Justice-2009: Because justice delayed is better than no justice at all
Many of us in the Democratic rank and file remain strongly committed to the belief that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney should be impeached. That’s certainly the unanimous view of the regulars at The Last Chance Democracy Café. But in today’s episode, as we continue our long road trip to Washington, DC, Winston forces us to confront the unhappy reality that — barring dramatic new disclosures of wrongdoing — the odds are very good that neither Bush nor Cheney will ever actually be impeached.
No, that isn’t what’s right, but it’s probably what’s true. And who said being part of the reality based community is always going to be fun?
But does that necessarily have to mean that there will be no justice at all for the crimes of the Bush years?
The Last Chance Democracy Cafe
Episode 69: Justice-2009:
Because justice delayed is better than no justice at all
by Steven C. Day
We were following a two-lane highway across Central Indiana, a patchwork of flat farmland and thick woodlands — a pleasant monotony broken up occasionally by a small town or city. I-70 into Indianapolis would have been faster, but we were holding fast to our decision to use Blue Highways, instead of expressways, as much as possible. A summer rainstorm had stalked us all the way across the Hoosier State, and looked likely to continue into Ohio: nothing violent, just on-again, off-again showers, barely enough to clean away the remains of the insects periodically performing kamikaze dives into the windshield.
Still at least nine full hours from Washington, DC, we were determined to get there before bedtime.
It had been unusually quiet in the van for the last few hours. After three days on the road, I suppose we were all talked out. But there was also something else at play. Horace, usually our de facto group leader, had barely spoken a word all day.
I’d noticed the trend the day before as we plowed across Southern Illinois. About the time we finished the happy silliness of our progressive fictional account of Colin Powell’s kidnapping of Dick Cheney — something Horace had thoroughly enjoyed — he’d grown quieter. He mostly kept to himself that evening over dinner at “Chicken Big,” the self-proclaimed “Greatest Chicken Restaurant Anywhere in the Milky Way and the Eastern Third of Andromeda.” By this morning he had clammed up almost completely. We would later learn why, but that’s the story for our next episode.
Back on this one, we had just crossed into Henry County, Indiana, not far from the Ohio border, when Winston said something from the back of the van. I couldn’t make out the words, although I could tell he wasn’t happy.
“Sorry, Winston,” I shouted back from the front seat where I was driving — Zach, our young college friend, was riding shotgun next to me. “With all the road noise and the rain we can’t hear you very well up here.”
“I heard him fine,” said Zach.
I laughed. “Okay, those of us with middle aged ears can’t hear you.”
Normally I’d have expected Winston to say something smart alecky, but this time he just repeated himself in a strikingly glum voice.
He said, “They’re not going to impeach Bush and Cheney, you know.”
Zach sounded surprised. “After everything they’ve done, surely they deserve to be . . .”
“Sorry, but the fact they deserve it . . . and God knows they do, doesn’t mean it’s going to happen.”
“I suppose you’re right,” grumbled Tom, who was sitting in the middle row next to Horace. “From the standpoint of practical politics . . .”
“I understand the fucking politics,” Winston cut him off testily. I don’t think he was angry at Tom — not yet, anyway — just pissed off in general. “But to be perfectly honest with you,” he continued, “I’m getting sick and tired of hearing the Democrats in Congress whining about political reality as an excuse for not doing a damn thing.” His voice was getting louder. “God damn it! Sometimes you just have to do what’s right!”
I called back to him in as lighthearted a voice as I could fake, “For God’s sake, Winston, lighten up. We have nine hours ahead of us. Are you trying to make the van overheat?”
Winston agreed to try.
As we passed over an old-fashioned stone bridge, I noticed that the old style Ford Taurus we’d been following for the last few miles had a Kerry-Edwards bumper sticker. That was something we’d noticed repeatedly since leaving the Denver airport: even in red states, like here in Indiana, we saw a lot more old Kerry-Edwards bumper stickers than Bush-Cheney ones. It was as though the people who’d voted for Bush were trying to destroy the evidence.
But then, who could blame them?
Zach, sounding discouraged, asked Winston, “So you really think impeachment is out of the question?”
