born with. You have to learn it.
And we teach our kids what we want them to know and we don't teach them what we don't want them to know. And that's not a conspiracy - that's human nature. And you have to - WE have to remember - that unless we teach the ideas that make America a miracle in government - a miracle - that everyone knows is a miracle - unless we teach what that means, then it will go away in your kids' lifetime. And we will be a fable. We will be a tale told about this place that used to stand up for blah blah blah.
You have to teach it. You have to find the time and creativity to teach it in school. And if you don't, then you will lose it to fundamentalists of any stripe, you will lose it to stupidity, you will lose it to the darkness. And what this country represents is a tiny twinkle of light in a history of opression and darkness and cruelty and if it lasts for more than our lifetime or our kids' lifetime it is only due to the fact that we put some effort into teaching what it is.
The ideas of America - the idea of opportunity, mobility, freedom of thought, freedom of assembly - and if you don't teach it, it will go away and in the middle of the night when the towers fall, we will not say "what am I responsible for" - we will say "tell us what to do".
There's a lot to think about in that statement. First, I was struck by the obvious idea that we teach our children what we want them to know and NOT what we don't want them to know. It's self-apparent - but the cost is not something I had considered. I immediately thought of your typical pro-life person not teaching their children about sex and birth control, rather teaching abstinence and decrying abortion. But that shoe can be placed on either foot and we have to not fear people learning the other sides of the arguments we hold dear. It is, in fact, ESSENTIAL to the idea that we have a generation forming behind us that has the ability to cherish - to understand America and American values, and to stubbornly defend ALL points of view while nudging forward that which makes us so unique as a pure form of government. That is why the impeachment process is necessary. Not to punish - but to reinforce. To stand at last and go on record as to what's acceptable and unacceptable. To save our very Democracy.
And I was also very struck by the truth of his last statement: if we don't teach it - ALL of it - then we will morph to a populace that needs to be told rather than one that inherently knows what it stands for and what that means, in terms of responsibility, to each individual in the populace.
Incidentally, Dreyfus has been, for the last two years, a Senior Associate Member of St. Anthony's College, University of Oxford, learning (as he put it) how to teach civics.
There's a lot here to think about. And I, for one, am grateful that I heard it and am able to share it here.
One little extra unrelated tidbit I'll give you - Maher, of course, does his little schtick late in the show after his second one-on-one interview. This week, it was "celebrity fragrances", wherein he had men's cologne suited to politicians and celebrities, poking fun at their missteps. This one's just a bonus:
MAHER: [getting bottle of cologne] It speaks without thinking. Splash it on your red necks - George Allen's Macaca for Men.