Monday, July 2, 2007

Three Proposed Constitutional Amendments

Bush commuted Lewis "Scooter" Libby's sentence, simultaneously vindicating the jury's guilty verdict on perjury while at the same time ensuring Libby will never set foot inside a prison. Not only does Bush attempt- with some success- to have his cake and eat it too, but this commutation effectively slams the door shut on any further attempt to investigate or prosecute the Plame leak scandal. Prosecutors now have no lever whatever to use on the one person who might possibly have fingered either the President or Vice President as responsible for leaking Valerie Plame's identity... which means, in all likelihood, that no one will be made accountable for the destruction of Plame's career and reputation.

Outrageous as this is, this is merely the latest, and hardly the largest, of George W. Bush's abuses of power. Today's news merely serves as a convenient trigger to reveal something I've been considering for months, something I personally think is vital to the survival of the United States as a free republic, vital to reining in a Presidency that acts like an elected monarchy rather than the executive of a democracy.

The Constitution needs to be amended.

Each term of Congress dozens of proposals are made to amend the Constitution of the United States. Over two thousand proposals have been voted on by one or both houses of Congress since it first convened in 1789; only twenty-seven have been ratified. As a general rule, attempting to amend the Constitution is a waste of time... unless there's an extremely strong reason to do so.

I believe the actions of the Bush administration, and those of the Democratic leadership in failing to even attempt to make that administration accountable for its misdeeds, provide very strong reason for amending the Constitution. George Bush has abused his power through his war in Iraq, by the authorization of torture, by the imprisonment without charge of thousands of people, by using "signing statements" to evade or nullify laws passed by Congress, and by undermining the very mechanisms of justice which should serve to hold him accountable. To make things worse, those who should act when the President exceeds his authority- the Attorney General, the Supreme Court, and the current Democratically controlled Congress- are actively sitting on their hands, refusing to do the only effective things to stop Bush before he further violates his oath to defend and uphold the Constitution.

First, to more clearly define the limits of Presidential power, here's what I call the Bush Amendment:


THE BUSH AMENDMENT

Section 1. The President of the United States acts as the Commander in Chief of the armed forces of the United States of America; but the President shall have no power to take offensive action against any nation, or against belligerents outside the United States (except for pirates on the high seas) except in time of war as explicitly declared by both houses of Congress, or under provisions of treaties with foreign nations as ratified by the Senate.

Congress shall have sole, exclusive, and non-delegatable power to declare war. Congress shall also have power to order, by joint declaration of a majority of each house, the President to cease offensive operations and withdraw armed forces from the territory of foreign nations. Refusal by the President to obey the will of Congress expressed in this manner shall constitute an impeachable offense.

The President of the United States retains the power to respond to invasion, revolt and insurrection within the territory and jurisdiction of the United States.

Section 2. The opinions of the President on the intent of any law, or its compliance with the Constitution, shall bear no weight in law, nor shall they be regarded by any officer or employee of the Federal government of the United States.

Section 3. The executive powers of pardon, commutation and clemency exercised by the President of the United States shall not extend to himself or herself, the Vice President, any member of Congress, or any person serving within the executive branch of the Federal government of the United States under that President.

Section 4. The right of habeas corpus shall not be denied to any person held prisoner by the Federal government of the United States or any department within that government, regardless of the prisoner’s citizenship.

Section 5. Torture, defined as the infliction of pain, degradation, or other cruel and unusual treatment of prisoners, shall be a Federal crime punishable by such sentence as Congress shall establish; but no sentence shall carry less penalty than ten years of imprisonment without parole or early release, forfeiture of any office of trust, and loss of all benefits and privileges of that office.

Any person who authorizes other persons subordinate to them to employ torture shall themselves be considered guilty of torture.

Torture shall constitute an impeachable crime under this Constitution.

Section 6. The President and Vice President, being citizens of the United States and members of the executive branch of the Federal government of the United States, may not exempt themselves from any law, regulation, executive order, or other ordinance or instrument applicable to all citizens of the United States or all members of the executive branch.


But wait- this depends on an Attorney General to investigate and produce evidence for impeachment. The Attorney General is appointed by, and personally loyal to, the President- so how is he supposed to work to impeach him? Hence my second proposal, which I call the Gonzales Amendment:


THE GONZALES AMENDMENT

Section 1. Congress shall establish a Department of Justice, the senior officer of which shall be entitled the Attorney General of the United States. The Attorney General shall be an American citizen of at least thirty years of age, resident in the United States without interruption for the previous five years, and shall not currently hold any elected office or other office of trust within the Federal government or any lesser government body within the jurisdiction of the United States.

The Attorney General shall be elected for a term of two years on the first Tuesday in November of odd-numbered years by majority vote of the Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States.

No Attorney General, having been elected by the Supreme Court, shall again be eligible to serve as Attorney General after the expiration of his or her full term.

Section 2. The Department of Justice shall organize, operate, and oversee any and all law enforcement organizations instituted by the Federal government to enforce the laws of that government. The Attorney General shall have power to appoint, with the advice and consent of the Senate, any and all lesser officers in such agencies; but on no account shall any person’s race, gender, creed, religion, or partisan affiliation be considered or questioned as a condition of or qualification for appointment or employment within the Department of Justice.

