Adam Ash

Your daily entertainment scout. Whatever is happening out there, you'll find the best writing about it in here.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

US Diary: the case for impeachment - it is the quickest way to restore our moral standing in the world (and to get out of Iraq)

1. If the United States were a company, would George Bush be our CEO?
The first MBA president probably wouldn't keep his job if he had to face a board of directors. But short of impeachment, what can be done to rein him in?
By Warren Hellman /

The president of the United States is the chief executive officer of the most powerful economic machine in the world, yet his performance is rarely evaluated from that perspective. In fact, President Bush is the first president to have earned a master's of business administration and run a company; in 2002 Time magazine called him "the CEO president," noting his Harvard MBA and business experience.

But if the United States were a company, it would be a troubled one. A disastrous war in Iraq; another war nearly won, now at risk in Afghanistan; massive budget deficits -- USA Inc. is beset by many crises. As the chairman of a private investment firm, I have assisted many boards of directors in determining whether the CEO of a struggling company should remain in that job. As a citizen and stakeholder in this great country, I found myself thinking: How would a board of directors evaluate President Bush?

My thought exercise has its limits, since the nation doesn't technically have a board of directors -- American voters are best compared to stockholders. But in many ways the next best thing is the Congress, which has a crucial role in vetting, authorizing or blocking most of the president's proposals, from his budget to his Supreme Court picks to his decision to go to war. Now that we have a new congressional majority, it seemed an interesting time to wonder: Would we continue to employ George W. Bush if he were a CEO? If not, is there a way to remove him? And if that's not a viable option, how should Congress act for the 23 months until he leaves office?

When advising a board on how to evaluate a CEO, I tell them to review his or her performance in the following areas: implementing the company's fiscal and monetary policies, developing and successfully executing strategic plans, seeing that well-qualified personnel and managers are appointed, ensuring stability and long-range success, and respecting and protecting the charter and bylaws of the institution. How is President Bush doing on each of those counts?

Fiscal Responsibility
George W. Bush took over as CEO of USA Inc. when the country was running substantial surpluses, rapidly paying off its debt, and moving toward a future with a balanced budget. Forecasts predicted the country would continue to grow and be debt free in the near future. Bush took charge, and the opposite occurred: the country is running record deficits; debt service is skyrocketing. Bush's most recent economic forecast (arguably optimistic) predicts a balanced budget by 2012 (contingent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan not costing the United States a dime after 2009), which is, ironically, when he will no longer be in office. The trade deficit with USA Inc.'s No. 1 competitor, China, is increasing. Interestingly, a characteristic of many failing CEOs when losses are mounting is to hide or obfuscate the real deficits. This president, in addition to incurring massive deficits, has managed to hide the magnitude of the losses by special (otherwise known as "off balance sheet") allocations of billions of dollars that do not appear in the annual budget.

Strategic Decisions
The most important strategic decision made by CEO Bush was to minimize the importance of stabilizing Afghanistan, while at the same time choosing to invade Iraq. Those choices turned out to be a perfect example of the adage "fire, aim, ready!" and have led USA Inc. into unmitigated disaster. Not only were those decisions based on faulty intelligence, but Bush also had no business plan for his new endeavor, failing to take into account what the war would cost in lives and treasure, or what it would cost this country in its diplomatic relationships with the rest of the world. He cherry-picked intelligence, like a CEO cooking the books in order to get board support for his agenda. In other words, he was ready to reject any evidence that did not support the decision to invade.

Execution of Strategic Decisions
How well did our CEO execute his decision to invade Iraq? He didn't send enough troops; he didn't equip them well; he had no plan to win the peace ; and he didn't do enough research to understand just how deep the division between the various sectarian groups was. This has resulted in a war that our CEO finally admits is not going well at all. Bush has left USA Inc. with no good options as to how to fix the problem. If USA Inc. were a corporation, an effective board would almost certainly not choose to ask the executive who got the company into such dangerous trouble to be the one extricate it; the board would find a new CEO.

