In its vigilant and never-ending quest to make sure the Rabid Right doesn’t win the war of sheer political stupidity, the Loony Left is taking the offensive. Some of its standard bearers want to follow the complete rout of the GOP in the shutdown fiasco with a political variation on the Treaty of Versailles: They’re down, so let’s get in a few kicks and gut punches.
By the way . . . how’d that Versailles thing work out?
MoveOn.org reportedly has posted a petition on its website that browsers can “sign” (I’ve never really figured out what that means in Webspeak, but . . .) calling for the arrest - yes, arrest - of Ted Cruz and other tea party Republicans for the high crime of sedition.
MoveOn, as pretty much everybody knows, is the liberal activist outfit funded in large part by George Soros, the left’s relatively feeble answer to the Koch brothers. Contrary to the unshakable convictions of some of my, shall we say, less adoring readers, I am not a water carrier for the MoveOn agenda, and in fact have never once visited that site. I don’t even know what it looks like, and don’t care.
I do know this: A campaign to get uber-righty Republicans charged with sedition is about as stupid and pointless an idea as I’ve heard in a while. (OK, not that long a while, but a while.)
First, it’s not gonna happen. There’s absolutely no constitutional case, no matter how many web hits the uber-lefties can show the powers that be. Conservatives might loathe and despise Eric Holder, but he’d laugh this thing right out of his office, and so would any prosecutor who’d just as soon not have his or her reputation slumming in the Orly Taitz neighborhood.
Second, what would it achieve even if it did (which it won’t) happen? It would bring government to a grinding halt, ostensibly to punish the GOP’s bug-eyed fringe for bringing government to a grinding halt. Gee, no obliviousness to irony there.
Third, and maybe most important: We’ve been here before. (See Impeachment, Clinton.)
During the Iran-Contra fiasco of the ‘80s, Reagan allies coined the phrase “criminalizing policy differences” to describe using the threat - or the reality - of criminal charges as a political weapon.
Reasonable people might credibly reject the notion that selling missiles to a hostile nation (Iran) to fund an illegal war should be dismissed as “policy,” but the larger point is valid. The normal legislative, executive and judicial processes should be sufficient for even the most heated political battles. If last-resort measures like impeachment and criminal prosecution - things that should be invoked only in the most extraordinary and extreme of circumstances - become casually accessible weapons in the political arsenal, then the already fragile structure of constitutional republican government could be irreparably destabilized.
I’m convinced that history will ultimately regard the absurd Clinton impeachment as a political tantrum that got out of hand and escalated into something dangerously close to an attempted coup d’etat. Even now there are Republicans who, whether they will admit it or not, are embarrassed by that bizarre chapter in American history. (Some of them might have been characters in it.) The loud calls to impeach President George W. Bush were the same kind of tantrum that, fortunately, never spread to Capitol Hill. Bush’s was a tragic and disastrous, but not impeachable, presidency.
Impeachment, criminal charges and the like are for bona fide sleazeballs like John Edwards or Don Balfour, not for loud, low-octane political nitwits who have already done more damage to themselves and their party than the likes of MoveOn.org could ever hope to inflict.
I’m reminded of an office seeker who came here years ago for an endorsement interview, and whose opponent was at that moment self-destructing in spectacular fashion. “When he’s shooting holes in his boat,” our guest observed, “I’m not trying to wrestle the gun from his hands.”
This “sedition” nonsense is a goofy, over-the-top idea no more sensible, or even coherent, than the goofy, over-the-top nonsense that caused all this in the first place. The holes are already in the boat. The lefties should abandon an effort that could actually have the effect of turning these pols from Planet Nirpdirp into victims, and just . . . well, move on.
Dusty Nix is editorial page editor at the Columbus Ledger Inquirer in Columbus, Ga. Readers may reach him by email at dnixledger-enquirer.com. Distributed by MCT Information Services