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On March 27, 1782, the House of Parliament at Westminster voted no confidence in Lord North, then serving as Prime Minister. He immediately announced that in view of the expression of no confidence he was honor bound to resign his office, and did so. The vote was precipitated by the arrival in London of news of the defeat of British forces at the Battle of Yorktown, bringing to a sudden conclusion the war which had been the principal focus of his ministry. Lord North’s was the first resignation in the English speaking world precipitated by a vote of no confidence.
Today 53 members of the United States Senate, including seven Republicans, expressed their vote of no confidence in the service of Alberto Gonzales. The vote was procedural, as the Republicans used filibuster rules to block the actual vote–a step they have now invoked repeatedly to hamstring action by the majority in the Senate.
Isn’t this surprising when, only two years ago, when an effort was made to invoke the filibuster to block nominations, Mitch McConnell, Trent Lott and company thought it presented a threat to the Constitutional order of Government? Whereas now they trot it out themselves even on procedural and symbolic votes? To abet them in this remarkable act of hypocrisy, the media now routinely refer to the filibuster merely as a “procedural vote.” When the Democrats use it to block a judicial nomination, it’s called a “filibuster,” but if it’s ever invoked by the Republicans it’s just “procedure.” This is just more evidence of how the Republicans and Democrats interact–like velociraptors and bunny rabbits caged together–and the media lean whichever way the Republicans would have them lean in their characterizations.
Moreover, note that Alberto Gonzales and President Bush both announced their total indifference to whatever the Senate did – a further public reflection of their boundless contempt for the institutions of government.
So what separates Lord North from Alberto Gonzales? As I noted previously, both went to great lengths to suspend habeas corpus and approved heartily of the abusive treatment of prisoners. So they have much in common. However, Lord North still had a residual sense of honor. Alberto Gonzales has absolutely none.
That leaves the next obvious step: impeachment.
More from Scott Horton:
Six Questions — October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm
Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”