Winston sighed loudly “I think we have to face facts. We’re supposed to be the reality based community, remember? And the sorry reality is that impeachment isn’t likely to happen. Should it happen? Hell yes . . . but it isn’t going to. Hell, even if the Democrats had the balls to try . . . which they don’t, there’s not one chance in a million they could ever get enough Republican votes to convict Bush and Cheney in the Senate.”
Zach, sounding even more depressed, said, “So I guess that means they’re just going to get away with everything they’ve done.”
Tom agreed, “All the lying about Iraq, politicizing the Justice Department, sanctioning torture, unconstitutional power grabs, flushing billions of dollars down the toilet through corruption during the so-called reconstruction of Iraq and New Orleans . . . all of it. They just get to walk away clean.”
Then Winston said something I wasn’t expecting. In a firm no-nonsense voice he declared, “No, that’s wrong. I understand why you’re upset . . . hell, I am, too . . . but you’re wrong. There is another way . . . a way aside from impeachment that justice . . . of a sort anyway, can still be made to happen.”
After a brief pause while we all let Winston’s words soak in, Tom asked dubiously, “Are you talking about criminal prosecutions?”
“It’ll never happen. Even with Gonzales gone the Bush politicos will never allow a real investigation into administration wrongdoing to happen. There’s no chance . . .”
Winston cut him off, “Don’t be so sure . . . I actually wouldn’t be that surprised if there are a few prosecutions even while Bush is in office. You shouldn’t sell the career lawyers at Justice short. But I do agree that there won’t be the kind of wide-ranging investigation that’s needed. The hacks with the political appointments would never allow that to happen.”
The rain had suddenly picked up and was starting to hinder my view of the road. I searched the dashboard in vain for the switch to turn up the wipers. I couldn’t find it anywhere. “Fucking rental van,” I muttered.
“I think it’s here,” said Zach, pointing to the end of the turn signal. He was right.
“Maybe you should get your glasses checked, Steve,” he said with a small grin.
I just glared at him.
“What are you saying, Winston?” I hollered to the back of the van. “Are you talking about bringing charges against people in the Bush Administration after he leaves office?”
Winston said something I couldn’t hear again. “What was that?” I yelled back.
“He said, yes,” advised Zach politely. “Maybe you should also see someone about a hearing aid, Steve.”
There were snickers from all three rows in the van.
I glared at Zach again.
Struggling to reclaim my dignity, I yelled back at Winston, “I never practiced criminal law, so I don’t know. But what about the statute of limitations?”
“I think the federal statute of limitations is five years for non-capital cases. So at least a lot of the crimes these bastards have committed should still be subject to prosecution in January of 2009. For example, all of Gonzales’s recent lying to Congress will still be fair game, assuming nothing has been done about it before then.”
“I don’t know,” said Tom, sounding down in the dumps. “That sounds like a pretty lame plan to me. It means allowing Bush and Cheney to stay in office for another 18 months despite everything . . .”
In case you ever find yourself in a conversation with Winston, let me make a small suggestion: it’s best not to call his ideas lame.
“What the hell are you talking about!” he tore into Tom. “We’re letting him stay in office?! Who the fuck put us in charge! I hate what’s happening as much as you do! Hell, if I had it in my power don’t you think I’d walk right up to the White House and personally throw the bastards into the street after everything . . .”
“I know you would . . .”
“. . . they’ve done?! But I don’t have the power . . . and you don’t have the power . . .”
“. . . so barring some sort of blockbuster disclosure . . . something we don’t know about yet . . . something that’s bad enough to get the general public to demand impeachment, it isn’t going to happen! It just isn’t! We can wish for it as hard as we want, but we still won’t find impeachment nicely wrapped under our tree come Christmas morning! Now, should we still argue in favor of impeachment?! Sure, I’ve got no problem with that! The bastards certainly deserve it! But you don’t bet the farm on a wish and a prayer! Not on something this important!”
“Calm down. Winston,” I said in a voice that probably came across a bit more condescending than I intended, “Tom wasn’t trying to suggest . . .”
Winston cut me off, his voice in full fury. “Don’t you tell me what to do, you son of a . . .” But then he stopped cold, causing the van to become uncomfortably quiet.
