Evolution and Eden: Integrating Genesis with Fossil Records

Monday, July 30, 2007

Who are the least among us?

July 30, 2007


By Bruce Allen Morris

In a recent discussion with my arch conservative son-in-law, whom I love dearly, he defended his argument for racially profiled secret surveillence, summary imprisonment, and torture of Americans and legal and illegal aliens suspected of being terrorists with this little gem: "let's face it, Bruce, you and I and people like us will never be suspected of terrorism, so why should we care if the government spies on Muslims to protect us?" Miraculously stifling a primal scream, I began, in a later quiet time to meditate on that question and seek an answer based in his ideology that addresses his self-interest.

It caused me to remember another conversation with a young, idealistic homeless and hunger activist a few years earlier. As I was awakening from years of suppressing my liberal background and nature in a conservative job, I lamented to her my shame that our society, with so much wealth, treats low-income people so poorly. She replied: "our society does not treat anyone well, its just that some people have the money to take better care of themselves than others."

Then in the last few days, our President announced he would veto a proposed law to increase funding to the State Children's Health Insurance Program, thereby denying health care to millions of low-income children to save less money per year than we spend in Iraq each month. Denying health care to poor children while pushing for permanent tax cuts for the richest people in the history of the world. Then another shameful development. I just read a the most graphic story yet about the Bush Administration's refusal to help the Iraqi refugees Bush's own war is creating. "Bush Administration Utterly Callous Toward Iraqi Refugees" http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2007/07/28/2826/

Adding this conversation and these recent events to my meditation on how we treat each other and why those of us who can take care of ourselves should care deeply about those who cannot, I naturally found my way to Jesus and his most beautiful words on right human action.

Jesus And The Least Among Us

In its grand depiction of the scene when Jesus returns to earth as The King and judges his professed followers, the Book of Matthew accounts the ultimate test Jesus will use to decide who joins him in the Kingdom of Heaven and who will burn in eternal fire. And Jesus declares that those will join him in heaven who fed him when hungry, gave him drink when thirsty, clothed him when naked, visited him when sick, came to him in prison, and invited him in as a stranger. When they ask when they did these things for Jesus, he replies, "to the extent that you did it to one of your brothers, even to the least among you, you did it to me."

To those who would burn in eternity, Jesus explained:

"Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me." They also will answer, "Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?" He will reply, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least among you, you did not do for me."

Matthew, 45, 31-46 (42-46 quoted in full) (emphasis added).

Now, you may or may not believe in the concept of judgment day, or Jesus or even God, but that is not needed to understand the basic moral principle announced. In a more universally accessible spiritual, secular moral, or ethical sense, Jesus is announcing the only reliable test of a person's basic humanity: how that person treats the least among his or her society.

Action Toward The Least Among Us As An Essential Political Assessment

This most fundamental moral principle of right behavior and action is as important a political assessment as it is an assessment of humanity. Of course, the Bible and the words of Jesus are the sources of the radical Christian right's claim to political and legal superiority. But it is also incredibly important in a world with huge movements setting up Jesus's or Allah's or whoever's criteria for judgment day as the basis for legal and governmental systems to understand that Jesus's ultimate assessment of his followers was not how well they followed the Ten Commandments, whether they were for or against abortion or gay marriage or war against infidels, had sex outside marriage, or went to church every Sunday. No, the ultimate measure was whether they fed the hungry, clothed the naked, cared for the sick, visited the imprisoned, invited in strangers. And if they denied this even to the least among them, they also denied it to Jesus himself! But if they did this to all including the least among them, they also did it to Jesus himself! In short, God said through Jesus, how we treat each other is the single most important measure of our lives

More specifically, how we treat the least among us is the one and only truly reliable assessment of our genuine humanity and the only way to know how we can truly count on our political leaders to treat all members of society, including ourselves. To expand on that concept politically, let me first delve in to who are the least among us.

Who Are The Least Among Us?

The obvious groups are the ones Jesus listed: the poor, hungry, homeless, sick, mentally ill, imprisoned, strange, alien. Minorities, women and children are often among the least in societies. Native Americans have always been among the least here. But these listings are neither exhaustive nor exclusive. Numerous times in history wealth or familiarity did not protect certain groups or persons from becoming "least". Wealth did not protect Jews in Europe, nor Palestinians in either Palestine or Israel. In America, minorities would generally be included, but wealth has protected certain minorities from oppression or even bought them the same apparent exceptions from the rules applying to the non-wealthy long experienced by wealthy whites. Illegal aliens are certainly the least among us, but some are considered lower than others depending on their skin color and religion-Latinos and Persian, Arabic and Asian Muslims are considered much lower than Canadians or Europeans or even Indians.

Neither wealth nor legal status nor innocence protected the thousands of Muslims rounded up in the United States after September 11, 2001 and hounded, followed, spied-on and suspected ever since for the crime only of being Muslim and having brown skin. Children, of course represent the least among us in stature and political right, but children of successful parents are seldom considered among the leastwhile children of the poor most certainly are. To expand the definition even further beyond easy categories, think of those suddenly and unexpectedly oppressed for their political beliefs in the McCarthy era, or for their ancestral home in the Japanese internment.

The bottom line here is that no listing or categorization can tell us who are the least among us. So what is the answer?

I believe the answer is functional. The answer best illuminating the critical importance of this measure of humanity is this: the least among us are the least able to resist the treatment given to, denied or imposed on them; least able to retaliate for negative treatment; or least able to reciprocate for positive treatment. The least among us are those who can neither resist, retaliate nor reciprocate.

Why is the inability to resist, retaliate or reciprocate the most functional and meaningful definition of the least among us? Because the way we treat someone who can resist or retaliate for negative treatment only reliably shows how we act in the face of fear or expedience. The way we treat someone who can reciprocate for positive treatment only reliably shows how we act when we expect or are hoping for something in return. The key word here is "reliably." We may very well act with love and respect to the richest person in town out of genuine humanity, but an outside observer cannot be sure we are not simply ingratiating ourselves in hopes of future favor. Only by seeing how we treat those who cannot resist, retaliate or reciprocate can we know how a person acts based purely on his or her own humanity, love, or morality.

Why Should The Mainstream Observe and Care How The Least Are Treated?

Politically the way the least among us are treated is crucial because, as we have seen many times throughout history, the categories included in those who cannot resist, retaliate or reciprocate can change, and sometimes rapidly. Who would have thought in the 1940's that successful, famous and wealthy movie directors and writers only a few year later would be rendered penniless untouchables just because of a rumor that they once belonged to a hated (least) political party?

But perhaps the best illustration of this principle is the famous poem written by Martin Niemoller, a Nazi concentration camp survivor. One popular version (of many) recites:

First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a communist;

Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a socialist;

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a trade unionist;

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out - because I was not a Jew;

Then they came for me - and there was no one left to speak out for me.

Viewed in Matthew's framing of the risen Jesus on judgment day, Neimoller informs us that the least among us can not only change with shifting political tides, but can grow and evolve as tyrants learn they must expand the circle of those they oppress to prolong and tighten their dominance of society and hasten their appropriation of its wealth and resources.

He instructs us not only that we must remain ever vigilant of the rights of temporally demonized, suspected, or scapegoated-lesser- groups to ensure the protection of our own rights. Niemoller also warns us to remain ever observant of how our leaders treat the least among us, for that shows us the true face of their humanity and teaches us how they will treat all others who find themselves for whatever reason unable to resist, retaliate or reciprocate. In short, how our leaders treat the least among us shows us how we will be treated if we become one of least. Few in history have ever known this reality better than Niemoller and his contemporaries who found themselves in German concentration camps after no one was left to speak for them. After, in other words, they could no longer resist or retaliate.

So the answer to my son-in-law and all other conservatives is that we must care how our government treats Muslims today because we may ourselves be among the hated and therefore least group one day in the future. Sometime in the next fifty years, whites will nolonger be a majority. What if all minorities cooperate and decide to oppress white people? What if you were a high-flying corporate CEO and suddenly found yourself in prison for fraud? How would you like the way we treat prisoners then? More importantly and probably, with our society's abject refusal to take care of the least among us economically, what if we are hit by an uninsured driver in a crosswalk and end up with a brain injury leaving us unable to earn a living and our savings are not sufficient to sustain us? Without a doubt in American today the unemployed and mentally challenged are clearly among our least. How will we want our society to treat us when we are forced to join their number?

Not to go all metaphysical on you, but if we are all one ignored red light away from becoming the least among us, we are all, in effect, among the least right now. Nothing actualizes that was not potential and potentiality is just latent reality. So we should pay attention to how our leaders and our society treat the least among us because we are, in fact, all the least among us.

Authors Website: http://madnessofdivinity.blogspot.com

Authors Bio: Bruce is 46 year-old father of one, stepfather of three and grandfather of two, who left a lucrative law practice at a large national law firm to work, advocate and write for social justice and equality and find a way to incorporate a spiritual life into the material world. He now struggles along to make a decent living while holding true to his deepest principles in Portland Oregon.


