Impeachment: If Not Now, When?
Lawmakers Need to Stand Up For The Constitution and Support Impeachment
The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.
-- Article II, Section 4
On Nov. 6, Rep. Dennis Kucinich introduced articles of impeachment against Vice President Dick Cheney on the floor of the House of Representatives. For one shining moment the will of the majority of Americans and the promise of this nation's founders were truly represented.
The detailed charges were solemnly read from the House podium and televised on C-Span. House Democratic Leader Steny Hoyer made a motion to table the bill. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi lobbied hard for votes to table.
In a stunning turnaround, House Republicans changed strategy and voted decisively to prevent tabling the impeachment resolution.
Pelosi was defied by 85 Democratic members who voted against tabling the impeachment resolution. This includes John Conyers, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and six committee members. The resolution was quickly voted back to the Judiciary Committee, where it is not resting quietly.
Judiciary Committee member Bob Wexler wrote, "The American people are served well with a legitimate and thorough impeachment inquiry. I will urge the Judiciary Committee to schedule impeachment hearings immediately and not let this issue languish as it has over the last six months. Only through hearings can we begin to correct the abuses of Dick Cheney and the Bush administration."
Impeachment is squarely on the table, and momentum is building. A year ago, almost no elected official breathed the word impeachment. Now impeachment has hit the House floor, and our electeds have gone on record. Millions of Americans are demanding an end to executive abuse of power.
After six years of state of emergency, the Patriot Act, the Military Commissions Act, continual war and occupations, our Constitution is deeply in crisis. Americans are in danger of losing our system of government and civil rights if they do not roll back the Bush administration's assault on the rule of law.
Allowing Cheney and George W. Bush to finish their terms without being impeached means future presidents are free to copy their lawless behavior. Of course many important issues deserve the attention of Congress. But the Constitution is the foundation of our democracy, not just an issue. Without the Constitution, we have nothing.
Polls show that 74 percent of Democrats and the majority of American adults support impeaching Cheney. "Never in our history have the high crimes and misdemeanors been so flagrant, and the people of our country know it," writes local author Richard Behan.
Kucinich has targeted Cheney first, but investigations will implicate the president as well. For the first time in the history of the Gallup Poll, 50 percent of respondents say they "strongly disapprove" of the president. Richard Nixon had reached the previous high, 48 percent, just before an impeachment inquiry was launched in 1974. With these numbers, why aren't Bush and Cheney gone already?
The vice president is accused of:
- purposely manipulating intelligence to fabricate a threat of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction in order to justify an attack on Iraq;
- deceiving Congress about an alleged relationship between Iraq and al-Qaida;
- threatening aggression against the Republic of Iran, absent any real threat to the United States.
These violations of the Constitution and international treaty are just the tip of the iceberg. More articles of impeachment can be added at any time, and ample evidence to convict is on the public record. Representatives need to introduce articles regarding:
- illegal war, in violation of both international treaty and the Constitution;
- widespread domestic wiretapping in violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, a felony. Bush already has admitted to this;
- condoning torture in violation of federal laws and international treaties;
- rescinding habeas corpus, the cornerstone of Western law since the Magna Carta;
- obstruction of justice regarding U.S. attorney firings;
- subversion of the Constitution, abuse of signing statements and rescinding habeas corpus.
It's astounding that our representatives to Congress carry on with business as usual knowing that Americans lack habeas corpus and a working code of law. I want my representative, Dave Reichert, to block the doors of the House until habeas is restored as a basic human right in this nation!
In light of Bush's steady drumbeat for war with Iran, Kucinich said he will consider an impeachment resolution against him.
"Impeachment may well be the only remedy which remains to stop a war of aggression against Iran," he says.
"The most conservative principle of the Founding Fathers was distrust of unchecked power. Centuries of experience substantiated that absolute power corrupts absolutely. The Constitution embraced a separation of powers to keep the legislative, executive and judicial branches in equilibrium," Bruce Fein, a constitutional lawyer and associate deputy attorney general in the Reagan administration, said in the October 2006 edition of Washington Monthly.
If Congress were serious about oversight, there already would be dozens of bills and resolutions calling for impeachment of Bush and Cheney. The "Unitary Executive Theory" violates the principle of balance of power in the Constitution. The president cites this "unitary" power in hundreds of signing statements that say he can ignore laws passed by Congress.
The First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments are all now subject to the caprice of government officials. The Military Commissions Act allows U.S. citizens to be detained without due process if they are declared enemy combatants. Without our permission, this country has become an exporter of torture.
Congress has failed to provide oversight and exercise its authority to rein in a criminal administration. Only swift action on impeachment can redeem it now. The people have done the heavy work of bringing impeachment forward. Representatives need only ask if the allegations are serious enough to warrant investigations.
George Bush and Dick Cheney promote an imperial presidency. They assert that the executive is the most powerful branch of government, undermining the judiciary and Congress in violation of the Constitution's bedrock principle of shared power among three co-equal branches. This subverts the very nature of our system of government.
"This is an attempt by the president to have the final word on his own constitutional powers, which eliminates the checks and balances that keep the country a democracy. ... That's a big problem because that's essentially a dictatorship," Fein said.
Washington For Impeachment and Citizens to Impeach Bush and Cheney are working to inform the public, collect signatures to petitions, provide forums, and lobby representatives. Washington was the second state to sponsor a bill for impeachment in the state Legislature.
Washington State Democratic organizations have passed resolutions in 11 Democratic legislative districts, five counties and the Washington State Democratic Central Committee. Jay Inslee, D-Bainbridge Island, has received impeachment resolutions from almost every legislative district within his congressional district. When will he represent the will of his constituents and honor his oath to protect the Constitution?
The national movement to impeach is a non-partisan effort to restore the Constitution and the rule of law. People across the political spectrum can unite to preserve the Constitution and civil liberties given to us by the founders. Impeachment is the peaceful, orderly, constitutionally prescribed way to rid ourselves of a lawless administration.
The issue is not about removing Bush and Cheney as much as it is about preserving the Constitution and redeeming the office of the executive. The Constitution is the contract of governance between the people and the government. What happens when major portions of the contract are violated?
Congress has failed to call the president and vice president to account, so citizens must turn up the heat. Members of Congress who fail to demand investigations are covering for criminals. Every elected official has sworn an oath to "support and protect the Constitution from all enemies foreign and domestic." Anything less than impeachment and a full repudiation of the Bush administration's crimes and violations of the law is a dereliction of duty and a betrayal of the public trust.
If we want our democracy back, we need to roll up our sleeves and get to work to clean out the House.