Personnel Choices
Excellent chief executives make excellent personnel choices; they are willing to admit mistakes and replace the occasional bad personnel choice with alacrity. This has not been the case with our chief executive. Bush stuck too long with his mistakes, remaining stubbornly supportive of inept individuals from Federal Emergency Management Agency head Michael Brown to former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the architect of the invasion and occupation plan for Iraq, who was responsible for not sending enough troops to Iraq to begin with and for many more tragic mistakes along the way. Maybe worse, Bush's bad personnel decisions led other, more able people on his team, like former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill and former Secretary of State Colin Powell, to simply give up and leave his administration after years of infighting. Bush has relied on an inner circle of like-minded cronies who have persistently belittled and then eliminated critics. For the most part, he has chosen close advisors based on loyalty and similar ideology rather than competence, experience or expertise.

R&D for the Future of the Enterprise
Because of the strategic error of invading Iraq, our CEO now finds his company can't spend money on conducting basic research or rebuilding its physical infrastructure, plus it is drastically shortchanging its educational system. USA Inc. has become so divided that problems like Medicare and Social Security appear to have no solution. All of this has resulted in polls showing, for the first time in the country's history, that many parents don't believe their children are going to do better than they have done.

Adherence to the Institution's Charter and Bylaws
This CEO has allowed his ideology to subvert the charter and bylaws this country was built on, namely the Constitution. Americans used to believe their personal papers and privacy were protected; now the government can sneak into your home secretly, steal your papers, bug your computer, read your e-mails without ever requiring a warrant or any judicial oversight. Americans used to believe there was separation of church and state; under this administration millions of tax dollars have been diverted to church-related groups; government policies are made based on personal religious beliefs rather than the needs of the people. Stem cell research is a fine example. America is falling behind its competitors: Some of the best stem cell research and other scientific advancements are now happening in Europe and Asia rather than this country.

In addition, one telltale trait of a failing CEO is that he and those who remain loyal try to silence their critics by arguing that criticism only undermines the morale of the people trying to solve the problem -- usually meaning the CEO and his management team -- and potentially emboldens the company's enemies. This sort of complaint has become a hallmark of the Bush administration.

If Bush were the chief executive of a company, he would in all likelihood be given a good pension and quickly replaced. However, this is not the situation with the president. Although Congress does have the power to impeach him for "high crimes and misdemeanors," such a step is enormously time-consuming, requiring many hours of congressional investigations and hearings, and politically divisive. While I personally think it is possible that the president's misdeeds, especially having to do with Iraq, might well rise to the level of wrongdoing that the framers imagined when they provided for impeachment in the Constitution, at this point, leading Democrats like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have rejected the impeachment option.

But Congress doesn't have to sit by and do nothing, short of impeachment. When a company is going in the wrong direction, the board of directors has the responsibility to do everything possible to change course and move forward with better direction. Congress, the closest thing we have to a board of directors, has the constitutional responsibility to be a coequal branch of the government and be a check on both the executive and the judiciary. For the past six years, Congress has abandoned that role. (If it were a corporate board of directors, there might well be shareholder lawsuits over how it has neglected its oversight responsibilities.) But now, with new majorities in both houses, it is time for Congress to return to its rightful role, which is carefully scrutinizing Bush's plans, proposals and policies. Congress has to be willing to stand up to our CEO and to reject his ideas when they believe they are wrong. Congress has to evaluate his personnel choices from a much more objective standpoint. Congress members have to behave like the elected representatives of the American people that they are.

And finally, we the people, the voters, have to use this valuable set of lessons in choosing our next chief executive. We have to learn to tune out the hyperbole surrounding a campaign and try to objectively evaluate the next president's ability to govern and administer, to discern his or her genuine aptitude to lead the country out of the troubles we find ourselves in after two terms of President Bush. We must remember that we the people are the stockholders; it is our company; it is our country, and those we elect are our employees -- and are responsible to us. We cannot afford another failure as CEO.

2. US Redemption Mandates Impeachment of Bush -- by Mike Konopacki/Kathy Wilkes / Capital Times (Madison, WI)

The war in Iraq gets worse every day. Americans want to end it, but how? Cut and run? Partition the country? Bring in the U.N.?

We've heard the politicians' spin, but it seems that's all they do. And as they spin and bob and weave and cover their political behinds, people continue to suffer and die.

We sent politicians a message in the 2006 election. We have their attention. Now is the time for us - as citizens, as voters - to capitalize on our clout and tell them what they must do: impeach, convict, imprison. It's the only way we can begin to end the war.

Unless the Bush regime is stopped, Iraq will get even worse. We might also end up in a deadly conflict with Iran. Bush & Co. have already deployed the same scare tactics they used to launch their illegal war against Iraq. Yes, illegal. It's not a "mistake" or "blunder." It's a crime, a violation of U.S. and international laws. No one's being prosecuted for it. It can happen again.