Saturday, July 28, 2007

Howard Zinn: Are We Politicians or Citizens?

Are We Politicians or Citizens?
By Howard Zinn

May 2007 Issue

As I write this, Congress is debating timetables for withdrawal from Iraq. In response to the Bush Administration’s “surge” of troops, and the Republicans’ refusal to limit our occupation, the Democrats are behaving with their customary timidity, proposing withdrawal, but only after a year, or eighteen months. And it seems they expect the anti-war movement to support them.

That was suggested in a recent message from MoveOn, which polled its members on the Democrat proposal, saying that progressives in Congress, “like many of us, don’t think the bill goes far enough, but see it as the first concrete step to ending the war.”

Ironically, and shockingly, the same bill appropriates $124 billion in more funds to carry the war. It’s as if, before the Civil War, abolitionists agreed to postpone the emancipation of the slaves for a year, or two years, or five years, and coupled this with an appropriation of funds to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act.

When a social movement adopts the compromises of legislators, it has forgotten its role, which is to push and challenge the politicians, not to fall in meekly behind them.

We who protest the war are not politicians. We are citizens. Whatever politicians may do, let them first feel the full force of citizens who speak for what is right, not for what is winnable, in a shamefully timorous Congress.

We who protest the war are not politicians. We are citizens. Whatever politicians may do, let them first feel the full force of citizens who speak for what is right, not for what is winnable, in a shamefully timorous Congress.

Timetables for withdrawal are not only morally reprehensible in the case of a brutal occupation (would you give a thug who invaded your house, smashed everything in sight, and terrorized your children a timetable for withdrawal?) but logically nonsensical. If our troops are preventing civil war, helping people, controlling violence, then why withdraw at all? If they are in fact doing the opposite—provoking civil war, hurting people, perpetuating violence—they should withdraw as quickly as ships and planes can carry them home.

It is four years since the United States invaded Iraq with a ferocious bombardment, with “shock and awe.” That is enough time to decide if the presence of our troops is making the lives of the Iraqis better or worse. The evidence is overwhelming. Since the invasion, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have died, and, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, about two million Iraqis have left the country, and an almost equal number are internal refugees, forced out of their homes, seeking shelter elsewhere in the country.

Yes, Saddam Hussein was a brutal tyrant. But his capture and death have not made the lives of Iraqis better, as the U.S. occupation has created chaos: no clean water, rising rates of hunger, 50 percent unemployment, shortages of food, electricity, and fuel, a rise in child malnutrition and infant deaths. Has the U.S. presence diminished violence? On the contrary, by January 2007 the number of insurgent attacks has increased dramatically to 180 a day.

The response of the Bush Administration to four years of failure is to send more troops. To add more troops matches the definition of fanaticism: If you find you’re going in the wrong direction, redouble your speed. It reminds me of the physician in Europe in the early nineteenth century who decided that bloodletting would cure pneumonia. When that didn’t work, he concluded that not enough blood had been let.

The Congressional Democrats’ proposal is to give more funds to the war, and to set a timetable that will let the bloodletting go on for another year or more. It is necessary, they say, to compromise, and some anti-war people have been willing to go along. However, it is one thing to compromise when you are immediately given part of what you are demanding, if that can then be a springboard for getting more in the future. That is the situation described in the recent movie The Wind That Shakes The Barley, in which the Irish rebels against British rule are given a compromise solution—to have part of Ireland free, as the Irish Free State. In the movie, Irish brother fights against brother over whether to accept this compromise. But at least the acceptance of that compromise, however short of justice, created the Irish Free State. The withdrawal timetable proposed by the Democrats gets nothing tangible, only a promise, and leaves the fulfillment of that promise in the hands of the Bush Administration.

There have been similar dilemmas for the labor movement. Indeed, it is a common occurrence that unions, fighting for a new contract, must decide if they will accept an offer that gives them only part of what they have demanded. It’s always a difficult decision, but in almost all cases, whether the compromise can be considered a victory or a defeat, the workers have been given some thing palpable, improving their condition to some degree. If they were offered only a promise of something in the future, while continuing an unbearable situation in the present, it would not be considered a compromise, but a sellout. A union leader who said, “Take this, it’s the best we can get” (which is what the MoveOn people are saying about the Democrats’ resolution) would be hooted off the platform.

I am reminded of the situation at the 1964 Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, when the black delegation from Mississippi asked to be seated, to represent the 40 percent black population of that state. They were offered a “compromise”—two nonvoting seats. “This is the best we can get,” some black leaders said. The Mississippians, led by Fannie Lou Hamer and Bob Moses, turned it down, and thus held on to their fighting spirit, which later brought them what they had asked for. That mantra—“the best we can get”—is a recipe for corruption.

It is not easy, in the corrupting atmosphere of Washington, D.C., to hold on firmly to the truth, to resist the temptation of capitulation that presents itself as compromise. A few manage to do so. I think of Barbara Lee, the one person in the House of Representatives who, in the hysterical atmosphere of the days following 9/11, voted against the resolution authorizing Bush to invade Afghanistan. Today, she is one of the few who refuse to fund the Iraq War, insist on a prompt end to the war, reject the dishonesty of a false compromise.

Except for the rare few, like Barbara Lee, Maxine Waters, Lynn Woolsey, and John Lewis, our representatives are politicians, and will surrender their integrity, claiming to be “realistic.”

We are not politicians, but citizens. We have no office to hold on to, only our consciences, which insist on telling the truth. That, history suggests, is the most realistic thing a citizen can do.

Howard Zinn is the author, most recently, of “A Power Governments Cannot Suppress.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Iraqi Vets Sue VA Head for Poor Care,

Injured Iraq War Veterans Sue Bush’s VA Head for Poor Care, Cheating

by Hope Yen

WASHINGTON — Frustrated by delays in health care, a coalition of injured Iraq war veterans is accusing VA Secretary Jim Nicholson of breaking the law by denying them disability pay and mental health treatment.

The class-action lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, filed Monday in federal court in San Francisco, seeks broad change in the agency as it struggles to meet growing demands from veterans returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Suing on behalf of hundreds of thousands of veterans, it charges that the VA has failed warriors on several fronts - from providing prompt disability benefits, to adding staff to reduce wait times for medical care to boosting services for post-traumatic stress disorder.

The lawsuit also accuses the VA of deliberately cheating some veterans by allegedly working with the Pentagon to misclassify PTSD claims as pre-existing personality disorders to avoid paying out benefits. The VA and Pentagon have generally denied such charges.

VA spokesman Matt Smith said Monday he could not comment on a pending lawsuit. But he said the agency is committed to meeting the special needs of Iraq war veterans.

“Through outreach efforts, the VA ensures returning Global War on Terror service members have access to the widely recognized quality health care they have earned including services such as prosthetics or mental health care,” he said. “VA has also given priority handling to their monetary disability benefit claims.”

The lawsuit comes amid intense political and public scrutiny of the VA and Pentagon following reports of shoddy outpatient care of injured soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and elsewhere.

“Unless systemic and drastic measures are instituted immediately, the costs to these veterans, their families, and our nation will be incalculable, including broken families, a new generation of unemployed and homeless veterans, increases in drug abuse and alcoholism, and crushing burdens on the health care delivery system,” the complaint states.

It asks that a federal court order the VA to make immediate improvements that would speed disability payments, ensure fairness in awards and provide more complete access to mental health care.

Earlier this month, a federal appeals court in San Francisco issued a strong rebuke of the VA in ordering the agency to pay retroactive benefits to Vietnam War veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange and contracted a form of leukemia.

“The performance of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs has contributed substantially to our sense of national shame,” the opinion from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals read.

Nicholson abruptly announced last week he would step down by Oct. 1 to return to the private sector. He has repeatedly defended the agency during his 2 1/2-year tenure while acknowledging there was room for improvement.

More recently, following high-profile suicide incidents in which families of veterans say the VA did not provide adequate care, Nicholson pledged to add mental health services and hire more suicide-prevention coordinators.

Some veterans say those measures aren’t enough. In the lawsuit, they note that government investigators warned as early as 2002 that the VA needed to fix its backlogged claims system and make other changes.

Yet, the lawsuit says, Nicholson and other officials still insisted on a budget in 2005 that fell $1 billion short, and they made “a mockery of the rule of law” by awarding senior officials $3.8 million in bonuses despite their role in the budget foul-up.

Today, the VA’s backlog of disability payments is now between 400,000 and 600,000, with delays of up to 177 days to process an initial claim and an average of 657 days to process an appeal. Several congressional committees and a presidential commission are now studying ways to improve care.

“While steps can and will be taken in the political arena, responsibility for action lies with the agency itself,” said Melissa W. Kasnitz, managing attorney for Disability Rights Advocates, in a telephone interview. Her group is teaming up with a major law firm, Morrison & Foerster, to represent the veterans.