We’d been down this road before at The Last Chance Democracy Café, of course. Powerfully held convictions can easily lead to anger, even fury. And that’s okay. It goes with the territory. What’s important is not forgetting who your friends are. And I think that was what Winston was reminding himself of right then as the van chugged quietly across rural America.
We had just crossed into Ohio, and acting like nothing was out of the ordinary, I gave everyone the good news. We were one step closer to our destination. I didn’t mention that we still had a good eight hours to go. Why spoil the moment?
And then Winston spoke again, his voice uncharacteristically subdued. “Okay, I’m sorry about losing my temper, Tom . . . Steve.”
“No problem, friend,” someone in the van said. It really didn’t matter who.
“The thing is . . . as you all know, I spent most of my professional life as a district court judge. Although I’m not usually one to talk this way, it’s something I’m immensely proud of, something . . .”
“We’re proud of you too, old man,” I said.
“Thanks. But the thing is . . . I guess you could say that in a small way I’ve dedicated my entire life to the rule of law. One of the things about practicing law, whether as a lawyer or a judge, is that a lot of the time you see people at their very worst. It can be really ugly sometimes. I’m sure you experienced that too, Steve, right?”
I told him that, yes, I had, of course, experienced my share of ugliness in the practice of law: people at their very worst, violent, vindictive, dishonest and small.
Winston continued, “So you have to take a step back sometimes . . . remind yourself of the majesty of it all . . . To remind yourself that the sovereignty of the rule of law in America is one of the greatest achievements in the history of human liberty. That without it, liberty and freedom simply couldn’t exist.”
“That’s true, of course,” said Tom.
“I can’t tell you how painful it’s been for me over the last six and a half years watching Bush and his bunch of hacks pissing all over that beautiful thing . . . and even worse, watching them get away with it, again and again. Time after time they’ve treated the Constitution of the United States as though it was just so much toilet paper. They’ve spied on Americans without legal authority, made tolerance of torture part of the law of the land, ignored any law they found inconvenient, repeatedly lied to Congress. Congress impeached Bill Clinton for lying about sex, for Christ’s sake, but after everything Bush has done nothing’s happened to him. Not a damn thing. He’s never been made to pay any price at all. It’s a travesty.”
“But isn’t that why we need to keep pushing for impeachment,” said Zach earnestly.
“Sure, push for it . . . that’s fine. I’m all for it. But at the end of the day there has to be some real price paid for this, not just talk. If they can simply get away with everything they’ve done, the rule of law will lose its meaning. It will have been shown up as a paper tiger to be tossed aside by those in power anytime it proves inconvenient. We just can’t let that happen. So if impeachment is impossible . . . rightly or wrongly, then we have to find another way to validate the rule of law. And this is the only way I can see we’ll have a fighting chance of getting that done.”
I noticed that Zach was shaking his head.
“What’s on your mind,” I asked him.
He shook his head again. “I don’t know . . . I was just thinking that Winston’s idea depends completely on the Democrats winning in 2008. What if one of the Republicans wins? Then there’ll never be any sort of accounting for Bush’s crimes. Or what if he just pardons everybody on his way out of office?”
Winston, who despite having almost 25 years on me, clearly had the better ears, had heard every word Zach said. He told him, “Those are legitimate concerns . . . I won’t say otherwise, but to be honest with you neither of those things are what really scare me. I think a Democrat probably will win next time, or at least I can’t bear to think otherwise. I also think it’s unlikely that Bush will grant blanket pardons to everyone in his administration, including himself and Cheney. He’ll probably pardon Libby . . . and maybe a few of the others who are actively in trouble, but to pardon people who aren’t even charged with a crime would just look too bad. He’s just too cocky to do something like that.”
Zach agreed that made sense.
“No, what scares me more than any of that is the very real possibility that a new Democratic Administration will decide not to go after the crimes of the Bush era. The pressure to do just that will be overwhelming.”
“I agree,” said Tom. “I can almost hear the pundits now, bellyaching about how it’s time to look ahead and to heal the nation’s wounds, not to engage in a witch-hunt against the last administration.”
“Exactly. And that’s why we need to start raising a ruckus about this now . . . while the Democratic candidates still need us. Justice in 2009, we need to demand it.”
