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Calling the Question -- In the House -- on Impeaching Cheney

by John Nichols

Broadcast media's gate-keeping "stars" have done just about everything in their power to keep the matter of presidential accountability off the radar of the American people. That was evident during the most recent Democratic presidential debate, when NBC anchors Brian Williams and Tim Russert meticulously avoided following up on Congressman Dennis Kucinich's three references to impeachment but somehow found time to grill the contenders on UFOs and what costume Barack Obama would be wearing on Halloween.

Pollsters are almost as bad. Rarely are questions about impeachment included in statewide or national surveys.

Despite the lack of media coverage, however, when citizens are asked what they think about holding members of the Bush administration to account, they respond with an enthusiasm far greater than that displayed for impeaching Richard Nixon at the height of the Watergate scandal. It is this reality -- as opposed to the state of denial fostered by so much of the media and the political class -- that Congressman Dennis Kucinich will act upon next week, when he offers a privileged resolution on the House floor to bring articles of impeachment against Vice President Dick Cheney.

Kucinich will face an uphill fight in a chamber led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the California Democrat who continues to say that impeachment is "off the table."

The Ohio congressman and long-shot presidential contender may not be following the rules of engagement as dictated by major media and his party leaders. But when Kucinich raises the issue of impeachment, he will be speaking for a great mass of Americans who agree with his argument that, "Congress must hold the Vice President accountable."

How great?

A fresh poll conducted for Vermont's WCAX television station finds that citizens of that state enthusiastically believe that Congress beginning impeachment proceedings against President Bush.

Sixty-one percent of the Vermonters surveyed favor taking steps to impeach the president, while just 33% oppose doing so.

The numbers are even higher for impeaching Cheney. Sixty-four percent of Vermonters favor beginning the process of holding the vice president to account, where only 31 percent are opposed.

The greater level of support for impeaching Cheney parallels the few nationwide figures that have been ascertained. When the American Research Group conducted a national survey in early July of this year, it found that 54 percent of American adults wanted the House to begin impeachment proceedings against Cheney -- with 76 percent of Democrats, 51 percent of independents and a striking 17 percent of Republicans favoring the step.

Forty-six percent of Americans surveyed backed impeachment proceedings against Bush -- with support for impeachment at 69 percent among Democrats, 50 percent among independents and 13 percent among Republicans.

What is notable is that, when Time magazine surveyed Americans in the late spring of 1974, after the Watergate scandal had evolved into a full-scale crisis of confidence in Nixon's presidency, only 43 percent favored impeachment.

A media that actually had a sense of history, not to mention reality, would focus on the fact that Americans are more supportive of a congressional intervention to thwart Bush and Cheney's wrongdoing than they were of moves to hold Nixon to account just months before the former president resigned in disgrace.

Now, it falls to Kucinich to speak the reality that, "The momentum is building for impeachment. Millions of citizens across the nation are demanding Congress rein in the Vice President's abuse of power."

Says the congressman, "Despite this groundswell of opposition to the unconstitutional conduct of office, Vice President Cheney continues to violate the U.S. Constitution by insisting the power of the executive branch is supreme... The Vice President continues to use his office to advocate for a continued occupation of Iraq and prod our nation into a belligerent stance against Iran. If the Vice President is successful, his actions will ensure decades of disastrous consequences."

Kucinich introduced articles of impeachment against Cheney several months ago, and his H. Res. 333 has attracted almost two dozen co-sponsors. All Democrats, they are Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Robert Brady (D-PA), Yvette Clarke (D-NY), Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-MO), Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN), Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA), Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA), Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX), Rep. Henry Johnson (D-GA), Rep. Carolyn Kilpatrick (D-MI), Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA), Rep. James Moran (D-VA), Rep. Donald Payne (D-NJ), Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-NY), Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), Rep. Diane Watson (D-CA), Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) and Rep. Albert Wynn (D-MD).

Frustrated by the refusal of Democratic leaders to set up a process for holding hearings on his proposal, Kucinich will use an arcane House rule allowing for the prodding of the process with privileged resolutions to try and force consideration. Once introduced, a privileged resolution must be addressed within two legislative days.

Kucinich is expected to offer his privileged resolution on Tuesday. He expects to continue pushing it until the House acts. That action is likely to be a successful move by Democratic leaders to table the measure. Such a vote could be instructive, however, in that it would provide a rare measure of the willingness of at least some House members to respond to the popular will -- which is that Dick Cheney be held to account.

© 2007 The Nation

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