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Act On Impeachment, Now

by Mary Ellen Marino

The Constitution states that the president and vice president can be impeached for "high crimes and misdemeanors."

If we do not impeach President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, we establish that it is permissible for future presidents and vice presidents to deceive Congress and the public into futile wars, engage in widespread illegal spying on Americans, detain prisoners without charge, engage in torture, operate in secrecy and re fuse to execute laws passed by Congress. In writing the Constitution, our Founding Fathers chose impeachment as the primary check on federal officials who act as despots while in office. They had just removed a king and had no interest in replacing him with an elected one.

This was the message we, a group of constituents and leaders of the Central and South Jersey Impeach Groups, brought Rep. Rush Holt, D-Hopewell Township, on July 9. We delivered an impeachment resolution passed by the Princeton Community Democratic Organization (PCDO), hundreds of signed petitions, and our passionate belief that our Constitution and democracy are in grave danger. The actions of Mssrs. Bush and Cheney continue to parallel the offenses that caused the House to impeach Richard Nixon 33 years ago.

We asked Holt to co-sponsor HR Res. 333, the resolution to impeach Cheney introduced by Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, on April 24, which now has 15 co-sponsors.

Have there been "high crimes and misdemeanors"? The Supreme Court found that the treatment of Guantánamo prisoners violated the Constitution and an appellate judge ruled that Bush's secret wiretapping and electronic surveillance were a felony. Most of the administration's offenses need no further investigation. Bush and Cheney are both on videotape admitting them. Others, such as the mishandling of the devastation of Hurricane Ka trina and the scandal at Abu Ghraib prison are visible to all. New offenses emerge daily, such as the refusal to honor Congressional subpoenas.

Until recently, many Democrats have hesitated to call for impeachment following House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's declaration that impeachment is "off the table." Now public opinion is shifting. Journalist Bill Moyers presented bipartisan experts who echoed our arguments warning of the expanded tool kit that could be used by any future president if action is not taken now on the abuses perpetrated by this administration.

Holt, who is a prime leader on voting reform and who opposed the Patriot Act and the war in Iraq, agreed that the administration committed illegal and criminal acts, but he did not think the American people understood impeachment.

The American people do understand. Forty-three towns and counties across the country have passed resolutions for impeachment, as well as 15 state Democratic parties and the Green Party, three unions, and many other local groups like the PCDO.

A poll by the American Research Group this month showed that 54 percent of Americans are in favor of bringing impeachment proceedings against Cheney in the House of Representatives and 46 percent support the impeachment of President Bush. A Newsweek poll in October 2006 found that 52 percent of the respondents, a clear majority, thought impeachment should be a high priority.

The Constitution gives the House of Representatives the power to impeach, i.e. to bring charges. This would be enough to start a thorough public investiga tion and set a precedent that Bush and Cheney's actions violate our Constitution and must be stopped. When Nixon was impeached by the House for similar offenses, he chose to resign. Impeachment is its own punishment. It requires only a simple majority of the House. There is no obligation for the Senate to even hold a trial after someone is impeached.

Bush's recent commutation of Scooter Libby's sentence was aimed at obstructing justice by removing any incentive for Libby to reveal the truth. In this respect, it was similar to Nixon's fir ing of Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox.

Bush and Cheney can still do a great deal of damage before they leave office. For what goal are more Americans and Iraqis dying every day in Iraq? We need to remove the president and vice president from office to end our brutal occupation in that country, prevent a planned attack on Iran, end the assault on our civil liberties, restore competence in political appointments and prevent widespread election fraud as oc curred in 2000 and 2004.

# If we do not impeach now, we are all complicit in this administration's crimes.

# If we do not impeach now, we effectively remove impeachment from the Constitution.

# If we do not act now, we are accepting Bush and Cheney's "unitary executive" theory.

# If we do not impeach now, we destroy the balance of powers designed to preserve our freedom and democracy.

If not now, when? What further offenses must occur before our legislators act to uphold the Constitution in accord with their oath of office? The momentum is building. MoveOn, the massive 3.2 million member political action group, now supports impeachment of Bush and Cheney. Keith Olbermann of MSNBC's Countdown demanded their resignation with a powerful list of accusations. Even Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., introduced a bill declaring signing statements an "unconstitutional attempt to usurp legislative authority."

We hope and expect that Holt will respond to the growing impeachment movement in his district and across the nation, and become a co-sponsor of the impeachment resolution to protect the Constitution and restore the rule of law. We urge constituents to call Rep. Rush Holt at (202) 225-5801, or their own lawmakers in Congress at (202) 224-3121 and request that they co-sponsor HR 333 to restore the rule of law. Urge Speaker Pelosi at (202) 225-4965 to allow impeachment proceedings to begin.

Mary Ellen Marino is co-chair of the Central Jersey Impeach Group, a member of the Princeton Community Democratic Organization.

© 2007 The Times of Trenton

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