“We don’t believe the problems will be fixed by the VA if we wait for them,” she said. “In the meantime, it is veterans who risk their lives for our country who are suffering the consequences.”

The lawsuit cites violations of the Constitution and federal law, which mandates at least two years of health care to injured veterans.

The veterans groups involved in the lawsuit are Veterans for Common Sense in Washington, D.C., which claims 11,500 members, and Veterans United for Truth, based in Santa Barbara, Calif., with 500 members.


On the Net:

Disability Rights Advocates: http://www.dralegal.org/

Department of Veterans Affairs: http://www.va.gov/

© 2007 The Associated Press

Friday, July 20, 2007

All the President's ENABLERS

All the President's Enablers
By Paul Krugman
The New York Times

Friday 20 July 2007

In a coordinated public relations offensive, the White House is using reliably friendly pundits - amazingly, they still exist - to put out the word that President Bush is as upbeat and confident as ever. It might even be true.

What I don't understand is why we're supposed to consider Mr. Bush's continuing confidence a good thing.

Remember, Mr. Bush was confident six years ago when he promised to bring in Osama, dead or alive. He was confident four years ago, when he told the insurgents to bring it on. He was confident two years ago, when he told Brownie that he was doing a heckuva job.

Now Iraq is a bloody quagmire, Afghanistan is deteriorating and the Bush administration's own National Intelligence Estimate admits, in effect, that thanks to Mr. Bush's poor leadership America is losing the struggle with Al Qaeda. Yet Mr. Bush remains confident.

Sorry, but that's not reassuring; it's terrifying. It doesn't demonstrate Mr. Bush's strength of character; it shows that he has lost touch with reality.

Actually, it's not clear that he ever was in touch with reality. I wrote about the Bush administration's "infallibility complex," its inability to admit mistakes or face up to real problems it didn't want to deal with, in June 2002. Around the same time Ron Suskind, the investigative journalist, had a conversation with a senior Bush adviser who mocked the "reality-based community," asserting that "when we act, we create our own reality."

People who worried that the administration was living in a fantasy world used to be dismissed as victims of "Bush derangement syndrome," liberals driven mad by Mr. Bush's success. Now, however, it's a syndrome that has spread even to former loyal Bushies.

Yet while Mr. Bush no longer has many true believers, he still has plenty of enablers - people who understand the folly of his actions, but refuse to do anything to stop him.

This week's prime example is Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana, who made headlines a few weeks ago with a speech declaring that "our course in Iraq has lost contact with our vital national security interests." Mr. Lugar is a smart, sensible man. He once acted courageously to head off another foreign policy disaster, persuading a reluctant Ronald Reagan to stop supporting Ferdinand Marcos, the corrupt leader of the Philippines, after a stolen election.

Yet that political courage was nowhere in evidence when Senate Democrats tried to get a vote on a measure that would have forced a course change in Iraq, and Republicans responded by threatening a filibuster. Mr. Lugar, along with several other Republicans who have expressed doubts about the war, voted against cutting off debate, thereby helping ensure that the folly he described so accurately in his Iraq speech will go on.

Thanks to that vote, nothing will happen until Gen. David Petraeus, the top commander in Iraq, delivers his report in September. But don't expect too much even then. I hope he proves me wrong, but the general's history suggests that he's another smart, sensible enabler.

I don't know why the op-ed article that General Petraeus published in The Washington Post on Sept. 26, 2004, hasn't gotten more attention. After all, it puts to rest any notion that the general stands above politics: I don't think it's standard practice for serving military officers to publish opinion pieces that are strikingly helpful to an incumbent, six weeks before a national election.

In the article, General Petraeus told us that "Iraqi leaders are stepping forward, leading their country and their security forces courageously." And those security forces were doing just fine: their leaders "are displaying courage and resilience" and "momentum has gathered in recent months."

In other words, General Petraeus, without saying anything falsifiable, conveyed the totally misleading impression, highly convenient for his political masters, that victory was just around the corner. And the best guess has to be that he'll do the same thing three years later.

You know, at this point I think we need to stop blaming Mr. Bush for the mess we're in. He is what he always was, and everyone except a hard core of equally delusional loyalists knows it.

Yet Mr. Bush keeps doing damage because many people who understand how his folly is endangering the nation's security still refuse, out of political caution and careerism, to do anything about it.

Amen , Paul Krugman, and thank you for pointing it out.

Paschal, July 20

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

On Impeachment, by Bill Moyers.

Bill Moyers: On Impeachment
Bill Moyers Journal

Friday 13 July 2007

Bill Moyers: Welcome to the Journal.

Impeachment...the word feared and loathed by every sitting president is back. It's in the air and on your computer screen, a growing clamor aimed at both President Bush and Vice-President Cheney.

This week's news only agitated the clamor. The president acknowledged that someone in his administration did leak the name of a CIA agent to the press, but he said let's move on - even as he refused to let his former White House counsel testify to Congress about political influence at the Justice Department.

So the talk in Washington was of executive arrogance. All the more so as the Democratic House voted to withdraw US troops from Iraq by next spring despite a threat of veto by President Bush. A public opinion poll from the American Research Group reports that more than four in ten Americans - 45 per cent-favor impeachment hearings for President Bush and more than half -54 per cent - favor putting Vice President Cheney in the dock.

Are these the first tremors of a major shock wave…or just much ado about nothing? First, let's take a look at the last time a president found himself fighting off an impeachment campaign. It happened less than a dozen years ago. And what was the issue:

President Bill Clinton: I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky...

Bill Moyers: But he did. And even after that denial in early 1998, President Clinton lied again seven months later - this time under oath to a federal grand jury. But that very evening he had a change of heart.

President Bill Clinton: "Indeed, I did have a relationship with Miss Lewinsky that was not appropriate. In fact, it was wrong….I know that my public comments and my silence about this matter gave a false impression. I misled people, including even my wife. I deeply regret that."

Bill Moyers: For one powerful Republican member of Congress, an apology wasn't enough. Tom Delay, then the majority whip of the House, convinced speaker Newt Gingrich and Republican leaders that Clinton's lie called for nothing less than removing the president from office - impeachment. Special prosecutor Kenneth Starr was commissioned to gather the evidence. Starr eventually sent 36 boxes of evidence to the capitol. They catalogued his investigation of Clinton's finances, a sexual harassment suit filed by Paula Jones and sting operations mounted by the prosecutor to uncover the details of the Lewinsky affair. Nearly 500 pages summarizing the report were quickly posted on the internet. For the next month, the house judiciary committee waded through the report. What the case meant depended largely on party affiliation. Democrats insisted it all came down to lying about sex.

Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL): The president betrayed his wife ...he did not betray his country

Bill Moyers: Republicans, who controlled the House, argued it was about something more important.

Rep. Bill McCollum (R-FL): Truthfullness is the glue that holds our justice system together

Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA): With his conduct and his arrogance...William Jefferson Clinton has thrown a gauntlet at the feet of the Congress.

Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-MI): This is not Watergate. This is an extramarital affair.

Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI): Even the president of the United States does not have the license to lie.

Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL): Wake up, America, they are about to impeach our president.

Bill Moyers: on october 5, 1998, the house judiciary committee authorized a full impeachment inquiry……only the third u.s. president in history to be seriously threatened with removal from office. The constitution says a president may be impeached for "treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors". Experts were called to interpret those words:

Leon Higginbotham Jr., Former US Appeals Court Judge: There has never been, never been an impeachment proceeding on this miniscule level...

Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., University of New York: All the independent counsel's charges thus far derive from the president's lies about his sex life. His attempts to hide personal misbehavior are certainly disgraceful. But if they are to be deemed impeachable, then we reject the standards laid down by the framers in the Constitution and trivialize the process of impeachment.

Prof. Alan Dershowitz, Harvard University: The only reason the majority of this committee cares about perjury is because they believe that President Clinton, their political opponent, is guilty of it.

Bill Moyers: The House Judiciary listened…and then drafted two articles of impeachment accusing Clinton of perjury…a third accusing him of obstruction of justice and yet a fourth, of making false statements. A week later, December 19, 1998, the full House met to consider the articles. They approved two of them…one for perjury…another for obstruction of justice. Republican leaders called for Clinton to resign. He didn't, and now it was the Senate's constitutional task to conduct the impeachment trial ordered by the House. The Senators met behind closed doors …and on Friday, February 12, 1999, the verdict was delivered to the chief justice of the Supreme Court.

Chief Justice William Rehnquist: Is not guilty as charged in the second article of impeachment.

President Clinton: I want to say again to the American people how profoundly sorry I am for what I said and did to trigger these events and the great burden they have imposed on the Congress and on the American people.

