[As interest in impeachment grows, I offer the following thoughts, reflecting my own ongoing efforts to help people think things through.]
Between right and wrong, the intended purpose of just government is to take the side of right. Given the finite nature of human power, the members of civil society may not always have the power to assure that it does so. Moreover, whatever the right intentions of people in the society at large, a government established in view of justice may nonetheless fall into the hands of people who do not take that view. When it pleases them, such people reject the choices prompted by conscience, in light of the Creator’s endowment of right. Because their choice to do so involves the defiance of good conscience, their abuses of power reflect the defection of their will from the Creator’s righteous endowment of their nature. How then can these abuses be attributed to His divine will rather than their own all too human willfulness?
What I have always admired about the American founders is the skill with which they devised and implemented a scheme for just government that offered people of goodwill the opportunity to do right or oppose wrong (i.e., exercise and/or stand upon their rights) whenever they summoned the courage and determination to do so. On account of their foresight, a few people, sometimes even only one person, can raise a standard to which people of goodwill repair. As long as the word right is fundamentally connected with righteousness, the doctrine of unalienable rights gives great support and encouragement to people willing to take a stand (as people quite literally did during the era of the founding; or the contention over slavery; or the various movements for equal civil/political rights.)
Tragically we have come to a time when a powerful elitist faction has turned against self-government of, by and for the people. Those openly or slyly subservient to this faction, in both the Democratic and Republican parties, are systematically assaulting the moral and spiritual wellspring of America’s courage in defense of liberty, which is the people’s assurance that they act in defense of God-endowed right.
Current events may, however, rouse the conviction the elitist faction has been trying to undermine. Deep concerns for our national security have been stirred by the evidently damaging policies and decisions for which Obama is constitutionally accountable. Americans are demanding that the facts be investigated and that those responsible be examined and properly judged for their actions. These matters call for a national inquest into the conduct of those responsible for the use and abuse of the U.S. government’s executive power. Congress has the constitutional duty and authority to undertake such an inquest. It requires making use of the power of impeachment, which, as Alexander Hamilton observed, the Constitution places in its hands for that purpose.
Thinking to take advantage of the ignorant, elitist faction politicians and pundits, including usually reliable conservative pundits like Rush Limbaugh, have been speaking as if impeachment must always aim at removal. The first purpose of an inquest, however, is not to convict and punish people for their actions, but to ascertain whether an offense has been committed, within the meaning of the law (in this case the Supreme Law of the Land), and to gather information about the events and actions involved, in order to identify the offenders, if such there are. It is because impeachment is first of all an inquiry that the Constitution nullifies the executive power to reprieve and pardon offenders. This power is the constitutional basis for so-called “executive privilege,” which recognizes that the occupant of the Oval Office can refuse to make members of his executive body available to Congress whenever he deems it necessary to do so in order to maintain the integrity of executive deliberations, or to assure success when grave emergencies require extraordinary actions.
The self-serving politicians of the elitist faction now find themselves increasingly unable to deny the need for such a national inquest. But, as I pointed out just recently, proper use of the impeachment process ultimately highlights the decisive constitutional sovereignty of the citizens at large. This is true if, after impeachment by the House, the U.S. Senate votes to convict and remove an individual from office. But it is also true if the U.S. Senate fails to convict and the issue is taken to the voters during the national elections held every two years. This appeal to the people conflicts with the elitist faction’s aim, which is to subvert and overthrow the constitutional sovereignty of the people. No matter what its outcome, impeachment carries the risk of disrupting the elitist faction’s agenda.
To avoid this consequence, the elitist faction’s political minions hold out the self-defeating expedient of a special counsel, appointed by the U.S. attorney general or by his deputy and formally empowered to conduct an impartial inquiry. But such an inquiry quickly inevitably runs afoul of the executive’s prerogative to shield activities from scrutiny. After all, the special counsel is incongruously construed to be a member of the executive’s body. He operates, therefore, under the authority of the individual (the president) in whom the Constitution vests the whole executive power of the U.S. government.
All this suggests a straightforward approach that ought to be adopted by those in the Congress who put the integrity of the Constitution, and the safety and liberty of the American people, above self-serving factional calculations of any kind. The U.S. House of Representatives should initiate impeachment proceedings, starting with an investigative phase under the supervision of the House Judiciary Committee and authorized to use the plenary power of investigation into executive branch activities explicitly warranted by the Constitution in cases of impeachment. During this investigative phase, evidence should be gathered and testimony taken from all relevant witnesses.
On the basis of the information thus developed, members of the U.S. House should, in a series of formal votes, publicly make their decisions about whether impeachment is warranted, and against which civil officers of the executive branch a bill of impeachment should be approved for transmission to the U.S. Senate. If their regard for the nation’s good outweighs their loyalty to the adverse interest of their elitist faction, the Republican leaders in the House will adopt this straightforward constitutional approach. However, their track record in this regard is not at all encouraging.