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Wed

18

Jun

2008

Ducking Impeachment in Congress and the Newsroom
Wednesday, 18 June 2008 15:56
by Dave Lindorff

On Monday last week, something important happened in Washington. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, the Democratic representative from Cleveland, OH, who early in the primary season won some of the biggest applause lines in the Democratic presidential candidate debates, introduced 35 articles calling for the impeachment of President George W. Bush for high crimes and misdemeanors.

You'd be excused if you didn't know this happened. There was almost no reporting on the event that day or the next, which took several hours to accomplish, along with several hours Tuesday for the whole bill to be read into the Congressional Record. Kucinich's address to the House was broadcast live on C-Span. But it was not announced in advance or highlighted on the C-Span website, and there were not many news reports on the historically significant fact that articles of impeachment had been filed against the president during subsequent days.

A week later, it has still not been reported in the New York Times, the nation’s self-described “newspaper of record,” even though the Times had just days before Rep. Kucinich’s action, editorialized about the enormity of the president’s lies in tricking the country into invading Iraq—one of the crimes leading Rep. Kucinich’s long list.

A number of papers did editorialize against impeachment, including the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Florida Sun Sentinel—but it says something that these publications thought it more important to attack Rep. Kucinich’s action than to actually report on it as a news item.

Even the Washington Post’s news report was an example more of the sclerotic state of American journalism than of genuine reporting. It began:
“Having failed in efforts to impeach Vice President Cheney, Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich (D-Ohio) escalated his battle against the administration this week by introducing 35 articles of impeachment against President Bush, using a parliamentary maneuver that will probably force a vote today.”


Any journalism student who wrote a lede like Post staff writer Ben Pershing’s in a classroom exercise would have gotten a “D” or an “F” for it. Talk about backing into a story! First of all, Kucinich hasn’t “failed” in his effort to impeach Cheney. Congress has failed to impeach our criminal vice president and regent. Technically, Kucinich’s Cheney impeachment bill is still lodged in the House Judiciary Committee, where it is now joined in political limbo by the Ohio congressman’s new Bush impeachment measure.

The unwillingness of the nation’s news media to seriously consider the need for Congress to respond to and challenge the president’s clear abuses of power—even as they themselves condemn of those abuses of power—is a blot on the journalistic profession perhaps worse, and of more lasting consequence, than their failure to act as watchdogs and critics during the run-up to the Iraq War, when they acted more as patriotic cheerleaders than as news organizations.

As impeachment advocates, including Rep. Kucinich, have pointed out, unless this president and vice president are impeached by the current Congress, any—and probably every—future president will feel empowered by unchallenged precedent to ignore laws passed by the Congress, to go to war without Congressional approval, to spy on Americans in violation of the law, to ignore court orders, to abrogate international treaties, and to lie to Congress and the American people. Unless Congress asserts its rights under Article I, it will no longer even be a co-equal branch of government, but instead will have been reduced to nothing more than a debating society.

Editorialists, while refusing to honestly report on this Constitutional crisis, have been parroting the claim of gutless and calculating Democratic Party leaders like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in saying that with the nation at war and with a critical election approaching, there are “more pressing” matters to consider than impeachment, and that impeachment would be a “diversion.”

This is nonsense. As hundreds of American troops continue to die each quarter in a war that never should have happened, and that was launched five years ago and continued for half a decade thanks to administration lies and deception, there is nothing more important facing this nation than restoring Constitutional government and Constitutional checks and balances—something that can only be done through the Constitutional process of impeachment.

The American people instinctively know this. In polls, fully half or more of the public consistently continue to say, even at this late date, that they want the president impeached. Considering the media blackout on the issue, this is truly astonishing and even heartening. But it will take more than polls to get impeachment rolling. The public needs to start demanding that its representatives take action, on pain of being voted out of office.

I was at an anti-war forum in New Jersey last Friday evening sponsored by a group of peace activists calling themselves the Iraq Forum Organizing Team. When forum panelist Rep. Rob Andrews was asked by an audience member whether he favored impeachment and supported Rep. Kucinich’s articles of impeachment, Andrews fudged. He claimed, ingenuously, that the articles had been sent to the House Judiciary Committee for hearings, and said that he personally thought that Bush had committed an impeachable “high crime” by outing the identity of a covert agent of the CIA, Valerie Plame, and added that if the Judiciary Committee “develops a bunch of evidence” to support that charge, he would vote to impeach.

As I pointed out to the congressman, he certainly knows that that is a cheap dodge. I said that he was well aware that the way legislation moves forward in Congress is that members like himself sign on as co-sponsors of legislation they favor, and that then, and only then, those measures get hearings. Without co-sponsors, bills go to committee to be killed by inaction, which is the intention of sending Kucinich’s articles of impeachment to the committee. I said if Rep. Andrews were honestly to believe that the president might have committed any high crimes, he should either file articles of impeachment himself, or co-sign the excellent set of articles already filed by Rep. Kucinich. Instead, Andrews, like the rest of the Democrats and Republicans in the House, with the notable exception of Rep. Wexler, and California Reps. Barbara Lee and Lynn Woolsey, have avoided Kucinich’s articles like the plague.

The audience loudly applauded this condemnation of Rep. Andrews.