President Bush said he takes "responsibility" for "mistakes" in Iraq. So what? No one's holding him accountable; he can go on and make more "mistakes." Illegal war, warrantless wiretaps, "extraordinary rendition," torture - all illegal, all unpunished. Bush et al. are literally getting away with murder. It's the perfect crime.

A recent poll shows that 71 percent of Iraqis want foreign troops out of their country. "They told us they would bring democracy, life would be better than it was under Saddam," one said during a fiery street battle, "but they brought us nothing but death and killing. They brought mass destruction to Baghdad."

Death, destruction, opposition - none of it matters to the Bushies. When asked what would happen if the Senate passed a resolution against Bush's "troop surge" (i.e. war escalation), Vice President Dick Cheney said, "It won't stop us." What will?

Impeach, convict, imprison. It's harsh; it has to be. We must demonstrate that we take responsibility for what our government did and are willing to punish the government for doing it. We must deter future governments from more illegal wars. Think about it: If Richard Nixon had been imprisoned for war crimes instead of just resigning over Watergate, would we be in this quagmire now?

The Bush regime has severely damaged America's reputation. The world no longer sees America as a defender of human rights, a bastion of freedom; no longer the victim of terrorism, it is the architect of it.

Our government - in our name - has lied us into war, tortured innocent people, created chaos and new generations of insurgents and terrorists, and destroyed a sovereign nation of 24 million people. Iraq's civil society and infrastructure are decimated. Unemployment is over 50 percent. Less than 30 percent of Iraqi students can go to school. Most of Iraq's middle class, professionals and their families have fled, leaving behind the poorest of the poor. Fear and violence rule their daily lives.

The U.N. estimates that 34,000 Iraqis died in 2006. Iraq Body Count calculates up to 60,000 dead since the war began. In short, Iraq has suffered 20 9/11s. Thousands of Iraqis have been executed for a crime they didn't commit.

Stephen Kinzer's book, "Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq," observes that the U.S. invasion of Iraq "was the culmination of a 110-year period during which Americans overthrew 14 governments that displeased them for various ideological, political and economic reasons. ... Most of these adventures have brought them, and the nations whose histories they sought to change, far more pain than liberation."

And disgrace to Americans. In 1902, William H. Walker's cartoon about hypocrisy during the Philippine-American War showed Americans torturing a Filipino as five European empires stood behind. The caption: "Chorus in Background: Those Pious Yankees Can't Throw Stones at Us Anymore."

The end to war - and our disgrace - requires that we first redeem ourselves in the eyes of the world. We must lead our leaders and demand that they stop America's century-old rampage of empire. We must prove that we honor the right of all people to live in peace. And we must, at first and at least, prosecute the Bush regime for its crimes. If we don't, we are no less than accomplices. If we don't, we are no more than "Pious Yankees."

(Mike Konopacki is a freelance labor cartoonist. Kathy Wilkes is a retired editor. Both live in Madison.)

3. Impeachment: Breaking the Dam in Olympia, Washington -- by Dave Lindorff

If the state of Washington ends up passing a joint legislative resolution next month calling on the US House of Representatives to initiate impeachment proceedings against President Bush and Vice President Cheney, it will because 900 people who crammed into this capital city_s Center for the Performing Arts last Tuesday evening, and countless others across the state, pushed them into it.

The crowd at the arts center had come to attend an event organized by the Citizens Movement to Impeach Bush/Cheney, a local ad hoc citizens_ organization in this little burg that had convinced the local city council to make the 1000-seat auditorium available for a hearing on impeachment.

When I and my two co-speakers, CIA veteran Ray McGovern and former federal prosecutor Elizabeth de la Vega, came out on the stage, we all felt not like political speakers or authors, but like rock stars. The applause was deafening, not just at the start of the program, but after each speaker_s points were made.

It was clear that even if the Speaker of the House, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) says impeachment is _off the table,_ a sizeable hunk of the American public is hungering for a taste of it.

