Bruce Fein, who drafted the first article of impeachment against Clinton, said that Bush’s crimes are far worse than Clinton’s. With regards to Clinton, Fein said:
He was setting a precedent that placed the President above the law. I did not believe that the initial perjury or misstatements that came perhaps in a moment of embarrassment stemming from the Paula Jones lawsuit would have justified impeachment if he had apologized. Even his second perjury before the Grand Jury when Ken Starr’s staff was questioning him, as long as he expressed repentance would not have set an example of saying that every man, if you are President, is entitled to be a law unto himself.
In Bush’s case, on the other hand, are worse than Clinton’s because:
[H]e is seeking more institutionally to cripple checks and balances and the authority of Congress and the judiciary to superintend his assertions of power. He has claimed the authority to tell Congress they don’t have any right to know what he’s doing with relation to spying on American citizens, using that information in any way that he wants in contradiction to a federal statute called the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. He’s claimed authority to say he can kidnap people, throw them into dungeons abroad, dump them out into Siberia without any political or legal accountability. These are standards that are totally anathema to a democratic society devoted to the rule of law.”
To me it seems pretty obvious that Bush’s crimes dwarf any of Clinton’s. Still, the argument has been made that it’s hypocritical for people who opposed the Clinton impeachment to support the Bush impeachment (and, of course, for the people who supported the Clinton impeachment to oppose the Bush one). I think Fein does a good job of framing the importance of the Clinton impeachment – had I seen it in those terms, would I have felt the same way about it? Granted, it was a long time ago, and I knew much less about American constitutional law. But, like MoveOn, I think that the correct thing to do in that case would have been to censure Clinton, and move on.
In Bush’s case it’s different. Bush’s crimes are not only secondary in nature, they are primary. Outing Valerie Plame is a treasonous act. Bush either approved it before the fact, or condoned it after the fact. Using torture, illegal wiretapping, holding people without trial and without access to lawyers, rendition…the list of primary crimes goes on and on. This isn’t a case where the cover-up is worse than the crime – the crime is worse, and is ongoing. Impeachment is the only solution to this sort of lawlessness.
This is my first shot at embedding a YouTube clip. Will it work?
There’s a good discussion of this at Democrats.com.