What Next For the Bush/Cheney Administration? Maybe Guillotines!
They're immune to all laws, they can throw you in the gulag for any reason at all, and they can lock up all your money and property if you're "impeding" whatever crazed satanic bullshit they're doing now or in the future. So what can Congress or the Military or you, the hapless citizen, actually do to stop them? We've consulted top historians and constitutional scholars -- the ones that came up on the first page of the Google search, anyway -- and they've got some fun advice for America.
Congress can have double-secret proceedings, too! According to today's Post story on the whole "contempt no longer exists" trick, there's another kind of contempt that the House and Senate can independently prosecute: "Both chambers also have an "inherent contempt" power, allowing either body to hold its own trials and even jail those found in defiance of Congress. Although widely used during the 19th century, the power has not been invoked since 1934 and Democratic lawmakers have not displayed an appetite for reviving the practice."
According to Paul Lukasiak, commenting at the Volokh Conspiracy constitutional law blog, there's another procedure ready to go if anybody on the Hill can develop the spine to go through with it:
First things first. The House must institute impeachment proceedings, thus making it impossible for Bush to use his pardon powers once inherent contempt is cited.
Next thing, amend the Miers subpoena to include a reference to the impeachment proceedings, and give her 48 hours to show up and testify. If she doesn't, find her in "inherent contempt," and have her thrown in a local DC jail. (Since Congress has authority over DC, and Bush has authority over federal prisons, DC jails are the only option.)
Then the House needs to assert "Congressional Privilege" that far outweighs "Executive Privilege", insofar as Congressional privilege has a Constitutional basis in Article II, Section 8 -- and assert that Federal Courts have no jurisdiction over inherent contempt proceedings initiated by Congress under both Act II, Section 8 as well as the Constitutional provisions regarding Impeachment of a President.
Finally, every bill that goes to Bush's desk must include a provision forbidding the use of Federal funds to resist an inherent contempt citation issued pursuant to an impeachment proceeding.
If Bush wants a constitutional crisis, give him one.
Military Coup d'Etat: In April 2006, Harpers put together a nice little discussion group made up of Pentagon brass and military-history experts to talk about how a military coup in Washington would go down.
Brig. Gen. Charles J. Dunlap Jr. says it wouldn't be easy to pull off in the United States: "You could go down the list and take over these headquarters, that headquarters, the White House, the Defense Department, the television, the radio, and so on. You could arrest all the leaders, detain or kill off their families. And you would have accomplished nothing."
You could argue that something was accomplished, but Dunlap says there's more to it. The Pentagon personnel and Americans in general would have to make your rule legitimate by cooperating with it. And that would only be likely if there was already widespread support for taking down the administration and its regime -- which there is, even in the Pentagon. But military coup leaders would need to set firm dates for new elections -- November 4, 2008 would be good.
Another option, from Center for Strategic and International Studies adviser Edward N. Luttwak:
Let's say a president, exercising his proper and legitimate presidential authority, initiates a military action. Then Congress wakes up and says, "Wait a minute, this president is berserk; he's starting a war, and we're against it." But in the meantime, the military force has already been put in a very compromised situation. If things were moving very fast, the military might well take an unconstitutional action.
This would be kind of hilarious, if directed against the Bush/Cheney administration, because constitutional scholars have been saying for several years that the White House has been running an "incremental coup" that militarizes everything, including domestic law and corporations -- the NSA is a military agency, now spying on Americans within the United States using American telecommunications companies.
Appetite for Destruction: So how would people best encourage members of the House and Senate to "display an appetite" to pursue these old-timey tactics as well as other interesting options such as impeachment? Because we can all agree "contacting your representative" is a bit useless, right? And Washington's a long ways away from most Americans, etc.
One option is a "general strike," which is useful in that Americans are pretty lazy and if everyone else is skipping work, why not? But such a thing only really works if crucial cogs in the wheel stop moving, like air traffic controllers and school teachers (parents would be forced to stay home) and UPS drivers and harbor masters at the Port of Los Angeles where hundreds of giant Chinese freighters are lined up for unloadiing around the clock.
Other scholars say the best thing to do is go on a "local rampage." There are 100 senators and 432 representatives at the moment (three seats are vacant in the House), and each of these people have local offices as well as local residences. Experts say the congress critters will seriously start freaking out if hundreds of unhinged people collect around these local offices and barricade the local staffers inside. In the past, effigy burnings and mob attacks have proved particularly fruitful in garnering the attention of politicians in Washington.
Perhaps the most interesting tactic is looting and burning the local residences of the politicians in Washington, which was also common in the 19th Century. Nothing says "the constituents are a bit upset" like watching CNN coverage of your house on fire.
The challenge for those hoping to get participation from today's slow, ill-informed, fat American slugs is they won't do anything like this simply for political reasons. There must be free liquor and food. All it takes is for a handful of "organizers" to order a few kegs and a truckload of those giant Subway sandwiches and then call the local news and say, for example, "There's a riot going on outside Senator Numbnuts' big-ass house at 123 White People Drive in Fancy Hills. Send your live team!"
To get younger, possibly dangerous youngsters to take part in the "freedom rally," tech experts suggest posting MySpace messages for the fans of various popular youth acts with promises of free concerts and free Harry Potter books at the home addresses of hundreds of individual congress people in every district and every state. When the disappointed kids realize there's no concert and no Harry Potter books -- nothing but a lot of beer and meth, really -- they're going to go fucking nuts!
White House Trump Card: You can bet that while Bush is unconscious tomorrow (and likely to tragically never recover because the doctors sort of accidentally put him down with a massive overdose of sodium thiopental), President Cheney will be readying complete White House seizure of power as made possible by the National Security and Homeland Security Presidential Directive, signed by Bush just two months ago. The judicial and legislative branches are shut down by this Directive, putting Cheney in full control of the U.S. government and military.
Then what do you do? Well, it turns out he's not too popular and that a whole lot of regular working Americans are the people who work for the various police forces, government agencies, your local military bases and National Guard armories, etc. They're the ones who have to round you up, send you to the FEMA death camps, etc. Let's hope they decide that's all kind of a rotten idea!
If not, just remember that nobody's bulletproof. Says historian Richard Kohn:
I've raised this point before with military audiences: Do you really think you can control New York City without the cooperation of 40,000 New York police officers? And what about Idaho, with all those militia groups? Do you think you can control Idaho? I'm not even going to talk about Texas.