Beyond my focus on global economic factors (and national ones) and how they impact Maine (including also healthcare, education and all policy areas), only a very small percentage of my overall focus is on national matters (including foreign policy) as I run for Governor of Maine. However, Maine exists (of course) not in isolation but within larger contexts, and we ignore important and critical events within those at our own peril.
I sat down to my computer this morning with the intention of finishing a column entitled “Maine Globally 2006”. In that piece (which maybe I can finish up for my next column if nothing else intrudes beforehand) I discuss how I believe that our understanding of the global economy in Maine is much less sophisticated than it can be and what can (and in fact I’d argue should) be done to help remedy this.
This obviously is not that column. Before working to finish that column on Maine and the global economy, I went through the day’s news as I generally do each morning. This article today by USA Today, “NSA has massive database of Americans’ phone calls”, captured my attention and served as the current impetus to crystallize and bring together many factors that I had previously considered, and lead me to the conclusion that factors warranted, and the time was now right, to advance this current topic.
So this column today was unexpected (for the current time and in fact somewhat generally) is what I am trying to say.
And just as one other piece of context or explanation, lest anyone think that I am highly partisan against Republicans, here are a couple of pieces in which I have highlighted criticisms (either my own or others) against the current Governor of Maine, who as we know, is a Democrat
In a single blog entry, at www.hammer2006.blogspot.com, I discuss a few concerns. This blog entry wasn’t related to this present call for impeachment examination, but some of the well known “scandals” (in quotes here and I could have added earlier recognizing that everyone has their own point of view) listed in the second section below are relevant for this current article. In part I state:
I realize that I am running for Governor of Maine, but I became interested in writing about Iraq today after reading this article, entitled
"Military to continue to pay Iraqi media".
Coming after the scandals with how we treated prisoners at Abu Gharib, the lack of rights for prisoners at Guantanamo, President Bush authorizing the spying program in which an investigation may now be scuttled, his opposing John McCain and the will of our legislators on torture (and then writing the Administration's own view of how the law would be interpreted after having to give in) - I'm not going to even get into the planning of the war, weapons of mass destruction, going in without major allies, how much it is costing us financially and in other ways, and how the war is now going (and some say escalating)….
I like to think that I am a fair person (that is for others to judge), not one prone to a rush to judgment and one often and generally willing to forgive, all things being equal. I’m not a nitpicker, although I do believe that the directions of this state and country are worth closely examining. And I myself (if that’s not too poor grammar) of course am not perfect (who is?). But I consider myself a very good person (that also is for others to judge) and highly principled, and an important component in regard to being Governor, and also running for the position is, I believe (without getting carried away) using the “bully pulpit” in constructive fashion to detail and even alert about things that can and should be better.
That is what I would like to do here.
I believe, very much so, that impeachment is a constitutional tool and never a political one, and serves only as a measure of last resort in regard to protecting the integrity of our governmental operations and systems. I am not saying that President Bush should or should not be impeached. I am advocating that formal impeachment proceedings should be initiated to determine whether actions by this President (some of which I will outline below) may rise to the threshold required for removal from office.
I am not an investigative reporter, and do not have the depth and breadth of material in regard to Bush “offenses” (in quotes as nothing has been formally determined) but below are my reasons for a call for formal impeachment proceedings.
First, USA Today’s article today cited above (and most media has picked up this news as major if not the top news of the day, so it’s already being discussed significantly generally by the public). This article states in part: “The NSA's domestic program, as described by sources, is far more expansive than what the White House has acknowledged. Last year, Bush said he had authorized the NSA to eavesdrop — without warrants — on international calls and international e-mails of people suspected of having links to terrorists when one party to the communication is in the USA. Warrants have also not been used in the NSA's efforts to create a national call database. In defending the previously disclosed program, Bush insisted that the NSA was focused exclusively on international calls. "In other words," Bush explained, "one end of the communication must be outside the United States."
As a result, domestic call records — those of calls that originate and terminate within U.S. borders — were believed to be private.
Sources, however, say that is not the case. With access to records of billions of domestic calls, the NSA has gained a secret window into the communications habits of millions of Americans. Customers' names, street addresses and other personal information are not being handed over as part of NSA's domestic program, the sources said. But the phone numbers the NSA collects can easily be cross-checked with other databases to obtain that information.”
To me, this above all by itself is enough (and yes this basic information would first need to be verified) to start impeachment proceedings to make an inquiry in regard to whether such behavior (both the legality of the program itself and the president’s prior statements about the program as well) are, or are not, impeachable offenses.
But of course the spy program is not all that there is. You also have at a minimum the other “scandals” mentioned above. Again:
Abu Gharib, the lack of rights for prisoners at Guantanamo, President Bush authorizing the spying program in which an investigation may now be scuttled, his opposing John McCain and the will of our legislators on torture (and then writing the Administration's own view of how the law would be interpreted after having to give in) - I'm not going to even get into the planning of the war, weapons of mass destruction, going in without major allies, how much it is costing us financially and in other ways, and how the war is now going (and some say escalating)….
And importantly, as others would be quick to point out, rightfully so, not every “scandal” means that it is an impeachable offense. Such offenses would (and if an inquiry does commence will) have to be proven to the body(ies) determining criteria.
As I’ve been busy running for Governor perhaps there are other “scandals” as well that I forgot to mention earlier (the naming of the CIA operative’s identity comes now also to mind, admittedly the President has not been accused of any wrongdoing in this matter but his strident assertion alone of what he would do to leakers and then the later revealed circumstances (even if there are no personal legal entanglements in this matter for the President), are nonetheless troubling to me and make me question the openness and candor of this President).
At a minimum, and an impeachment proceeding would determine to what degree, if any, any laws by the President were broken, I believe strongly that these “scandals” reveal an overzealous if not callous administration seemingly indifferent to human rights in substantial contexts and degree and perhaps also indifferent as well to veracity and also the rule of law.
I do believe in being strong on terrorism, and I am very glad in particular that we went into Afghanistan as a response to 9-11. But to my mind 9-11 is not a blanket excuse (if it has occurred) to circumvent our laws, constitution and traditional standards.
Certainly a call for a Presidential impeachment proceeding has not until now reached the level of many in the mainstream, although some others before I have also called for it. I do not know whether these latest news revelations, to my mind striking unless demonstrated not to be true, will increase (significantly, moderately or in small part), ultimately or at this time, a call for impeachment proceedings to investigate, if any, the President’s responsibility in or for such matters.
I believe strongly that Governors lead. And so should Presidents.
Alex Hammer is an Independent candidate for Governor residing in Bangor. The campaign’s website is www.hammer2006.com