I offered a caution. “I don’t know, Winston. If we were to start demanding that our candidates commit up front that a new Democratic Administration will prosecute former Bush officials, won’t we be as guilty of politicizing the Justice Department as they . . .”
He cut me off immediately. I think it was important to him that no one think that this was what he was advocating. “You’re right, of course,” he said, “we can’t do that . . . or at least we shouldn’t do that. But there’s nothing wrong with pushing Democratic presidential candidates to commit that if elected they will support the appointment of a special prosecutor to look into the abuses that have occurred within our government . . . assuming, of course, the Attorney General concludes there’s cause to do so. This is particularly important in cases, like the US attorney scandal, where the Bush Administration has been stonewalling congressional investigations. No one . . . not even the President of the United States, should be able to run out the clock on justice.”
Zach sighed again, “But isn’t that really what’s going to happen anyway? Whatever investigations come later . . . Let’s see, how should I say this? I mean, even if some people end up getting charged with crimes later, they will still have successfully run out the clock on their time in office?”
“You’re right and that sucks. And if the opportunity to do better comes along, I’m all for it. But we may have to settle for the justice we can get.”
“What’s that old saying about justice delayed?” said Zach.
Tom responded, “Justice delayed is justice denied.”
“And that’s true enough,” said Winston. “But I’ll also tell you that justice delayed is a hell of a lot better than no justice at all.”
* * *
Check out our episodes archive.
* * *
When not busy managing a mythical café, Steven C. Day lives with his family in Wichita, Kansas where he has practiced law for 27 years. Contact Steven at .
© Copyright 2007, Steven C. Day. WGAw #974001
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September 6th, 2007 at 2:00 am
sorry, please - OT
but “justice delayed” seem to fit in some way
Riverbend is in Syria ( Leaving Home…)
September 6th, 2007 at 8:54 am
While it goes against the rule of law and the Constitution, I have a fantasy.
A Democrat is elected President in 2008. Just before making sure that the Patriot Act is repealed, uses it to hoist the criminals with their own petard.
The action: Declare, all of the Bush administration, many Senators and Congresspeople, several Supreme Court justices, wealthy supporters, and the propagandists of the right wing noise machine, unlawful enemy combatants. After all, they have done more damage to the US than ALL of the enemy combatants in all of the past wars.
Make these enemy combatants disappear. I’m not sure how long we would need to wait to replace the government officials, including the justices.
After all, as far as I know, there are no limits in the “Patriot Act” as to whom can be designated an enemy combatant.
I know that it is unlikely to ever happen, but I can dream.
September 6th, 2007 at 11:20 am
I’ve been checking in on Baghdad Burning daily too….
Thank God Riverbend is okay. I feel better that she is safe and I feel awful about all she has lost and the things she has endured.
I love Winston’s statement…“I’m getting sick and tired of hearing the Democrats in Congress whining about political reality as an excuse for not doing a damn thing.”
Yes, me too. I hate the arguement that you can’t win so don’t bother trying. THAT is the opinion of a defeatist. But you are right. They won’t be impeached. But there are 18 months left for these maniacs to give us one more reason. Who knows, maybe a couple of the rats now hurriedly deserting the ship of state will come clean and tell the whole tale of corruption and deception. Maybe they will unravel completely as they deperately try to protect their own butts. The prized loyalty of the Bush mob could disappear as more and more of the hypocrits are threatened with the rule of law. The investigations into the theft of our tax dollars won’t be stopped and some of these “contractors” won’t just fall on their swords for ol’ bush.
As they try to rewrite history and place blame on each other, they may be complicit in their own undoing. That would justice, poetic justice.
September 8th, 2007 at 9:43 pm
Wow. Well, this really makes me doubt ya’ll. You don’t think Bush and Cheney can be impeached by your group of Dems, and you are quite right. They don’t have the political will to do anything with Bush in office, and if a Dem wins, with their corporate backing, no, Bush and Cheney will walk free.
There is a man that voted against the Iraq war, has called for their impeachment, has stood on the Congress floor and attempted to remind his fellow Congressmen of their duty to the people. Are ya’ll so fixed in a party that you can’t see the forest for the trees? Dr. Ron Paul has the fortitude to do what is necessary. Look at his voting record. He has never waffled. He votes his convictions, and they run deep. He has stood up to the Republican Party and done what was more Republican than any of the other bastards! Dr. Paul is a Constitutionalist really, not a Republican in the sense that we have them now. Of course, the Democrats aren’t what they used to be either. The Yellow Dog Democrats became Republicans because the Democrats have no center.
