Let every American, every lover of liberty, every well wisher to his posterity, swear by the blood of the Revolution, never to violate in the least particular, the laws of the country; and never to tolerate their violation by others.

As the patriots of seventy-six did to the support of the Declaration of Independence, so to the support of the Constitution and Laws, let every American pledge his life, his property, and his sacred honor; let every man remember that to violate the law, is to trample on the blood of his father, and to tear the charter of his own, and his children's liberty.

Let reverence for the laws, be breathed by every American mother, to the lisping babe, that prattles on her lap; let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges; let it be written in Primers, spelling books, and in Almanacs; let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice. And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation; and Let the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the grave and the gay, of all sexes and tongues, and colors and conditions, sacrifice unceasingly upon its altars.

While ever a state of feeling, such as this, shall universally, or even, very generally prevail throughout the nation, vain will be every effort, and fruitless every attempt, to subvert our national freedom.

- Abraham Lincoln, January 27, 1838
  Address Before the Young Men's Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois

Sunday, October 05, 2008

The Clinton Impeachment: An example of 'Shock Doctrine'

I believe that an overlooked but critical example of shock doctrine was the nationally humiliating and partisan impeachment of Bill Clinton for sexual misconduct.

As Americans were subjected to Kennith Starr, Monica Lewinsky and the sordid details unveiled in our national media, the word impeachment became unhooked from the prosecution of legal and criminal activity as evidenced during the Nixon Watergate Scandal. Instead, impeachment became associated with the shocking and distasteful outing of Clinton's sexual peccadilloes; behavior that was widely considered immoral, but is not related in any way to federal law.

Thus, impeachment became linked - in the minds of current democratic legislators - with the very lowest of partisan witch-hunting. This link was forged by shock; thus... shock doctrine at work.

When I wrote to my congressional representative two years ago and laid out the legal and constitutional arguments for the impeachment of Bush, his baffling response was that he 'wanted nothing to do with any partisan activity that would ruin his relationship with his republican colleagues.' I found it astonishing at the time that he would put his friendship with fellow republicans ahead of his oath of office to protect the Constitution, and before the defense of our 'rule of law, not men.'

It wasn't until recently (and after reading Naomi Klein's book 'The Shock Doctrine,') that I realized my representative had simply forgotten the the lessons of Watergate in the wake of a more recent - and shocking - use of the 'I word.'

Americans - and especially Democrats - were apparently shocked into inaction by lasting horror and embarrassment stemming from the Clinton impeachment. It appears that the Democratic party has confused the impeachment process itself with its partisan misuse by their GOP colleagues. Democratic leaders like Nancy Pelosi cling to the perception that impeachment is 'bad for the country.'

In actuality, the right to impeachment elected officials (designed by our nation's founders to keep executive ambitions in check) is a very necessary tool for the protection of democracy from executive overreach. We are now seeing the fallout of having no tool with which to keep any president from simply grabbing more and more power, breaking laws, attacking our Constitution and destroying the balance of power between the three branches of our Federal government.

The GOP effectively 'broke' impeachment in advance of their own party's rise to power... and I suspect that this mock impeachment was also useful as a facilitator of their political ascent.

Gossip and Victorian outrage hung like a dark cloud over the entire Gore campaign. It also lowered the bar of election dialog from discussion of real political and economic issues, to discussions of marital fidelity and Christian morality. Gore had an obvious advantage over Bush when it came to economic and political discussion, so the GOP simply lowered the level of dialog to give their candidate a chance.

It is likely - given the overall prosperity of the Clinton era - that Gore would have won handily and by a wide margin. Instead, many Americans were disgusted with Clinton's sexual escapades and the national embarrassment that they felt as a consequence. Gore never managed to crawl out from under the Clinton stain. Democrats everywhere came to blame impeachment itself - rather than its very partisan misuse by the GOP - for their loss of face.

Impeachment as political shock doctrine. Think about it.

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