The Department of Justice shall have power to order and carry out the investigation of any officer within the federal government, including members of Congress, the President, the Vice President, and any seated justice of any Federal court, including the power to convene grand juries of inquest and to issue and enforce subpoenas of witnesses to testify before grand juries convened by the Department of Justice. In aid of such investigations, the Attorney General or such lesser officer as he or she may designate shall show probable cause to any justice of the Supreme Court and, with the justice’s consent, obtain warrants for search and seizure of evidence. No declaration of legislative or executive privilege shall have power to stay or challenge the execution of any subpoena or warrant issued by the Department of Justice.

Section 3. The President of the United States shall appoint, with the advice and consent of the Senate, a Solicitor General to act as the representative and advocate for the Federal government of the United States in any and all cases at law in which that government shall be a party. The Solicitor General shall have no law enforcement powers, nor any power of subpoena, and shall not be considered a member or officer within the Department of Justice.

Both the Attorney General and the Solicitor General shall be considered advisors to the President of Cabinet rank; however, the President shall have no authority over the Attorney General or the Department of Justice, nor may he terminate the term of the Attorney General in office.


And yet despite this Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, refuses to even consider impeachment- the only effective punishment for a President out of control. There is one good reason why, though: if both Bush and Cheney are impeached at the same time, Pelosi becomes President. Under the circumstances, it could look like Pelosi sought impeachment solely to become President herself- which, in turn, would destroy the Democratic Party in 2008. Let's simplify things for her, then- by taking impeachment out of Congress' hands. Here's the Pelosi Amendment:


THE PELOSI AMENDMENT

Section 1. Any two Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States, upon being presented evidence of treason or other impeachable crimes, shall have power to impeach any officer within the Federal government, including any member of Congress, the President, the Vice President, and any head of any department or agency established by Congress, excepting justices seated in Federal courts.

The Supreme Court of the United States shall have sole power to try impeachments, except in cases against Federal justices appointed by the President, a vote of two-thirds of all the justices of the Supreme Court being necessary for conviction.

Congress shall retain power to impeach and try justices seated in Federal courts.

Section 2. Impeachment and conviction shall carry no penalty beyond immediate removal from office, permanent disqualification for any future office of trust within the United States or any body of government within it, and the forfeiture of any and all privileges held by former holders of the office held when impeached; but any person impeached and convicted shall remain liable to indictment, trial, and punishment according to law.

Section 3. The following shall be considered impeachable crimes:
• Treason;
• Abuse of power, defined as the use of the powers of an office to violate the rights of others unjustly or to violate the Constitution of the United States, or the use of the powers of an office for personal gain other than financial profit;
• Corruption, defined as the use of the powers of an office for the enrichment of oneself or of one’s friends and family through bribery, graft, or other illegitimate means;
• Obstruction of justice;
• Perjury;
• Deception of Congress, defined as deliberately lying to or otherwise misleading Congress in order to influence its deliberations and votes;
• And any crime designated a felony by Congress or the legislature of any State.


Please feel free to pass these proposals on and to discuss them with others. If something like these proposals gains popularity, perhaps we can at least deny the next Democratic President all the power that Bush is exercising and abusing.

I can only hope.

3 comments:

G.E. Smith the Capitalist Dove said...

That's interesting. I also proposed a constitutional amendment recently.In the spirit of Independence Day: My proposal for a Twenty-Eighth Amendment.

G.E. Smith said...

"Congress shall have sole, exclusive, and non-delegatable power to declare war."

This is the case now.

"Congress shall also have power to order, by joint declaration of a majority of each house, the President to cease offensive operations and withdraw armed forces from the territory of foreign nations."

This is totally unnecessarily. congress can end any war by (a) first not authorizing it, but in the absence of that, (b) cutting off the money. Just because this Congress lacks the intestinal fortitude doesn't mean there needs to be an amendment.

"The executive powers of pardon, commutation and clemency exercised by the President of the United States shall not extend to himself or herself, the Vice President, any member of Congress, or any person serving within the executive branch of the Federal government of the United States under that President."

This seems like the type of thing the NBA did when San Antonio won the draft lottery -- making new rules because you don't like how the current rules were used.

I have no opinion on the Libby situation other than the president has the constitutional authority to pardon or commute sentences. So Libby isn't going to jail for 30 months. Big deal. He's still through as a lawyer -- he's paying his price. And if the people are outraged, the president's party will pay the price too.

Maybe I'm naive, but I really believe this Bush administration to be an aberration. I think a lot of Americans have awakened to how perilous their freedoms are, and won't tolerate this B.S. from the next president.

Kris Overstreet said...

G. E., taking your points in order:

With the War Powers Act Congress effectively granted total power to wage war, declared or not, to the President. Furthermore, George W. Bush claims, as part of his policy of the unitary executive, that the President does not need Congressional permission to deploy troops and wage war.

The problem with cutting funding is that funding is fungible. If the Democrats cut the part of the military budget funding the costs of soldiers being in Iraq, Bush would simply draw the needed money from other projects, continue the war, and then win brownie points with the voters by claiming that Democrats hate America's sons and daughters in uniform and refuse to support them.

Presidential pardon powers need to be limited so that they cannot be used to protect those who in turn protect the President from being impeached, tried, convicted or imprisoned for his own misdeeds.

I didn't put anything in the proposals that I didn't think was totally necessary.