Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Shocker #2: Bob Barr Once Spoke the Truth... Just Nine Years Too Early

Speaking of Bob Barr... While you ponder his and Henry Hyde's and Bob Livingston's hypocrisy...

...and while you ponder Scooter Libby and signing statements and executive privilege and Harriet Meiers' no-show and deleted emails and Alberto Gonzales and domestic eavesdropping and Cheney's claiming laws don't apply to him...

... and while you ponder Bush lying us into war and committing torture and unlawful detentions and all that, and the Administration suppressing intelligence and lying to the public and the UN...

...it's fun to go back and read what Bob Barr said in his big impeachment speech on the floor in October, 1998. I suggest that, with very few changes, this could be the magna carta of the Impeach Bush movement:

Mr. Chairman and all Americans, imagine a place where a dictator, a king, a prime minister or a president could walk into your home at any time and force you to accede to any demand, however unreasonable. Throughout history, including 18th century Britain, such regimes have been the norm. The system of rule by law under which we live stands as stark exception to the historically prevalent notion that a ruler can take whatever he wants whenever he wants it from any subject.

As we so quickly, however, forget in times of stability and prosperity our system is a fragile one, a brief flicker of light in an otherwise dark march of human political history. If we drop our guard, even for a moment, and allow a president to demand citizens gratify his personal desires and let him place himself in the way of laws designed to protect -- to prevent such conduct, that light will be greatly dimmed, if not snuffed out.

Our founding fathers understood the importance of restraining unbridled power because they grew up in a system that did not.

The Constitution includes explicit provisions that protect us from the abuse of power, including provisions to prevent us from being forced to quarter soldiers, to stop the government from imprisoning us without cause, and to protect us from involuntary services.

The facts of the case before us are not complex. Bill Clinton, first as governor and then as president, using power entrusted to him coarsely demanded personal favors from individual citizens. When one of those citizens refused, our Supreme Court voted unanimously to allow her access to the courts.

Yet, instead of apologizing, Bill Clinton continued to abuse his office to smear that citizen's name and block her access to justice. Instead of telling the truth to the court and the grand jury, the president lied. Instead of cooperating with the court, he obstructed its efforts.

At this very moment, government and private employees are working under his direct orders to block this committee's efforts.

We are witnessing nothing less than symptoms of a cancer on the American presidency. If we fail to remove it, it will expand to destroy the principles that matter most to all of us.

Any system of government can choose to perpetuate virtue or vice. If this president is allowed to use the presidency to gratify his personal desires in a way that -- in the same way a corrupt county or parish boss solicits money for votes, future occupants will sadly do the same.

If the proposition that perjury is sometimes acceptable is allowed to stand, in the blink of eye, it will become acceptable in every case. Such a precedent would hang forever as an albatross around the neck of our judicial system.

If we stand by while a president obstructs justice and destroys his enemies, our entire government will be contaminated with cynical disdain.

The president of the United States controls at his fingertips the greatest arsenal of destructive power ever assembled in human history, just as the governor of a state controls the state's police power. He has the ability to destroy one life or billions. He is the singular individual charged with the constitutional duty of faithfully enforcing the laws, all the laws, of the United States.

When evidence emerges that he would abuse that power or fail in that duty, it is a matter of gravest constitutional importance. If we fail to address such charges, we will soon be left standing dazed and befuddled among the smoldering ruins of a great democracy.

We will count the cost of choosing temporal stability over permanent justice and policies over principle in diminished freedoms -- lost policies, lost lives and ruined institutions.

History is littered with the records of nations whose leaders buried their heads in the sand as adversity appeared on the horizon. The U.S. of -- America, in 1998, must not suffer the same fate.

In America, we have a right not to be tapped on the shoulder and escorted to a room where a mayor, a governor or a president, endraped [sic] with absolute power, mistreats us.

When such conduct occurs, it is the right of any citizen to seek ultimate redress in the one -- the only form -- designed for that purpose, where each of us is on a level playing field with any other: our courts, the ultimate equalizer in our system of government.

Mr. Chairman, I also would say that anyone who has made it their goal to hide the truth, obstruct this process today or use it for political gain, should summon up whatever tattered remains of honor they have left, stand up and walk out of this room, taking with them such erroneous arguments as that the need to include graphic detail in the Starr referral was based on whim rather than the need to rebut the president's sorry attempt to deny reality and common sense alike.

Mr. Chairman, imagine if all the journalists, lawyers and staff who fill this room today disappeared. Imagine if they were replaced with the faces of all the great American heroes who have come before us -- the patriots who pledged their lives, fortunes and sacred honor to create a republic; the men who gathered in Philadelphia 211 years ago to solidify that with a Constitution.

HYDE: The gentleman's time has expired.

BARR: Would ask 15 additional seconds.

HYDE: Fifteen seconds.

BARR: The men who gathered in Philadelphia 211 years ago to solidify with a Constitution; the young soldiers who bled to death on foreign shores to protect it; the prosecutors who put their lives on the line to enforce its laws; every teacher who has led her class in reciting "The Pledge of Allegiance."

Could anyone look into the faces of those people and tell them it really doesn't matter that the president abused his power, lied to the American people, perjured himself and subverted the rule of law? Anyone who can answer yes to that question does not have the right to sit here today.

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