Bill Moyers: One of the fellows you're about to meet wrote the first article of impeachment against President Clinton. Bruce Fein did so because perjury is a legal crime. And Fein believed no one is above the law. A constitutional scholar, Bruce Fein served in the Justice Department during the Reagan administration and as general counsel of the Federal Communications Commission. Bruce Fein has been affiliated with conservative think tanks such as the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation and now writes a weekly column for THE WASHINGTON TIMES and Politico.com.

He's joined by John Nichols, the Washington correspondent for THE NATION and an associate editor of the CAPITOL TIMES. Among his many books is this most recent one, THE GENIUS OF IMPEACHMENT: THE FOUNDERS' CURE FOR ROYALISM. Good to see you both. Bruce, you wrote that article of impeachment against Bill Clinton. Why did you think he should be impeached?

Bill Moyers: Bruce you wrote that article of impeachment against Bill Clinton. Why did you think he should be impeached?

Bruce Fein: I think 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 was justified impeachment if he 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 every man, if you're president, is entitled to be a law unto himself. I think Bush's crimes are a little bit different. I think they're a little bit more worrisome than Clinton's. You don't have to have -

Bill Moyers: More worrisome?

Bruce Fein: More worrisome than Clinton's - because he 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.

Bill Moyers: You're talking about terrifying power but this is a terrifying time. People are afraid of those people abroad who want to kill us. Do you think, in any way, that justifies the claims that Bruce just said Bush has made?

John Nichols: I think that the war on terror, as defined by our president, is perpetual war. And I think that he has acted precisely as Madison feared. He has taken powers unto himself that were never intended to be in the executive. And, frankly, that when an executive uses them, in the way that this president has, you actually undermine the process of uniting the country and really focusing the country on the issues that need to be dealt with. Let's be clear. If we had a president who was seeking to inspire us to take seriously the issues that are in play and to bring all the government together, he'd be consulting with Congress. He'd be working with Congress. And, frankly, Congress, through the system of checks and balances, would be preventing him from doing insane things like invading Iraq.

Bruce Fein: In the past, presidents like Abe Lincoln, who confronted a far dire emergency in the Civil War than today, sought congressional ratification approval of his emergency measures. He didn't seek to hide them from the people and from Congress and to prevent there to be accountability. And, of course, Congress did ratify what he had done. Secondly, sure, times can be terrifying. But that also should alert us to the fact that we can make mistakes. The executive can make mistakes.

Take World War II. We locked up 120,000 Japanese Americans, said they were all disloyal. Well, we got 120,000 mistakes. They lost their property. They lost their liberty for years and years because we made a huge mistake. And that can be true after 9/11 as well. No one wants other downgrade the fact that we have abominations out there and people want to kill us. But we should not inflate the danger and we should not cast aside what we are as a people. We can fight and defeat these individuals, these criminals, based upon our system of law and justice. It's not a - we have a fighting constitution. It's always worked in the past. But it still remains the constitution of checks of balances.

Bill Moyers: A fighting constitution -

Bruce Fein: It's a fighting constitution that enables us-

Bill Moyers: What do you mean?

Bruce Fein: That with the - with the consent of Congress and the president working hand in glove with consistent with due process of law, we have the authority to suspend habeas corpus in times of invasion or rebellion. It has enabled us to defeat all of our enemies consistent with the law.

Bill Moyers: Congress did not stand up to George Bush for five years when it was controlled by Republicans. And I don't see any strong evidence that the Democrats are playing the role that you think the Congress should be playing.

Bruce Fein: That is correct. But it doesn't exculpate the president that Congress has not sought immediately to sanctions his excesses.

Bruce Fein: - exactly right. And Bill, this could not happen if we had a Congress that was aggressive, if we had a Congress the likes of Watergate when Nixon was president and he tried to - obstruct justice and defeat the course of law. We have a Congress that basically is an invertebrate.

Bill Moyers: But why is Congress supine?

John Nichols: They are supine for two reasons. One, they are politicians who do not - quite know how to handle the moment. And they know that something very bad happened on September 11th, 2001, now five years ago, six years ago. And they don't know how to respond to it. Whereas Bush and Karl Rove have responded in a supremely political manner to it and, frankly, jumped around them. That's one part of the problem.

Bill Moyers: Jumped around Congress?

John Nichols: Jumped around Congress at every turn. I mean, they don't even tell them, they don't consult with them. They clearly have no regard for the checks and balances. But the other thing that's - in play here - and I think this is a - much deeper problem. I think the members of our Congress have no understanding of the Constitution. And as a result, they - don't understand their critical role in the governance of the country.

They - it - when the Republicans are in charge, they see their job as challenging - or as supporting the president in whatever he does, defending him, making it possible for him to do whatever he wants. When the Democrats are in charge, they seem to see their role as trying to score political points as opposed to what ought to be sort of a - common ground of -

Bill Moyers: - because the fact of the matter is approaching an - election year, you don't really think, do you, that the Democrats want to experience a backlash by taking on a Republican president in an election-

John Nichols: Well, it -

Bill Moyers: - or that the Republicans want to impeach an administration that they elected in 2000 and reelected in 2004? There is a political element here, right?

Bruce Fein: There's always going to be a political element, Bill. But in the past, there's always been a few statesmen who have said, "You know, the political fallout doesn't concern me as much as the Constitution of the United States." We have to keep that undefiled throughout posterity 'cause if it's not us, it will corrode. It will disappear on the installment plan. And that has been true in the past. When we had during Watergate Republicans and remember Barry Goldwater, Mr. Republican, who approached the president and said, "You've got to resign." There have always been that cream who said the country is more important than my party. We don't have that anymore.

Bill Moyers: It seems to me the country is ahead of Congress on this. How do you explain all this talk about impeachment today out across the country?

John Nichols: People don't want to let this go. They do not accept Nancy Pelosi's argument that impeachment is, quote/unquote, off the table. Because I guess maybe they're glad she didn't take some other part of the Constitution off the table like freedom of speech. But they also don't accept the argument that, oh, well, there's a presidential campaign going on. So let's just hold our breath till Bush and Cheney get done.

When I go out across America, what I hear is something that's really very refreshing and very hopeful about this country. An awfully lot of Americans understand what Thomas Jefferson understood. And that is that the election of a president does not make him a king for four years. That if a president sins against the Constitution - and does damage to the republic, the people have a right in an organic process to demand of their House of Representatives, the branch of government closest to the people, that it act to remove that president. And I think that sentiment is afoot in the land.

Bill Moyers: This is the first time I've heard talk of impeaching both a president and a vice-president. I mean, this - as you saw in that poll, more people want to impeach Dick Cheney than George Bush. What's going on?

Bruce Fein: Well, this is an unusual affair of president/vice-president, where the vice-president is de facto president most of the time. And that's why most of people recognize that these decisions, especially when it comes to overreaching with executive power, are the product of Dick Cheney and his aide, David Addington, not George Bush and Alberto Gonzalez or Harriet Miers, who don't have the cerebral capacity to think of these devilish ideas. And for that reason, they equate the administration more with Dick Cheney than with George Bush.

Bill Moyers: Bruce, you talk about overreaching. What, in practical terms, do you mean by that?

Bruce Fein: It means asserting powers and claiming that there are no other branches that have the authority to question it. Take, for instance, the assertion that he's made that when he is out to collect foreign intelligence, no other branch can tell him what to do. That means he can intercept your e-mails, your phone calls, open your regular mail, he can break and enter your home. He can even kidnap you, claiming I am seeking foreign intelligence and there's no other branch Congress can't say it's illegal - judges can't say this is illegal. I can do anything I want. That is overreaching. When he says that all of the world, all of the United States is a military battlefield because Osama bin Laden says he wants to kill us there, and I can then use the military to go into your homes and kill anyone there who I think is al-Qaeda or drop a rocket, that is overreaching. That is a claim even King George III didn't make -

Bruce Fein: - at the time of the Revolution.

John Nichols: Can I - can I -

Bruce Fein: That is clearly overreaching.

John Nichols: Let me keep us on Cheney for a second here, because that is -

Bill Moyers: You think Cheney should be subject to impeachment hearings?

John Nichols: Without a doubt. Cheney is, for all practical purposes, the foreign policy president of the United States. There are many domestic policies in which George Bush really is the dominant player. But on foreign policy Dick Cheney has been calling the shots for six years and he continues to call the shots. Remember back in 2000, in the presidential debates, George Bush said America should be a humble country in the world, shouldn't go about nation building. And Dick Cheney, in the vice-presidential debate, spent eight minutes talking about Iraq.

Now the fact of the matter is that on foreign policy, Dick Cheney believes that the executive branch should be supreme. He said this back to the days when he was in the House during Iran-Contra. He wrote the minority report saying Congress shouldn't sanction the president in any way, President Reagan.

Bill Moyers: And he's always taken an expansive -

John Nichols: Right.

Bill Moyers: - view of presidential power.