I signed the Impeach Bush Petition on the internet that will be presented to Congress after September 15th. Last time I looked, it was almost one million. Have ya’ll signed it? If we don’t unite and make our desire so apparent that your Dems can’t back away from the issue, we the people aren’t doing our duty. To back this up, I will be voting for Dr. Ron Paul. Maybe if we put him in office, it will give your Dems some backbone to join the fight. The young people seem to be getting it, but you old duds are stuck in a rut. Come on down to Texas, and maybe you will see why Bush tries to lie about his being Texan. Most people here are pretty independent. Not all of them know the facts, but most would fight to defend this country.
Go and listen to what Dr. Ron Paul is saying. He has a growing base on the internet. At the political events, his supporters have always outdone the others. I have never given to a political candidate, but I’ve already given him $700.00, and I am not wealthy.
If you truly want to see justice done to Bush and Cheney, vote for Dr. Ron Paul. He is not a shrinking violet by any means.
If ya’ll haven’t signed the Petition, you, of all people, should. Go to ImpeachBush.org. Quit gripping. Stand up and join the fight. I am sure I have a FBI file, and I have been called a rabble rouser before by Republican lawyers at my old firm. Did that stop me? No. As long as there is breath in me, I will stand against oppression. You old duds want to join an old lady and give them hell. I challenge you.
September 12th, 2007 at 11:29 pm
It is September 12th, the Impeach Bush Petition as of yesterday’s count, because they are a day behind posting it, is 938,467. We need the citizens of a city the size of say Santa Fe to sign this Petition and make it 1,000,000. That isn’t really many people. Call that friend or relative you haven’t spoken with for awhile, and tell them about the Petition. There are people who don’t know yet, and we have two days left. Make the effort, get the bastard up on criminal charges. You know he’s guilty. There were no WMDs. Saddam was not a religious fanatic and was purely a dictator. He didn’t collude with the religious fanatics, because they were a threat to him. He didn’t get along with the Ayatollah in Iran, and we put him in power as a security measure against Iran. Iraq is a red herring. If we want Osama Bin Laden, he isn’t in Iraq.
Do we have to keep sacrificing our children to this madman we call a President? He has lied to us with a straight face, and you can believe he is laughing behind our backs. He has the audacity to say “We are kicking ass.” when it is on our sons and daughters backs and bodies that any progress is made in Iraq, and the yellowbellied chickenshit couldn’t even show up for reserve duty when he wasn’t in any danger.
If I have been reading correctly, most of you don’t like Bush. Do something about it? I am and so are my friends and family members. We’ve all signed the Petition. How about the rest of you?
September 18th, 2007 at 9:25 pm
I thought this would be a good place to list all of the things Bush has done for the USA and Texas. The following facts are true.
This individual seeks an executive position. He will be available in January 2009, and is willing to relocate.
RESUME - GEORGE W. BUSH
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington , DC 20520
EDUCATION AND EXPERIENCE:
I was arrested in Kennebunkport , Maine , in 1976 for driving under the influence of alcohol. I pled guilty, paid a fine, and had my driver’s license suspended for 30 days. My Texas driving record has been “lost” and is not available.
I joined the Texas Air National Guard and went AWOL. I refused to take a drug test or answer any questions about my drug use. By joining the Texas Air National Guard, I was able to avoid combat duty in Vietnam .
I graduated from Yale University with a low C average. I was a cheerleader.
PAST WORK EXPERIENCE:
I ran for U.S. Congress and lost. I began my career in the oil business in Midland , Texas , in 1975. I bought an oil company, but couldn’t find any oil in Texas . The company went bankrupt shortly after I sold all my stock. I bought the Texas Rangers baseball team in a sweetheart deal that took land using taxpayer money. With the help of my father and our friends in the oil industry (including Enron CEO Ken Lay), I was elected Governor of Texas.
ACCOMPLISHMENTS AS GOVERNOR OF TEXAS :
I changed Texas pollution laws to favor power and oil companies, making Texas the most polluted state in the Union .