We are at a critical point on impeachment. The elected leadership is afraid to challenge even this unprecedentedly unpopular president, who continues to defy Senate and House subpoenas, continues to promote war and to violate laws and treaties, and who is now conspiring with his vice president to launch yet another, bigger, war against the nation of Iran.

At the end of the day, if we get to January 19 without any impeachment hearings, we may see Bush and Cheney depart Washington, we may even see a Democratic president and a Congress with a significant Democratic majority in both houses, but it will be a hollow victory.

The nation’s democracy will at that point have been left a smoking ruin.
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Ellison Horne said:

0
Our Laws Allow Impeachment, Our Morality Demands It
If the Democrats in Congress continue to push aside impeachment proceedings against Bush and Cheney, I’m strongly considering giving my support to a Third Party–likely Ralph Nader.

As an African American, I have made considerable effort in supporting Sen. Obama. However, if impeachment continues to be “off the table”, so will be my support for Mr. Obama.

Many of our nation's Black brothers and sisters are in the prison system for committing far less harm to our society than President Bush and his Neo-Con-men in the White House (who signed the Project for the New American Century manifesto for world domination at all cost).

Yet, to those incarcerated, as well as to the larger public, how do we justify our nation’s conduct regarding crime and punishment when the Bush administration has, in effect, usurped our Constitution.

Additionally, Speaker Nancy Pelosi should be investigated for aiding the Bush administration, stating in a recent letter to me, “I believe impeachment proceedings against Vice President Dick Cheney will distract us from our mission…”.

Well, to Ms. Pelosi and all those who are relentlessly enabling this epic tragedy of senseless death, shattered lives, broken families, mind-numbing abuses of our hard-earned tax dollars, savage corporate exploitation; I say, JUSTICE IS NO DISTRACTION! There is no justice without impeachment!

Many in Congress and the Senate had the same intelligence as the White House administration, yet their conclusions were vastly different and, as it turns out, shockingly correct.

Many in the press, which as we now know from Bill Moyers’ insightful PBS documentary, “Buying the War”, rather than giving us the benefit of being watch-dog, instead served as lap-dog to the Bush White House—providing no real means for adequate public scrutiny.

The Congressional Black Caucus stood in the House on the eve of the invasion on Iraq and made fact-based, rational, and passionate presentations pleading with the President not to invade Iraq.

Sadly, most Americans to this day still do not know about those presentations because the mainstream press never reported that historic event.

Nevertheless, I shall forever remember that night in 2003, while watching C-SPAN—those powerful words, with truth and humanity from Rep. Maxine Waters:

"Mr. President, you cannot substitute a preemptive strike on Saddam Hussein for finding the terrorists. We want the terrorists to be found….

We want to secure the homeland. We are worried that you have been diverted, that you are about to do this preemptive strike without the documentation….

Yes, every country should be able to defend itself, but we are in no danger from Iraq. As a matter of fact, that is probably one of the weakest points on the globe for us to attack. We are not threatened by Saddam Hussein….

What we see and we are witnessing is the mismanagement of America. Someone today criticized Senator Daschle because he talked about the diplomatic disaster. Mr. President, it is a diplomatic disaster. We are watching before our very eyes the mismanagement of our beloved country. Our schools are falling apart. You said you wished to leave no child behind, but, Mr. President, you have not funded assistance to education that will have our children in the best possible situations where they can learn. Our health care system has fallen apart. In my city, in my county we are closing healthcare clinics. We are closing hospitals….

Mr. President, you are not able to tell us what this war is going to cost and what the cleanup, what the revitalization, the reconstruction of Iraq is going to cost. The American people need to know where our dollars are going. The American people need to understand the cost of this war and why….

Mr. President, we must raise these questions. We must raise these questions because we are patriots. We are folks who love this country. We are folks who have stood by this country no matter what, and we will continue to stand by this country. We will continue to stand by our soldiers. But, Mr. President, you are going to have to account for the leadership that you are giving, and I say to you and all those who are advising you, be it Wolfowitz, be it Secretary of State Colin Powell, be it Condoleezza Rice, be it Karl Rove, or any of those in the inner circle, you are going to be held responsible for what takes place in this world, what takes place with this preemptive strike, what takes place with our soldiers and our families…."

It is now time for us, all of us, to speak up to our elected officials in the name of justice. Our laws say we are entitled to impeachment proceedings, and our morality demands it.

Because we were fooled into war with Iraq, there are so many in this country who weep at the mere sight of the empty chair at the dinner table, knowing their loved one will never return to break bread in the sacred fellowship of family.

To me, this issue runs much deeper than race. This is about the essence of justice, coming from the heart of democracy, a democracy which we still strive to achieve.

By overriding what polls reveal as a huge majority of the nation favoring impeachment, the Democrats in Congress are robbing the American public of a tremendous opportunity to grow in its civic stewardship by learning what really happened to us, and how never to allow it again. They are robbing us of our ability to bring justice to bear against those who perpetrated this monstrous misadventure. And more importantly, these member of Congress are robbing our nation of the opportunity to heal from the devastating impact of this massive tyranny and death.

Indeed, justice is no distraction. There will be no justice without impeachment!
 
June 18, 2008
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