a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew

That’s a shame

Posted by Thomas Nephew on December 2nd, 2008

By way of inching back towards blogging again, I’ll relate a short post-election story, from the weekend after the election.

I had just completed the first installment of my fall tradition of moving leaves from the front yard to their mulch heap atop the defunct vegetable garden, and grubbing wads of mouldering wet leaves out of the gutters.  The latter task involves moving a heavy ladder around the house, climbing up, grubbing leaf wads, climbing down, repeating.  So I was a bit tired and didn’t have my usual rapier-like wit handy for what came next.

Impeach them: yes we can
Yes We Can.
Originally uploaded by Thomas Nephew.

A lady came walking by my front yard, saw me, took the “IMPEACH THEM” sign standing along the street between thumb and forefinger, and asked “Do you still want this, now that there’ll be a new administration?”

“Sure do,” I replied, adding “we still can, you know…”

To which the lady replied, “That’s a shame.”

Huh.  “Why is that a shame?” I asked.  “Oh, I don’t know,” she answered, and went on her way, leaving me figuratively like some beached fish, mouth silently opening and closing.  I’m still a little ticked off about it — if I were to wander by someone else’s yard and take issue with their opinions, I should hope I’d have the common courtesy to explain myself, especially if I acted like the owner was some kind of unreasonable nut.

Over at, folks are pleased about Rep. Jerrold Nadler’s (D-NY-8) H. Res. 1531, which seeks to shame our 43d president out of issuing blanket pardons to his minions for their roles in approving torture, subverting the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and whatnot.  Spake Judiciary subcommittee chairman Nadler in a press release:

H.RES.1531 is in response to President Bush’s widespread abuses of power and potentially criminal transgressions against our Constitution. The Resolution aims to prevent undeserved pardons of officials who may have been co-conspirators in the President’s unconstitutional policies, such as torture, illegal surveillance and curtailing of due process for defendants.

The resolution would express the sense of the House that…

(1)…granting of preemptive pardons by the President to senior officials of his administration for acts they may have taken in the course of their official duties is a dangerous abuse of the pardon power;

(2) … the President should not grant preemptive pardons to senior officials in his administration for acts they may have taken in the course of their official duties;

(3) … that James Madison was correct in his observation that “[i]f the President be connected, in any suspicious manner, with any person, and there be grounds [to] believe he will shelter him, the House of Representatives can impeach him; they can remove him if found guilty”;

(4) …that a special investigative commission, or a Select Committee be tasked with investigating possible illegal activities by senior officials of the administration of President George W. Bush, including, if necessary, any abuse of the President’s pardon power; and

(5) the next Attorney General of the United States appoint an independent counsel to investigate, and, where appropriate, prosecute illegal acts by senior officials of the administration of President George W. Bush.

Of course, we should ask our representatives to join us in supporting the resolution, but I hope the good people at will forgive me a bit of headshaking about it: if only Nadler had been so outspoken about Bush’s crimes against the people and Constitution of the United States sooner.

While I know — and I assume Nadler knows — that impeachment has no statute of limitations and that in fact a pardoned person can still be impeached, that lady who walked by my house probably doesn’t know it. And among the main reasons she doesn’t know or care is that political leadership of this country — Mr. Nadler prominent among them — have by their inaction these past many years confirmed her likely opinion that none of these things were worth impeaching or prosecuting anyone about in the first place.  Meanwhile, the not entirely different political leadership comprising President-elect Obama and his more fervent supporters have not been shy about implying that his ascendance will in and of itself wash the country clean of the our sins — and I use the words “our” and “sins” advisedly.

I don’t mean to be a scold to my neighbors, and I had lately become a little tired of harping on these subjects even here. But it’s gotten to where far too many of us won’t see crimes when they happen, won’t even try to punish them when we find out about them — and then have the gall to act as if that’s the wise and charitable thing to do.

And that’s a shame.