During my tenure, Houston replaced Los Angeles as the most smog-ridden city in America .
I cut taxes and bankrupted the Texas treasury to the tune of billions in borrowed money.
I set the record for the most executions by any governor in American history.
With the help of my brother, the governor of Florida , and my father’s appointments to the Supreme Court, I became President after losing by over 500,000 votes.
ACCOMPLISHMENTS AS PRESIDENT:
I am the first President in U.S. history to enter office with a criminal record.
Three times more money was spent on my second inauguration parties than was spent to investigate the disaster of 9/11.
I invaded and occupied two countries at a continuing cost of over one billion dollars per week.
I spent the U.S. surplus and effectively bankrupted the U.S. Treasury.
I shattered the record for the largest annual deficit in U.S. history.
I set an economic record for most private bankruptcies filed in any 12-month period.
I set the all-time record for most foreclosures in a 12-month period.
I set the all-time record for the biggest drop in the history of the U.S. stock market. In my first year in office, over 2 million Americans lost their jobs and that trend continues every month.
I’m proud that the members of my cabinet are the richest of any administration in U.S. history. My “poorest millionaire,” Condoleeza Rice, has a Chevron oil tanker named after her.
I set the record for most campaign fund-raising trips by a U.S. President.
I am the all-time U.S. and world record-holder for receiving the most corporate campaign donations.
My largest lifetime campaign contributor, and one of my best friends, Kenneth Lay, presided over the largest corporate bankruptcy fraud in U.S. History, Enron.
My political party used Enron private jets and corporate attorneys to assure my success with the U.S. Supreme Court during my election decision.
I have protected my friends at Enron and Halliburton against investigation or prosecution. More time and money was spent investigating the Monica Lewinsky affair than has been spent investigating one of the biggest corporate rip-offs in history.
I presided over the biggest energy crisis in U.S. history and refused to intervene when corruption involving the oil industry was revealed.
I presided over the highest gasoline prices in U.S. history.
I changed the U.S. policy to allow convicted criminals to be awarded government contracts.
I appointed more convicted criminals to administration than any President in U.S. history.
I created the Ministry of Homeland Security, the largest bureaucracy in the history of the United States government.
I’ve broken more international treaties than any President has in U.S. history.
I am the first President in U.S. history to have the United Nations remove the U.S. from the Human Rights Commission.
I withdrew the U.S. from the World Court of Law.
I refused to allow inspector’s access to U.S. “prisoners of war” detainees and thereby have refused to abide by the Geneva Convention.
I am the first President in history to refuse United Nations election inspectors (during the 2002 U.S. election).
I set the record for fewest numbers of press conferences of any President since the advent of television.
I set the all-time record for most days on vacation in any one- year period. After taking off the entire month of August, I presided over the worst security failure in U.S. history.
I garnered the most sympathy ever for the U.S. after the World Trade Center attacks and less than a year later made the U.S. the most hated country in the world, the largest failure of diplomacy in world history.
I have set the all-time record for most people worldwide to simultaneously protest me in public venues (15 million people), shattering the record for protests against any person in the history of mankind.
I am the first President in U.S. history to order an unprovoked, pre-emptive attack and the military occupation of a sovereign nation. I did so against the will of the United Nations, the majority of U.S. citizens, and the world community.
I have cut health care benefits for war veterans and support a cut in duty benefits for active duty troops and their families in wartime.
In my State of the Union Address, I lied about our reasons for attacking Iraq and then blamed the lies on our British friends.
I am the first President in history to have a majority of Europeans (71%) view my presidency as the biggest threat to world peace and security.
I am supporting development of a nuclear “Tactical Bunker Buster,” a WMD.
I have so far failed to fulfill my pledge to bring Osama Bin Laden to justice. [he is probably dead, anyway...]
RECORDS AND REFERENCES:
All records of my tenure as governor of Texas are now in my father’s library, sealed and unavailable for public view.
All records of SEC investigations into my insider trading and my bankrupt companies are sealed in secrecy and unavailable for public view.
All records or minutes from meetings that I, or my Vice-President, attended regarding public energy policy are sealed in secrecy and unavailable for public review.