Washington is one of a group of states where a serious effort is underway to pass joint legislative resolutions that, thanks to Rules of the House penned by Thomas Jefferson and in effect for nearly length of the Republic, would put impeachment back on the table at the House right under Speaker Pelosi_s nose. The significance of the gathering in Olympia is that a freshman senator from Olympia, Eric Oemig, has introduced a bill in the state senate calling for such a resolution. His bill, S6018, is slated to go to a hearing on March 1, to determine whether it can be considered by the full senate, and impeachment activists are planning to have hundreds‹perhaps thousands‹of backers on hand to make sure it gains committee approval.

_We don_t hear any of our leaders today talking about impeachment,_ Oemig told the crowd. _So the fact that the grass roots have built up the way they have is remarkable!_

Oemig brushed aside what he said was a common argument among colleagues in the legislature that impeachment was not the state_s business, and that it would _interfere_ with more pressing state matters. Noting that the war in Iraq‹one of the key impeachable crimes because of the lies that were used to justify it‹is costing hundreds of billions of dollars, Oemig pointed out how many crucial projects affecting Washington State residents were in jeopardy because of lack of federal funding. He noted too that issues like the president_s violation of civil liberties and his abuses of power directly affect citizens of the state. _I don_t think this is a partisan issue,_ he said. _Many of my Republican colleagues have grave concerns about some of the Constitutional violations of this administration._

In my own address, I focused on some key Bush constitutional violations and crimes which I believe are the best arguments to use in convincing conservatives and Republicans of the importance of impeachment. Among these are Bush_s order for the National Security Agency (NSA) to spy on American citizens, his use of so-called _signing statements_ to invalidate (so far) 1200 laws or parts of laws passed by the Congress, and his authorization of torture. In the first case, I noted that the president has already been declared, by a federal judge, to have committed a felony by violating the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. In the second case, I explained that Bush is claiming‹illegally--that the so-called _War_ on Terror makes him a commander in chief unfettered by the Constitution, with not just executive, but also legislative and judicial authority‹a claim of dictatorial power that has no basis in the Constitution. Finally, I pointed out that in authorizing and failing to punish torture, the president, by making it less likely that enemy fighters will surrender, has been directly causing death and injury among US troops.

The biggest laugh came when I pointed out that failing to impeach Bush over the signing statements issue would mean that the next president‹perhaps Hillary‹would be able to cite Bush as a precedent and also ignore Congress. _That,_ I said, _should put the fear of god into Republicans._

McGovern told the crowd that the administration had destroyed the CIA, preferring _faith-based_ to real, hard-nosed intelligence. With the angry intensity of a man who has given nearly 30 years of service to the government only to see it trashed by a know-nothing, criminal administration, he suggested that impeachment was the best way to bring the War in Iraq to an end and to prevent the launching of yet another illegal war‹this time against Iran.

De la Vega, a veteran federal prosecutor, and author of a new book, The U.S. v. Bush, which imagines a grand jury investigation and indictment of the president and vice president on a charge of fraud, laid out the case that the Bush administration has in essence been a criminal syndicate defrauding the American public on a scale far worse than Enron. Meanwhile, she said, the Congress, the media and the American public have, like the Queens neighbors of stabbing victim Kitty Genovese, averted their eyes from the crime.

Questions following the three presentations focused on why the Congress has been so unwilling to act to initiate impeachment, and on what the American people can do.

The answer all the speakers gave in one way or another was to organize‹to convince neighbors, co-workers and friends of the need to impeach the president, to lobby a cowardly Congress to act, and, most importantly, to help move Sen. Oemig_s bill forward in the Washington Senate and House.

At present, three states, Washington, Vermont and New Mexico, have bills calling for joint impeachment resolutions (other states, including Rhode Island, New Jersey and California, may also see bills submitted). Under Thomas Jefferson_s Rules of the House, any one of those resolutions, if passed and forwarded to the House of Representatives, could start the process of impeachment.

It seems likely that if Washington passed Oemig_s bill (it currently has eight co-sponsors), or if one of the ones moving through the legislatures of Vermont or New Mexico were to pass, the other states might follow suit. As well, representatives in Congress could feel emboldened to submit their own bills of impeachment.

In other words, the dam will burst, and impeachment will be underway.

In Olympia, as 900 fired-up and fed-up citizens left the hall last Tuesday‹signing impeachment petitions on the way out‹it was clear that the dam had already burst, at least locally.

(Dave Lindorff is co-author, with Barbara Olshansky, of "The Case for Impeachment: The Legal Argument for Removing President George W. Bush from Office" (St. Martin's Press, 2006). His work may be found at and at


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