Last month, Robert Kennedy Jr., an environmental lawyer and scion of the Massachusetts Kennedy clan, created quite a stir by publishing, in Rolling Stone magazine, an article meticulously detailing the ways in which he thought the Republican party had illegally altered the outcome of our most recent Presidential election. This is a subject that has generated a lot of conspiracy theory; but Kennedy, a lawyer, included in his article only the material that, as he put it, might “convince a jury.” Going further, in an online interview with PR magazine, he said “I’ve been meeting with attorneys … to devise a litigation strategy. And I would say that very soon we’ll be announcing lawsuits against some of the individuals and companies involved.” Of course, he declined to identify just who the objects of those suits might be.
Leaving aside for a moment the question of his chances of actually prevailing in such a lawsuit, I’d like to speculate on just what kind of relief he could ask for. If the Bush junta stole the election, what then?
Is the next move impeachment?
I don’t think so. Only a legitimately elected president can be impeached, and if Bobby Kennedy prevails, that would mean that George Bush is not the legitimate President of the United States. And that’s where it gets both extremely sticky and very, very exciting, because if he is not and has not been the legitimate President of the United States, then it seems to me that none of his acts—wars, laws, signing statements, judicial appointments—from the Supreme Court on down—nothing the executive branch of the United States government has done in the last four or possibly eight years—has any legal standing. We step back to the laws, regulations, and appointees of January 19, 2001, the last day of the Clinton Administration. That’s what I think.
Now, I don’t have a great opinion of Bill Clinton, though for different reasons than a lot of people. In fact, I think having a few orgasms in the Oval Office was probably one of the best things he did for the country. I agree with the wag who said, “Bill Clinton was the best Republican President this country has ever had.” He kept the lid on Al Gore, for openers. He escalated the drug wars, which resulted in the disenfranchisement of enough Florida voters to cost Al the 2000 election. Bill was a knavish politician who danced, as Lyndon Johnson put it, with them that brung him. This country dozed through the nineties when we could have moved forward.
But it’s someplace to start from. It’s a way to slice through the Gordian knot the Republifacists have tied this country in over the last eight years—let’s face it, if we don’t find a way to undo at one stroke everything Bush, Incorporated has screwed up, it will take another eight years of hard Congressional action to undo it all, with denial and rearguard actions coming from the Republifascist minority all the way, and a hostile Supreme Court—remember, abortion was just a smokescreen to distract everybody’s attention from Roberts and Mussalito’s pro-corporate and unitary executive views.
And that would put us another eight years behind, when the planet is in such crisis that there is scarcely a moment to lose. And I’m being an optimist, I suspect, to think the Demopublicans would have the spine, stomach, and attention for that kind of work. Merely letting bygones be bygones and carrying on as if it was just a minor unpleasant episode that we can put behind us will not work, though this is the path favored by most Democrats, who found Kennedy’s story as welcome as the Downing Street Memos or Ned Lamont, an act of denial as neurotic as the whole Republican lifestyle that Mr. Cheney has declared to be non-negotiable.
Listen up—I’m going to say a four-letter word on the air. Are you ready? Here it comes: COUP.
C-O-U-P—COUP. How long ’till the FCC bans that one for indecency? Coup—do you get it? We had a COUP in this country in the year 2000. I believe Al Gore looked at the idea of fighting it, realized he’d have a thoroughly antagonistic Congress to wrestle with even if he made his claim on the Presidency, and just figured, “screw it, give ’em enough rope and they’ll hang themselves.” Besides, he knew he had skeletons in his closet that a Republicfascist dominated Congress would totally obsess on.
How hostile would Congress have been? I’m willing to bet the people who brought us Whitewater and Monica Lewinsky would have launched a full-scale investigation of Gore’s marihuana use in the 70’s—hey, if it kept Bork off the Supreme Court it should keep Al out of the Presidency, right? Aren’t we a nation of laws, not men? They had ya by the balls, Al, didn’t they? No wonder he wants to stay out of politics!
But I digress. It boils down to that there was a coup in this country in 2000 (and a Reichstag fire at the twin towers the next year to seal the deal), and the only way to undo it is to recognize it for what it was and take the appropriate, if drastic, steps. We have to get rid of the whole mess at one stroke.
So, as I was saying, what are Bobby Kennedy’s chances of finding a court that will open this can of worms? I don’t think they’re very good, but maybe he can. The U.S. Supreme Court, as hand-picked as Bush, his daddy, and uncle Ron could make it, has just surprised everyone by ruling that the Bush junta has to play by Geneva rules. In effect that makes George, Dick, and Don prosecutable as war criminals, if anyone has the cojones to follow through. Hey, they had as much right to invade Iraq as Hitler had to invade Poland. But making the junta play fair with its captives is a far cry from calling it out on a technical foul. I don’t believe the Supremes will be willing to rock that boat.
Where could Kennedy’s suit get a fair hearing? The International Court of Justice in the Hague has had brave and outspoken things to say about America’s conduct on a number of occasions, but they do not have a police force, let alone an army, to back up their decisions, rendering them, alas, moot.
So, I wish Bobby Kennedy Jr. and his lawsuit well. I hope he does not meet the fate of his illustrious, ill-starred, psychedelic uncles. (WHAT did I just say!? never mind…I’ll tell you that story some other time…) This is a complex and mysterious world, especially when we are seeking to right massive injustice. Things do not always proceed according to the plans of the powerful, but sometimes we must speak the truth whether we think it will change the world or not. Bobby, I’m with you. I’m putting my weird shoulder to the wheel.