John Nichols: And put these pieces together. If Cheney believes in this expansive power. You've got a - unique crisis, a unique problem because the vice-president of the United States believes that Congress shouldn't even be a part of the foreign policy debate. And he is setting the foreign policy. I mean -

Bill Moyers: I served a president who went to war on his own initiative, and it was a mess, Vietnam, Lyndon Johnson. There wasn't serious talk about impeaching Lyndon Johnson or Hubert Humphrey. Something is different today.

Bruce Fein: Yeah, of course, the - difference is one thing to claim that, you know, Gulf of Tonkin resolution, was too broadly drafted. But we're talking about assertions of power that affect the individual liberties of every American citizen. Opening your mail, your e-mails, your phone calls. Breaking and entering your homes. Creating a pall of fear and intimidation if you say anything against the president you may find retaliation very quickly. We're claiming he's setting precedents that will lie around like loaded weapons anytime there's another 9/11.

Right now the victims are people whose names most Americans can't pronounce. And that's why they're not so concerned. They will start being Browns and Jones and Smiths. And that precedent is being set right now. And one of the dangers that I see is it's not just President Bush but the presidential candidates for 2008 aren't standing up and saying -

Bruce Fein: - "If I'm president, I won't imitate George Bush." That shows me that this is a far deeper problem than Mr. Bush and Cheney.

Bill Moyers: That struck me about your writings and your book. You say your great - your great fear is that Bush and Cheney will hand off to their successors a toolbox that they will not avoid using.

John Nichols: Well, let's try a metaphor. Let's say that - when George Washington chopped down the cherry tree, he used the wood to make a little box. And in that box the president puts his powers. We've taken things out. We've put things in over the years.

On January 20th, 2009, if George Bush and Dick Cheney are not appropriately held to account this administration will hand off a toolbox with more powers than any president has ever had, more powers than the founders could have imagined. And that box may be handed to Hillary Clinton or it may be handed to Mitt Romney or Barack Obama or someone else. But whoever gets it, one of the things we know about power is that people don't give away the tools. They don't give them up. The only way we take tools out of that box is if we sanction George Bush and Dick Cheney now and say the next president cannot govern as these men have.

Bruce Fein: Well, that's accurate but also we do find this peculiarity that Congress is giving up powers voluntarily. because there's nothing right now, Bill, that would prevent Congress from the immediate shutting down all of George Bush's and Dick Cheney's illegal programs. Simply saying there's no money to collect foreign intelligence-

Bill Moyers: The power of the purse-

Bruce Fein: - the power of the purse. That is an absolute power. And yet Congress shies from it. It was utilized during the Vietnam War, you may recall, in 1973. Congress said there's no money to go and extend the war into Laos and Cambodia. And even President Nixon said okay. This was a president who at one time said, "If I do it, it's legal." So that it we do find Congress yielding the power to the executive branch. It's the very puzzle that the founding fathers would have been stunned at. They worried most over the legislative branch in, you know, usurping powers of the other branches. And -

Bill Moyers: Well, what you just said indicts the Congress more than you're indicting George Bush and Dick Cheney.

Bruce Fein: In some sense, yes, because the founding fathers expected an executive to try to overreach and expected the executive would be hampered and curtailed by the legislative branch. And you're right. They have basically renounced - walked away from their responsibility to oversee and check. It's not an option. It's an obligation when they take that oath to faithfully uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States. And I think the reason why this is. They do not have convictions about the importance of the Constitution. It's what in politics you would call the scientific method of discovering political truths and of preventing excesses because you require through the processes of review and vetting one individual's perception to be checked and - counterbalanced by another's. And when you abandon that process, you abandon the ship of state basically and it's going to capsize.

John Nichols: Can I mention another branch of government?

Bill Moyers: Yeah, sure.

John Nichols: Let me mention the unspoken branch of government, which is the fourth estate: The media. The fact of the matter is the founders anticipated that presidents would overreach. And they anticipated that at times politics would cause Congress to be a weaker player or a dysfunctional player. But they always assumed that the press would alert the people, that the press would tell the people. And the fact of the matter is I think that our media in the last few years has done an absolutely miserable job of highlighting the constitutional issues that are in play. You know, you can't have torture and extraordinary rendition. You cannot have spying. You cannot have a - lying to Congress. You cannot have what happened to Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame, you know?

Bill Moyers: When she was outed and they tried to punish -

John Nichols: Plotted out of the vice-president's office without question. Notations of the vice-president on news articles saying, "Let's go get this guy." Right? You know, you can't have that and not have a media going and saying to the president at press conferences, you know, "Aren't - isn't what you're doing a violation of the Constitution?" Now, just imagine if the - if the members of the White House Press Corps on a regular basis were saying to Tony Snow, "But hasn't what the president's done here violated the Constitution?" The whole national dialogue would shift. And Congress itself would suddenly become a better player. So I'm not absolving Congress. I'm certainly not absolving Bush and Cheney. But I am saying that we have a media problem here as well.

Bruce Fein: Let me underscore one of the things that you remember, Bill, 'cause I was there at the time of Watergate. And this relates to one political - official in the White House, Sara Taylor's testimony. And claiming that George Bush could tell her to be silent.

Bill Moyers: That was a great moment when Sara Taylor said, "I took an oath to uphold the president." Did you see that?

Bruce Fein: Yes. And that was like the military in Germany saying, "My oath is to the Fuhrer, not to the country." She took an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States. I did, too, when I was in the government. There's no oath that says, "I'm loyal to a president even if he defiles the Constitution."

John Nichols: Ever.

Bill Moyers: Just this week Harriet Miers, the president's former counsel, did not show up to testify before the congressional hearing. What do you make of that in regard to this issue of power?

Bruce Fein: Well, it shows how far we've come from even the mon - monarchical days of Richard Nixon where he didn't have the audacity to tell John Dean, "No, you can't testify before the Watergate committee about conversations you had with me about obstructing justice or otherwise."

Bill Moyers: John Dean was his counsel -

Bruce Fein: White House counsel -

Bill Moyers: - just as Harriet Miers -

Bruce Fein: - is to President Bush. Yes.

Bill Moyers: And Nixon said to Dean, "You must go up there and testify"?

Bruce Fein: No. He didn't attempt to impose any objection at all. And Dean, of course, broke the Watergate story that led to Nixon's impeachment and the House's judiciary committee -

Bill Moyers: And look what -

Bruce Fein: - and resignation. And now we have a comparable situation where a Harriet Miers could perhaps expose things regarding President - Bush's knowledge of the electronic surveillance program or the firing of U.S. attorneys, which seems to contradict what Alberto Gonzalez has said about White House involvement. And yet President Bush is saying, "You can't talk, Harriet Miers, because I don't want any of that political or legal embarrassment." And unlike John Dean who brought the Constitution forward with his testimony, Harriet Miers still is silent.

Bill Moyers: And you would put that in the bill of particular about impeachment?

Bruce Fein: Certainly with regard to the one example of the abuse of presidential authority, seeking to obstruct a legitimate congressional investigation by a preposterous assertion of executive privilege. Remember, in a democracy, in - under the Constitution, transparency and sunshine is the rule. The exception is only for matters of grave national security secrets. That certainly doesn't apply here.

Bill Moyers: How does the Scooter Libby affair play into this? Do you think that people - I mean, how did the Scooter Libby thing play into this? People seem really angry about this. And this is, to me, where the tipping point came.

John Nichols: If it wasn't for the president's commutation of Scooter Libby's sentence, we would not be sitting at this table and talking right now.

Bill Moyers: About impeachment?

John Nichols: About impeachment. That sentence opened up a dialogue in this country and even in Congress. A number of members of Congress stepped up and signed on to Dennis Kucinich's articles of impeachment against Vice-president Cheney after the Scooter Libby commutation.

John Nichols: We're talking tonight because of the Scooter Libby affair. And -

Bill Moyers: You mean the impeachment -

John Nichols: You - we're at this table because the fact of the matter is that impeachment has moved well up the list of things we can talk about because of the Scooter Libby affair. Now, should it be the - one that tipped it? I think Bruce and I would probably both agree no. There are probably more important issues. But the Scooter Libby affair gets to the heart of what I think an awfully lot of Americans are concerned about with this administration and with the executive branch in - general, that it is lawless, that - it can rewrite the rules for itself, that it can protect itself.

And, you know, the founders anticipated just such a moment. If you look at the discussions in the Federalist Papers but also at the Constitutional Convention, when they spoke about impeachment, one of the things that Madison and George Mason spoke about was the notion that you needed the power to impeach particularly as regards to pardons and commutations because a president might try to take the burden of the law off members of his administration to prevent them from cooperating with Congress in order to expose wrongdoings by the president himself. And so Madison said that is why we must have the power to impeach. Because otherwise a president might be able to use his authority and pardons and such to prevent an investigation from getting to him.

Bill Moyers: Are you suggesting that Libby had the goods on Cheney and Bush?

John Nichols: I think the bottom line is Scooter Libby was involved in conversations that, frankly, if those conversations were brought up, the American people would be very helpful to our discourse about whether we entered this war illegally and whether we've continued this war in ways which we never should have.