PS: Thanks to those readers who have returned to finally find actual writing as opposed to mere link-mongering.  I hope the “delicious” links were occasionally interesting, but I’m undecided about continuing them as more than a sidebar; input welcome.

4 Responses to “That’s a shame”

  1. Nell Says:

    A vote here for continuing the delicious links as a sidebar. I’ve found them very rewarding, whether as posts or sidebars.

    The lack of awareness about post-office impeachment is a crying shame. And though we can do our best to educate (some “no time limit on impeachment” posters/stickers pointing to a website might come in handy), the people with the real platform have failed the citizenry.

    I’m disgusted by the amount of sellout “pragmatism” among Democrats generally. I’m not talking about open-mindedness about what the new administration might do, given that they’re still six weeks away from the chance to do anything. I’m talking about things like Feinstein and Wyden backtracking on CIA torture (see Greenwald).

    Abandoning a stance that all U.S. personnel should be bound by the Army Field Manual is particularly upsetting given that that’s already a compromised position: the new, revised version of the AFM has an appendix that incorporates the interrogation approach that’s formed the framework for U.S. “touchless” torture for decades.

  2. Thomas Nephew Says:

    I’ll certainly keep the delicious as a sidebar. I just don’t like the “filler” look on the blog, though I’ve been “reaching in” and commenting a little more after the fact, which may “justify” it. Anyhoo, nothing less interesting than a blogger musing about and/or tweaking his/her blog.

    It took me a while to figure out your “incorporates” link; for others, I’ll point people to your particular comment about the AFM, which developed from the comment thread than from publius’s post. (Turns out a “/page2/” is needed, no matter what the permalink says.) As ever, I feel like I haven’t been paying attention after all when I read what you’ve learned; thanks for doing that.

    I’m less surprised by Feinstein, who’s never met a principle she couldn’t ditch in the morning, than by Wyden, who I’d thought more highly of. I sometimes think there’s a “lawyer’s disease,” in which bright, legally trained people tend to want to discover and make more fine distinctions allowing “some” bad things after all — when they should really be trying to make fewer of them.

  3. Nell Says:

    Turns out a “/page2/” is needed, no matter what the permalink says.)

    Thanks for letting me know; that’s due to the vile new “feature” of paginated comments at ObWi, which has forced on the blog by Typepad without a corresponding adjustment to permalinks or links in the ‘recent comments’ sidebar.

    I should have tested the link (just as I should always preview comments when it’s not done for me; another “feature” of Typepad is that unclosed tags bleed formatting to subsequent comments, which has resulted at times at ObWi in long streams of all-italics or, even worse, all-link comments.

    Wyden’s aide’s line is that the single standard for all U.S. personnel could actually improve on the current edition of the Army Field Manual. Technically, that’s true, and the test of sincerity would by their reaction to a proposal to drop Appendix M.

    In fact, I don’t believe that Obama is sending any signals that he needs the flexibility Sens F and W are offering on this issue. Feinstein and Wyden are now the two highest-ranking members of the intelligence committee, and I think they’re getting those signals from the CIA and other friends of the national security state planted inside the vast Obama organization.

  4. Nell Says:

    bright, legally trained people tend to want to discover and make more fine distinctions allowing “some” bad things after all — when they should really be trying to make fewer of them.

    That definitely seems to characterize Wyden’s quote in the NY Times article and in his aide’s further effort to restate his views: The idea is that there might be some additional interrogation techniques that “go beyond the Field Manual” and yet are also legal, humane, and noncoercive, so that administration-proposed additions might actually be an improvement.

    Since Appendix M authorizes torture, it’s hard to imagine how authorizing additional techniques could do anything other than widen the scope for torture.

    I accept the idea of improvement in principle — and the specific improvement I’d support is to remove the damned torture appendix and make the result binding on all U.S. personnel. But something tells me that’s not what Feinstein and Wyden, and the CIA people who are sending them all these signals about “flexibility” are talking about.

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