The dwindling circle of right-wing defenders of the Bush-Cheney presidency would have Americans believe that only the most reckless partisans would even consider the prospect of censuring or perhaps even impeaching the president and vice president. But the prospect of officially sanctioning Bush and Cheney, as has now been proposed by U.S. Rep. John Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, is gaining ground in unexpected quarters.
Nation magazine editor and publisher Katrina vanden Heuvel argues that, as 2005 gives way to 2006, the outrage level is rising. "The I-word," writes vanden Heuvel, "has moved from the marginal to the mainstream." Editor & Publisher magazine, the journal of the newspaper industry, agrees, pointing out that a "sudden outbreak of anger or candor has been sparked by the uproar over revelations of a White House-approved domestic spying program."
Indeed, the outbursts of anger and candor that once came only from the left are now coming from across the political spectrum from one of the nation's most respected academics, from a courageous former White House aide, from a conservative business journal, and from a growing number of Wisconsinites.
The academic is Jonathan Turley, the George Washington University School of Law professor who is widely recognized as one of the nation's most learned experts on civil liberties and surveillance issues. Turley says that, with his decision to have the National Security Agency secretly wiretap the phones of American citizens, the president not only "violated federal law" but raised "serious constitutional questions of high crimes and misdemeanors."
High crimes and misdemeanors are, of course, the raw material of impeachment. And Turley is not the only one speaking up about them. Former Nixon White House counsel John Dean has long argued that the president and vice president have committed impeachable offenses that are worse than those that led to the Watergate era effort to impeach President Richard Nixon.
What's really remarkable, and heartening, is the fact that the concerns of Turley and Dean are being echoed by some traditionally conservative voices.
Barron's, the business journal that is published by the Wall Street Journal and has a track record of erring on the right in most public policy debates, argued in a Dec. 24 editorial:
"Willful disregard of a law is potentially an impeachable offense. It is at least as impeachable as having a sexual escapade under the Oval Office desk and lying about it later. The members of the House Judiciary Committee who staged the impeachment of President Clinton ought to be as outraged at this situation. They ought to investigate it, consider it carefully and report either a bill that would change the wiretap laws to suit the president or a bill of impeachment.
"It is important to be clear that an impeachment case, if it comes to that, would not be about wiretapping, or about a possible constitutional right not to be wiretapped. It would be about the power of Congress to set wiretapping rules by law, and it is about the obligation of the president to follow the rules in the acts that he and his predecessors signed into law."
The evidence shows that serious wrongdoing has occurred. And those responsible need to be held to account not just by academics, former White House aides and national publications but by the citizens who can persuade members of Congress to become the watchdogs on executive wrongdoing that the founders intended.
In the Madison area, activists will begin the new year by holding a town hall meeting on the question of impeachment as part of a national campaign to turn up the heat at the grass roots. The Madison event will take place at 1 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 7, at the Labor Temple on South Park Street. For more information on the local event, e-mail Stoughton activist Buzz Davis at DBuzzdavis@aol.com. For more information on the national campaign, visit the www.censurebush.org Web site.
© Copyright 2005 The Capital Times