Bruce Fein: I think the spark against the Libby commutation is a little bit different focus. I think it's less on the idea he's covering up for Cheney or Bush than the indication that Bush is totally heedless of any honor for law and accountability. That he has special rules for him and his cabinet. You may recall at the outset of the investigation he said, "Anybody in my office who is responsible for this leak will not work for me." Karl Rove was shown to leak and Karl Rove was still sitting in the White House. And he says, "Well, he will issue a commutation here." But he's not issued commutations in similar circumstances to anybody else.

Moreover, the perjury of the obstruction of justice of Libby is a carbon copy of Clinton, which Republicans, including me, supported. That's why I said you've got to give a stiff sentence here. How can you say that Clinton's deserves impeachment and here you're communing someone who did the same thing. And it's that sort of outrage that this is now a sneering attitude towards everybody else. "I am king. You play by other people's rules, but as long as I am in the White House, I get to play by my rules." That is something that-

Bruce Fein: - offends everybody.

Bill Moyers: Sneering is not an impeachable offense.

Bruce Fein: Screening in isolation is not but this is combined with all of the other things he's done outside the law. The intelligence gathering, the enemy combatant status, the kidnappings in - dungeons abroad, all in secret and never disclosing anything to Congress or the American people. Indeed, we couldn't even be discussing some of these issues here like the foreign intelligence collection program if it weren't leaked to the New York Times. If he had his way, this would be secret forever.

John Nichols: Sneering is not an impeachable sentence. But the founders who had recently fought a revolution against a king named George would tell you that monarchical behavior, the behavior of a king, acting like a king, is an impeachable offense. You need not look for specific laws or statutes. What you need to look for is a pattern of behavior that says that the presidency is superior not merely to Congress but to the laws of the land, to the rules of law. And that is why we ought to be discussing impeachment. Not because of George Bush and Dick Cheney but because we are establishing a presidency that does not respect the rule of law. And people, Americans, are rightly frightened by that. Their fear is the fear of the founders. It is appropriate. It is necessary.

Bill Moyers: Very quickly, is there a - you and I have been on almost parallel tracks. I'm older than you. But we've been in the been in and around the presidency. We've been in Washington during the Cold War and now the war on terrorism. Is there a pathology at work here in the presidency that deeply troubles you?

Bruce Fein: Well, it's - I'm not sure I would call it a pathology in the sense that the founding fathers understood how power and national security affairs would naturally tend to aggrandize the executive branch. But I do think that we have this deforming of the Constitution when we have become a superpower and we have been engaged then in global politics which naturally gravitate authority to the executive branch. And what the founding fathers couldn't have understood is why Congress has taken such a back seat.

And the American people I think, because the executive branch has tried to exploit the natural fear factor instead of explaining this - yes, we have a right to be concerned but we can do this within the law. They've exploited that fear and say, "No, we've got to go outside the law." And that's something that I'd say is very deep seated and it's continued - started with the - Gulf of Tonkin resolution, you know, with the administration, Johnson administration, and continued on with Nixon and Ford and Carter. And it's - had, you know, periods where it's been allegro and then adagio. So the speed has changed but otherwise the direction has been the same.

Bill Moyers: So practically, what do you think should happen now? And what do people listening, what can they do?

Bruce Fein: I think what ought to happen is there needs to be these hearings in the judiciary hearing this is why we care.

Bill Moyers: Impeachment hearing -

Bruce Fein: Impeachment -

Bruce Fein: This is why these are -

Bill Moyers: You're saying you want the judiciary committee to call formal hearings on the impeachment of George Bush and Dick Cheney?

Bruce Fein: Yes. Because there are political crimes that have been perpetrated in combination. It hasn't been one, the other being in isolation. And the hearings have to be not into this is a Republican or Democrat. This is something that needs to set a precedent, whoever occupies the White House in 2009. You do not want to have that occupant, whether it's John McCain or Hillary Clinton or Rudy Giuliani or John Edwards to have this authority to go outside the law and say, "I am the law. I do what I want. No one else's view matters."

John Nichols: The hearings are important. There's no question at that. And we should be at that stage. Remember, Thomas Jefferson and others, the founders, suggested that impeachment was an organic process. That information would come out. The people would be horrified. They would tell their representatives in Congress, "You must act upon this." Well, the interesting thing is we are well down the track in the organic process. The people are saying it's time. We need some accountability.

Bill Moyers: But Nancy Pelosi doesn't agree.

John Nichols: Nancy Pelosi is wrong. Nancy Pelosi is disregarding her oath of office. She should change course now. And more importantly, members of her caucus and responsible Republicans should step up. It is not enough -

Bill Moyers: Well, Bruce is not the only conservative -

John Nichols: - and others are. But -

Bill Moyers: And Bob Barr, who's been here.

Bruce Fein: David Keene

John Nichols: But they do so, by and large, in a cautious way. They say, "Well, the president's done too much." Let's start to use the "i" word. Impeach is a useful word. It is a necessary word. The founders in the Constitution made no mention of corporation or political parties or conventions or primaries or caucuses. But they made six separate references to impeachment. They wanted us to know this word, and they wanted us to use it.

Bill Moyers: You're - does this process have to go all the way to the end? Do Bush and Cheney have to be impeached before it serves the public?

John Nichols: I think that what Bush and Cheney have done makes a very good case that the public and the future would be well served if it did go all the way to the end. But there is absolutely a good that comes of this if the process begins, if we take it seriously. And the founders would have told you that, - that impeachment is a dialogue. It is a discourse. And it is an educational process. If Congress were to get serious about the impeachment discussions, to hold the hearings, to begin that dialogue, they would begin to educate the American people and perhaps themselves about the system of checks and balances, about the powers of the presidency, about, you know, what we can expect and what we should expect of our government.

And so I think that when Jefferson spoke about this wonderful notion of his that said the tree of liberty must be watered every 20 years with the blood of patriots, I don't know that he was necessarily talked about warfare. I think he was saying that at a pretty regular basis we ought to seek to hold our - highest officials to account and that process, the seeking to hold them to account, wherever it holds up, is - a necessary function of the republic. If we don't do it, we move further and further toward an imperial presidency.

Bruce Fein: The great genius of the founding fathers, their revolutionary idea, with the chief mission of the state is to make you and them free to pursue their ambitions and faculties. Not to build empires, not to aggrandize government. That's the mission of the state, to make them free, to think, to chart their own destiny. And the burden is on government to give really good explanations as to why they're taking these extraordinary measures. And on that score, Bush has flunked on every single occasion. And we need to get the American people to think. Every time that there's an incursion on freedom, they have to demand why. What is the explanation? Give me a good reason before I give up my freedom.

Bill Moyers: But read that prologue of the Constitution. The first obligation is to defend the people, to defend their freedom, to defend their rights. And I hear people out there talking in their living rooms right now, Bruce and John, saying, "But wait a minute, you know, we've got these terrorists. We know. Look what happened in London just two weeks ago. We know they're out there. Who else is looking out for us except Bush and Cheney?"

Bruce Fein: And Cheney and Bush have shown that these measures are optical. Take, for instance, these military conditions that combine judge, jury, and prosecutors. What have they done? They tried the same offenses that are tried in civilian courts. American Taliban John Walker Lindh got 20 years in the civilian courts. And then we have the same offense, David Hicks, he gets nine months in military prison. Why are you creating these extraordinary measures? They aren't needed. We have the foreign intelligence -

Bill Moyers: - we don't need to do what Bush-

Bruce Fein: No, we don't. They're doing these for optical purposes.

Bill Moyers: What do you mean "optical"?

Bruce Fein: They're trying to create the appearance that they're tougher than all of their opponents 'cause they're willing to violate the law, even though the violations have nothing to do with actually defeating the terrorism. And we have instances where the president now for years has flouted the Foreign Intelligence Act. He's never said why the act has ever inhibited anybody. Remember, this act has been around for over a quarter of a century, and no president ever said it impaired his gathering of foreign intelligence. And suddenly the president's, "No, we have to violate it and flout it because it doesn't work." Well, why? He's never explained it. He's never explained why this act stopped gathering of all the intelligence that was needed to fight the terrorists.

Bill Moyers: No president and no vice-president have been sitting in the White House or sitting in Washington when terrorists, when killers tried to come in airplanes and crashed into the White House, crashed into the Capitol. Can - isn't there something to be said for -

Bruce Fein: Let me - there's truth and then there's an inaccuracies. Certainly in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 we were in a fog. There could have been hundreds of thousands terrorist cells. You could understand the president, "I've got to take any action I need right now to uncover a possible second edition of 9/11." And, of course, as soon as I do that, I will go to Congress as soon as possible. I will seek ratification. That's an immediate aftermath of 9/11. We know a lot more in 2007, in July. We know this is not 100 or 1,000 terrorist cells.

