No Comment — August 10, 2007, 2:19 pm

The Biden Option

In an interesting interview published in the current issue of Newsweek, Senator Joe Biden responds to a question about possible impeachment actions against major actors in the Bush Administration with an alternative proposal:

Newsweek: You once called Slobodan Milosevic a war criminal to his face. You also told Dick Cheney that, were he not a constitutional officer, the president should fire him. So when it comes to the mistakes made in Iraq, why should impeachment of President Bush be off the table?

Biden: It shouldn’t be. But impeachment like everything else is a matter of priorities and responsibility. In order to move on impeachment now, we would be put in a position at a very, very delicate time in our nation’s history, of having necessarily to take our eye off the ball on a host of other things that will have longer-lasting impact on the security of this country. As a practical matter, it sucks all the oxygen out of the air. We would effectively be paralyzed for the next six months or longer . . . The alternative, and it’s taken me time to think through, I think we should be acquiring and accumulating all the data that is appropriate for possibly bringing criminal charges against members of this administration at a later date.

These points are not mutually exclusive, and Biden’s observation rests on an important point. He’s right that an impeachment process would bring the entire legislative process to close to a standstill. It’s also the case that impeachment and conviction works a removal from office, nothing more than that. The time remaining in the hands of these officeholders is already short.

Biden is certainly thinking about the longer term. What does it mean to have senior government officers who commit a series of high crimes and get away with it? That all future officeholders will have the same right to conduct their affairs above the law? That would make this country into much less of a democracy that the Founding Fathers gave us in 1789. A subsequent prosecution is a proper approach. And today, it’s vitally important that documentation of the criminal acts which have been committed be safely stored away so it can be used in future prosecutions: that includes evidence of the formulation of torture policy; the systematic evasion of the FISA statute; the use of the criminal justice system as a tool for political persecution.

These are all extremely serious crimes, and the perpetrators need to be called to account. Since Alberto Gonzales is a kingpin in this scheme, there is no chance that he will lead the effort. The job would have to await the arrival of a successor who is prepared to take his oath seriously and uphold the law.

Biden’s option is a serious approach, and one to be considered whether impeachment efforts proceed or not.

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Editor's Note

Many comedians consider stand-up the purest form of comedy; Doug Stanhope considers it the freest. “Once you do stand-up, it spoils you for everything else,” he says. “You’re the director, performer, and producer.” Unlike most of his peers, however, Stanhope has designed his career around exploring that freedom, which means choosing a life on the road. Perhaps this is why, although he is extremely ambitious, prolific, and one of the best stand-ups performing, so many Americans haven’t heard of him. Many comedians approach the road as a means to an end: a way to develop their skills, start booking bigger venues, and, if they’re lucky, get themselves airlifted to Hollywood. But life isn’t happening on a sit-com set or a sketch show — at least not the life that has interested Stanhope. He isn’t waiting to be invited to the party; indeed, he’s been hosting his own party for years.

Because of the present comedy boom, civilians are starting to hear about Doug Stanhope from other comedians like Ricky Gervais, Sarah Silverman, and Louis CK. But Stanhope has been building a devoted fan base for the past two decades, largely by word of mouth. On tour, he prefers the unencumbered arrival and the quick exit: cheap motels where you can pull the van up to the door of the room and park. He’s especially pleased if there’s an on-site bar, which increases the odds of hearing a good story from the sort of person who tends to drink away the afternoon in the depressed cities where he performs. Stanhope’s America isn’t the one still yammering on about its potential or struggling with losing hope. For the most part, hope is gone. On Word of Mouth, his 2002 album, he says, “America may be the best country, but that’s like being the prettiest Denny’s waitress. Just because you’re the best doesn’t make you good.”

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