The Delinquent Congress
The Crisis Papers.
June 12, 2007
The Administration of George Bush has, in effect, suspended the
Constitution of the United States. At Guantánamo
in Cuba, in military prisons in the United States, and in secret
detention facilities abroad, American citizens and non-citizens are
being held without charge, without counsel, without prospect of a jury
trial, in violation of the Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and Eighth articles of
the Bill of Rights. These rights apply to all persons under United
States jurisdiction. The word “citizen” appears nowhere in the Bill of
The same Administration has conducted warrantless surveillance of
American citizens in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the Bill of
Rights, and despite an explicit order of the Supreme Court to cease and
And the Administration, in violation of ratified treaties which have the
force of law (Article Six of the Constitution), is engaged in an
undeclared war against a non-threatening nation, and is torturing
prisoners. The treaties are, respectively, the Nuremberg Accords and the
The President, upon signing Congressional legislation, issues “signing
statements” which state, in effect, that he can, at his discretion,
ignore the legislation above his signature. And he has issued a
“directive” that, in event of some unspecified “emergency” so designated
by himself, he can assume dictatorial powers.
Nor is this the end of it. As most readers are well aware, there have
been numerous additional illegal acts by the Bush Administration,
including the “outing” of a covert intelligence officer, obstruction of
justice, and lying to the Congress and the American people.
The institution best situated to put an end to these crimes and to hold
the criminals accountable to the rule of law is the Congress of the
United States, each member of which has taken an oath to “protect and
defend the Constitution of the United States.”
Five months into its new term, the Congress now in control of the
Democratic party has done essentially nothing to restore the rule of law
and the supremacy of the Constitution. The initial decisive act leading
to that end might be as simple as the passage of this two sentence
“The Congress of the United States hereby affirms
that the Constitution is the supreme law of the United States.
Accordingly, any and all legislation and executive orders in
violation of the Constitution are null and void.”
The word “affirms” is crucial, for it states that at no
time was the Constitution legally “in suspension,” and thus any
legislation or acts by the Bush administration in violation thereof were
at all times illegal and invalid. Accordingly, the word
"restoration" must be avoided in such a resolution.
The Democrats should bring this resolution to a vote, and dare the
Republicans to vote against it. The GOP would doubtless resist by
calling it a “meaningless political stunt,” and would struggle to
prevent an open vote. But if it were to be brought to a vote, who would
dare go on record with a denial that the Constitution is the supreme law
of the land?
And if such a resolution were to pass both houses of Congress, it should
be immediately followed by other resolutions specifying the implications
of that first resolution. Namely,
It is affirmed that all US citizens and other
individuals under US jurisdiction enjoy the protection of Habeas
Corpus, as specified in Article 1, Section 9 of the Constitution.
Therefore, all persons in custody at Guantánamo and
other prisons must either be charged with a crime and given a fair
trial, or released. Following that, the Guantánamo facility must be
closed and all "renditions" of prisoners to other countries cease.
All torture of so-called “enemy combatants” must
All provisions of the Patriot Act and the Military
Provisions Act in violation of the protections of the Constitution
must be declared null and void.
Acts of Congress signed by the President have the
status of law, and signing statements have no legal status whatever.
In addition, the Congress should act upon the following:
Cite Attorney General Gonzales for perjury,
obstruction of justice and contempt of Congress. Then proceed with
End the funding of the Iraq occupation, except for
the funds required for the prompt withdrawal of American troops from
Proceed with investigations and then indictments for
war profiteering, with special attention directed toward Halliburton
and its ex-CEO, Dick Cheney.
At long last, investigate election fraud by e-voting
machines, intimidation, and voter disenfranchisement (e.g., through
Above all, issue bills of impeachment of Bush and Cheney,
followed by investigations, hearings and open debate.
Impeachment is being resisted by “practical” Democratic
politicians on the grounds that even if it succeeded in the House,
conviction and removal from office would surely fail in the Senate.
I am not at all certain of this, in view of what might result from the
House investigations and debate. But this objection misses the point.
Ultimate conviction and removal may be less important than the
impeachment process and the evidence and prosecution case that would
result from it. Once the high crimes and misdemeanors of Bush and
Cheney are brought to light, those who vote against impeachment in the
House and conviction in Senate may pay a high price at the polls.
In the meantime, what is the progressive citizen and voter to do? Both
parties have betrayed the trust of the American public and have violated
their oaths to protect and defend the Constitution. Thus those of us who
are justifiably disgusted with both parties, are faced with daunting
One the one hand, should we punish the Democrats by voting for third
parties? Such a decision serves to keep the Republicans in power which
would keep the culprits forever unaccountable for their crimes.
On the other hand, should we vote for the Democrats, as the lesser of
the evils? If so, the party might construe this as public approval of
its delinquent behavior.
With much reluctance and regret, I would opt for the latter alternative,
all the while putting a well-deserved scare into the ranks of the
Most immediately, all Democrats who voted for Bush’s Iraq resolution and
otherwise collaborated with the outlaw regime should be challenged in
the primaries. A few might lose their seats to such challenges, though
most would not. But even if the challenges fall short, strong showings
at the polls by the progressive challengers will send a message: we the
people are here, we protest, and we demand to be heard.
If that protest fails to reform the Democrats, then perhaps it will be
time to look to third parties. The Democrats must understand that this
remains a live option.
Finally, progressives must take a lesson from the religious right and
take over the Democratic Party from the bottom up. Get active in local
and state party activities, send progressives to the state conventions
and then to the national convention. Far better to take control of an
existing major party organization than to attempt to build a national
organization for a minor party.
The good news for the Democrats is that public approval of Bush is down
to around thirty percent. The bad news is that
the public approval of the Democratic Congress is not much
above that: thirty-seven percent, down from forty-four percent in April.
And the worst news is that this poor and declining public opinion of the
Democratic Congress is well-deserved. (July 17: Congressional
approval, now at 23%, is below that of President Bush).
There is no other way to put it: the Congressional Democratic leadership
(with a few honorable exceptions) has failed the American public and has
violated its oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United
We must demand that they wake up and do their duty, assuring them that
if they do, they will earn the respect and support of their
Copyright 2007, by Ernest Partridge
Ernest Partridge's Internet Publications
Conscience of a Progressive:
Partridge's Scholarly Publications. (The Online Gadfly)
Dr. Ernest Partridge is a consultant, writer and lecturer in the field
of Environmental Ethics and Public Policy. He has taught Philosophy at
the University of California, and in Utah, Colorado and Wisconsin. He
publishes the website, "The Online
Gadfly" and co-edits the progressive website,
"The Crisis Papers".
His e-mail is: firstname.lastname@example.org .