We know this is not the danger of the Soviet Union or Hirohito or the Third Reich. And yet the president continues to insist. That's why we need military commissions. We need to say you're an enemy combatant and stick you in prison forever without any judicial review and otherwise.That is a total distortion of what the genuine nature of the problem is and our ability to fight and defeat these terrorists with ordinary civil - the criminal proceedings. And then - and as you say, they have utilized, Bill, repeatedly. The World Trade Center bombings in 1993, in the aftermath of 9/11 we've had countless conspiracy cases that stopped the terrorist - enterprises in the bud. And the - fact is that the utilization of these extraordinary measures has been relatively infrequent, showing that they're largely, they're relevant to the quest to defeat al-Qaeda.

John Nichols: Let's go to another zone of this where, you know, they've really been way off the deep end and that is torture. Has the use of torture has the vice-president sort of winking and nodding enthusiasm for the use of torture, has Abu Ghraib helped America? Are we in a better position in the world, in - getting cooperation from other countries? Are we in a better position in Iraq because of those pictures from Abu Ghraib? I would suggest to you that using these extraordinary powers and doing so in a non-transparent way, in a secretive way, which certainly suggests that even a - an awareness of the illegality of it, that - does more harm than good.

And this is, again, what the founders intended. They intended a consultative process. When the president seizes power, extraordinary power unto himself, he isolates himself. He isolates himself from the rest of the government, and he isolates himself from the people. And so I think that people out there in America who are worried, you know, "Wow, if we take on and try and constrain the president in a time of war, in a time of danger, we may be endangering the country," are actually going the wrong direction.

Bruce Fein: And, in fact, without the dialogue you continue the folly like in Vietnam when you shut off debate. And that's what's happened in Iraq, why we continue to persist. Like the 88th charge of the Light Brigade that keeps failing. You think it'll work on the 89th time. But I want to go to a more important point that John mentioned, with specifics as to how - what the president has done, has made us less safe. We have now indictments in both Italy and Germany against CIA operatives because they abducted and threw into dungeons and tortured people abroad. We need their cooperation if we're going to defeat al-Qaeda.

Bill Moyers: You mean the cooperation of those governments.

Bruce Fein: Of those governments. And now they're saying, "The heck with it. You know, you can't come on our soil and kidnap people outside the law and throw them into dungeons."

Bill Moyers: That's what Putin does. Putin is doing that -

Bruce Fein: Polonium 210, you know? You - can we borrow some from you? And moreover, think, Bill, of the precedent it sets. It is basically saying, "Mr. Putin, you can kidnap an American outside the Louvre in Paris, throw him in a dungeon in Belarus and say, "Hey, he said sympathetic things about the Chechyans." And therefore, you can operate outside the law because the Chechyans are people you oppose. That's the precedent the president is saying is legal. But the other element with regard to the abuses to point out are Abu Ghraib. That's - those pictures are all on al-Jazeera television. And they get shown every single day, 24 hours a day, to the Muslim youth that's seeking some meaning in their life. And that's what increases the recruitment attractiveness of al-Qaeda. Those Abu Ghraib abuses -

Bill Moyers: Well, did you see the Associated Press reported a day or two ago that al-Qaeda, according to intelligence reports, al-Qaeda is now at greater strength than it was before 9/11.

Bruce Fein: And that's because of the recruitment. That's - and because of the abuses, they are able to portray the United States' conflict with terrorism as a conflict with Islam, not with terrorists.

John Nichols: And let us -

Bruce Fein: And that is a terrible, terrible danger for the American people.

John Nichols: But let's take President Bush at his word. Let's take him at his word. He says that what he is doing is that this is a war on terror. That the goal is to weaken al-Qaeda, that is to make America more secure. And so throw out all this other discussion, all the other dialogue we've had. Has he been successful? Has - is he doing it the right way? Well, I think we have an awful lot of evidence from the government itself, from the CIA itself is that it hasn't worked. It has been a highly ineffective strategy. And so the question of whether he's making us more secure really is a debatable one. And the role of Congress at such a point becomes absolutely critical. We don't - you don't say, "Oh, well, you know, the Congress - the president seems to be screwing up. And so - well, let's sit back and see what he does next." And that seems to be what Democrats in Congress are saying.

Bill Moyers: Remember in the setup to our discussion I pointed out that Tom DeLay, then the third most powerful Republican in the House, made it his mission to impeach Bill Clinton. Is there a Tom DeLay in the Congress today making it his or her mission to impeach Bush and Cheney?

John Nichols: Look - I'm glad there - I'm glad there isn't a Tom DeLay. Because Tom DeLay was seeking to impeach Bill Clinton for political reasons. He did not -

Bill Moyers: Infidelity.

John Nichols: No, it wasn't infidelity. It was he didn't like the fact that Bill Clinton was president. He wanted to remove the president by means other than an election. I hope there is someone there who seeks to constrain the presidents of the United States and constrains the presidency of the United States, not merely because they happen to disagree with the guy but because -

Bill Moyers: I have to interrupt you and say, look, you guys don't live in la-la land. Both of you are in - in and around power all the time. Why doesn't Nancy Pelosi see it her duty to take on at least the impeachment hearings that you say would educate the public about the states that you think -

Bruce Fein: Because I think that politics has become debased so that it's a matter of one party against another and jockeying and maneuvering. There is no longer any statesmanship.

Bruce Fein: I go back to the real vulnerability and weakness of Congress, that they don't have anybody who can, as a chairman or even asking a question like John or me say, "Mr. Attorney General, you answer that question. This is the United States of America. Transparency is the rule here. We don't have secret government. That's what Alexander Solzhenitsyn wrote about in the Gulag. That's not the United States of America. We pay your salary. We have a right to know 'cause it's our duty to decide whether what you're doing is legal and wise, not yours. Answer that question or you're held in contempt right now." And that's - and all you need is that tone of voice. But what happens up there? "Well, would you please answer?" Well, are you sure? When - could you get John Ashcroft? I mean, it's just staggering.

John Nichols: And you know what?

Bruce Fein: All you would need a lecture like that and they'd answer. They'd be embarrassed - And you have to have a certain vision, Bill. You have - you have to have a certain depth of conviction about philosophy and what the Constitution means, why those people died. They reached that last full measure of devotion, Cemetery Hill, Guatel Canal, Iwo Jima, the Battle of the Bulge, because there was something higher. You have to feel that in your body and your stomach cause you've mastered all those people who have sacrificed in the past and you know the danger of unchecked power 'cause you read history. You're not a novice. There isn't anybody in the Congress who's able to do that because they don't have that background. But they don't have that temperament.

John Nichols: - there may be such people but their first step, their first step must be something that is very hard in these days of extreme partisanship and these days in money and politics and a media that doesn't cover politics very well. Their first step has to be to say, "I cherish my country more than my party and more than the next election." And so - probably. We're talking about a Democrat.

Bill Moyers:BILL MOYERS: - to take the lead?

John Nichols: And that Democrat's first responsibility is to go to Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, the person who decides what committee assignments they may have and even how nice an office they may get, and say, "You know, Nancy, I respect you. I respect you greatly, Mrs. Speaker. But the country's more important. So you can - you can get mad at me. You can, you know, push back internally and whatever. But I'm going to the American people and I'm going to talk to them like Bruce Fein just did. Now, my sense is the response to the American people and, frankly, the response of a lot of other members of Congress would be to stand up and applaud. But you have to have that initial courage to do so.

Bruce Fein: I think that you have to have not only the courage but you have to have that conviction because it's part of your being.

Bill Moyers: But the -

Bruce Fein: You understand what the United States is about.

Bill Moyers: But by your - by what you're saying, you're admitting that nobody has that conviction because it's not happening.

Bruce Fein: I agree. And it's hard to know how to just make it happen by spontaneous combustion, Bill. And that's the frustrating element here. Because without that those intellectual and temperamental ingredients, it just isn't going to happen. You do need a leadership element in there. And I don't see it either in the House or the Senate now.

Bill Moyers: You just said in one sentence there "impeach Bush and Cheney." You're talking about taking that ax against the head of government, both of them.

John Nichols: No. No, no, no.

Bruce Fein: It's not an ax, Bill.

John Nichols: We're talking -

Bruce Fein: It's not an ax - it's not - Impeachment is not a criminal proceeding.

John Nichols: You are being -

Bruce Fein: - we cannot entrust the reins of power, unchecked power, with these people. They're untrustworthy. They're asserting theories of governments that are monarchical. We don't want them to exercise it. We don't want Hillary Clinton or Rudy Giuliani or anyone in the future to exercise that.

John Nichols: Bill Moyers, you are making a mistake. You are making a mistake that too many people make.

Bill Moyers: Yes.

John Nichols: You are seeing impeachment as a constitutional crisis. Impeachment is the cure for a constitutional crisis. Don't mistake the medicine for the disease. When you have a constitutional crisis, the founders are very clear. They said there is a way to deal with this. We don't have to have a war. We don't have to raise an army and go to Washington. We have procedures in place where we can sanction a president appropriately, do what needs to be done up to the point of removing him from office and continue the republic. So we're not talking here about taking an ax to government. Quite the opposite. We are talking about applying some necessary strong medicine that may cure not merely the crisis of the moment but, done right-

Bruce Fein: Moreover, it's -

John Nichols: - might actually cure -

Bruce Fein: It's not an attack on Bush and Cheney in the sense of their personal - attacks. Listen, if you impeach them, they can live happily ever after into their-

John Nichols: And go to San Clemente.

Bruce Fein: Yes, go to San Clemente or go back to the ranch or whatever. But it's saying no, it's the Constitution that's more important than your aggrandizing of power. And not just for you because the precedent that would be set would bind every successor in the presidency as well, no matter Republican, Democrat, Independent, or otherwise.

John Nichols: The fact of the matter is that, again, the genius of impeachment is it tells the president that, wow, there is a Congress. And that Congress is on your case. And it causes, I think at its best, it causes a president to want to prove he can cooperate, to want to prove he can live within the law.

Bruce Fein: Can I interrupt just a second here?

Bill Moyers: Yeah, sure, sure.

Bruce Fein: 'Cause it seems to me very important. I think that if impeachment proceedings began and the president and the vice-president sat back and said, "We understand now. We both understand. We renounce this claim. No military commissions. We're going to comply with the law," the impeachment proceedings ought to stop and they should. It's not trying to be punitive and recriminate against the officials but you've got to get it right. And it's that what I hope would happen.

I've said if the president now renouncing the power and said, "It was wrong and I now respect and honor the separation and the genius of the founding fathers," that's great. And all of the purpose of impeachment would have been accomplished. They could stay in office and we'd have the greatest precedent with regards to executive authority and the separation of powers and checks and balances. This is not an effort to try to blacken the names of the president and vice-president. And nothing would gratify me more than having them stand up and say, "Yeah, I've thought about this now. My mind is concentrated wonderfully," as Sam Johnson would say. The prospect of impeachment, I've been convinced.

John Nichols: But also we would have hit that educational moment, that rare moment where a president of the United States has been forced to - go before the American people and say, "Oh, yeah, I just remembered, you're the boss. You are the bosses. Not me. And that I am not a king." Again, this is why raising impeachment at this point, it's a very late point, is so important. Because we are defining what the presidency will be in the future today because we do know the high crimes and misdemeanors of George Bush and Dick Cheney. They have been well illustrated even by a - rather lax media. They have been discussed in Congress

If we know these things and we do not hold them to account, then we are saying, as a people and as a Congress, we are saying that we can find out that you have violated the rule of law. We can find out that you have disregarded the Constitution. You - we can find out that you've done harm to the republic. But there will still be no penalty for that. If that's the standard that we've set, it will hold. It will not be erased in the future.

Bruce Fein: One of the lessons we should have learned from the Nixon impeachment is that it didn't quite fulfill its purpose because Nixon was never compelled to renounce what he'd done.

John Nichols: Yes.

Bruce Fein: And after which he boasted that what the president does it it's legal. He wasn't repentant at all. If we had insisted maybe as a condition of the pardon or otherwise, you need to repent. We are a government of laws, not of men. And it's wrong for anyone to assert unchecked power. That would have had such a pedagogical effect that would have deterred anything in the future. We've got to make certain this time around we get that proper acknowledgement from the -

John Nichols: - there was a group of members, Democratic members of the House, who went to Tipp O'Neil and to-

Bill Moyers: Then speaker of the House.

John Nichols: - back in 1974, after Nixon had resigned, and said, "We must continue the impeachment process." It's - it is under the Constitution certainly appropriate to do so. And we must continue it because we have to close the circle on presidential power. And the leaders in Congress, the Democratic leaders in Congress at the time said, "No, the - country has suffered too much." Well, this is the problem. Our leaders treat us as children. They think that we cannot handle a serious dialogue about the future of our republic, about what it will be and how it will operate. And so, you know, to an extent, we begin to act like children. We, you know, follow other interests. We decide to be entertained rather than to be citizens.

Well, you know, and Bruce makes frequent references to the fall of the Roman Empire. You know, that's the point at where the fall comes. It doesn't come because of a bad leader. It doesn't come because of a dysfunctional Congress. It comes when the people accept that - role of the child or of the subject and are no longer citizens. And so I think this moment becomes so very, very important because we know the high crimes and misdemeanors.

The people themselves have said, if the polls are correct, that, you know, something ought to be done. If nothing is done, if we do not step forward at this point, if we do not step up to this point, then we have, frankly, told the people, you know, you can even recognize that the king has no clothes, but we're not gonna put any clothes on him. And at that point, the country is in very, very dire circumstances.

Bill Moyers: Bruce Fein and John Nichols, thanks to both of you for being with us on The Journal. It's been a very interesting discussion.

Bruce Fein: Thank you.

John Nichols: Thank you.

Bill Moyers: As we just heard from Bruce Fein and John Nichols, our country is in a constitutional crisis that could change the nature of our democracy. There was a sense it earlier in the week as the Senate debated what to do about the war in Iraq. Here are some excerpts.

Sen. Joseph Biden: Do we continue to send our kids into the middle of a meat grinder based on a policy that is fundamentally flawed? I don't think there are a dozen Republicans on that side of the aisle who agree with the President's strategy.

Sen. Gordon Smith: Some of my colleagues have said just cut off the funding. I have felt that dangerous and dishonorable. President Bush has said stay the course, and I find that troubling.

Sen. Lindsey Graham: This is a democracy that's less than four years old. Their constitution's less than 18 months old. The army and the police force four years ago was there to support the dictator, not democracy. So if you expect from the ashes of the dictatorship a functioning democracy in four years, I think you're sadly mistaken, because it took us 11 years to write our own Constitution.

Sen. Joe Lieberman: We were elected to defend our beloved country, it's security and it's values. All that is on the line in Iraq today. So I appeal to my colleagues, let's not undercut our troops and legislate a defeat in Iraq where none is occurring.

Sen. John McCain: When you lose a war, the consequences of failure are far, far more severe on the military than the strain that is put on the military when they are fighting. It is a fact. It is a fact of military history. It is a fact of the war that we lost in Vietnam, which took us well over a decade to restore any kind of efficiency in our military.

Sen. Barbara Boxer: After this weekend's violence, senior Iraqi officials called on Iraqi civilians to arm themselves and fight insurgents. That's from the government. They're not telling the people this government will protect you, the Americans have drained 300,000 of us, no, we're ready to protect you, no. The answer is arm yourselves so that when the insurgents break down your door you can kill them before they kill you. What a situation.

Sen. John McCain: I welcome this debate, as I said earlier. I think it is important to inform the American people. I think it is important to have a respectful exchange of views. And I will continue to respect the views of the Senator from California, but I will tell her that I have seen this movie before, and I have seen what happens when we have a defeated military and we have people who assure us that a withdrawal is without consequences.

Sen. Joseph Biden: This administration has not made, when given a choice, a single correct decision on Iraq. Hear me. That is a bold statement. I cannot think of a single decision when they have been faced with a choice that theyÕve made the right choice. I cannot think of one. Way back, when the President asked me why I was calling for Rumsfeld's resignation, and the Vice President was in the room, in the Oval Office, I said: With all due respect, Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, if, Mr. Vice President, if you were not a constitutional officer, I would call for your resignation too. He looked at me and said: Why? I said: Because, Mr. President, name me one piece of advice either Rumsfeld or Cheney have given you in Iraq that has turned out to be right. Name me one. One. One.

Bill Moyers: As that debate revealed Congress is polarized and paralyzed. And down at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, President Bush still was insisting Congress should stay out of the war. he and Vice President Cheney are holding out for better news from Iraq in September. But when September comes, you can count on more appeals for delay or excuses. that's the formula for perpetual war - what our founders most feared, because it would turn our Constituion on its head, throwing off the checks and balances so crucial to liberty, and leaving all power in an imperial executive. Already the war in Iraq is in its 5th year, costing $10 billion a month, with the casualties mounting. All week a line from the poet Marvin Bell floated through my mind:

"What/shall we do, we who are at war but are asked/to pretend we are not?"

What shall we do? impeachment hearings are one way to go, as you heard Fein and Nichols say. In the meantime, those of us in public television have an obligation to make sure viewers like you stay in the loop. I wish we had carried the congressional debate this week in full - all of it - in prime time. When we broadcast teach-ins on the Vietnam war, and the Watergate hearings during the trial of Richard Nixon, it was a real public service - the reason PBS was created. We should keep Iraq in prime time every week - the fighting and dying, the suffering, the debate, the politics - the extraordinary costs. It's months until September. This war is killing us now, body and soul.

That's it for the journal. I'm Bill Moyers.