BEVERLY CENTER, Calif. - If President Bush or Vice President Dick Cheney were ever to be impeached, their foes could cite this Independence Day as a milestone - the day that the nation's first "impeachment headquarters" opened its doors in a storefront near the Beverly Center.
Those assembled cited various Bush actions or policies, including "lies that led the U.S. into war."
They also said that Bush--Cheney policies precipitated torture, illegal spying on American citizens, and the curtailment of privacy and civil rights in the name of fighting terrorism.
The latest irritant was the president's decision to commute the prison sentence of former Cheney aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, whom a jury convicted of obstructing justice.
"Isn't it ironic that Paris Hilton will spend more days in jail than Libby?" said De Lear.
The day's star power was provided by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles), who had vigorously defended then-President Bill Clinton when he faced impeachment in 1998.
"This is one of the most important efforts this country has ever seen," said Waters, speaking to about 300 gathered for a noon rally at nearby La Cienega Park.
In an interview, she added: "We can make changes through organizing. If the numbers are in the streets, Congress will listen."
Any impeachment motion - ultimately voted on by the House of Representatives - would have to pass through the House Judiciary Committee, to which Waters belongs.
Organizers could not definitively name another "pro-impeach" representative on that committee.
In the House at large, they tally 14 like-minded lawmakers, most of whom have signed on to articles of impeachment against Cheney that were introduced by Dennis J. Kucinich (D-Ohio), who is running for president.
When asked who might lead the cause in the Senate, Waters paused, then said she would have to defer that question for now.
In the end, removing Bush or Cheney from office would require a two-thirds vote by the Senate.
In the mid-term elections, many more Democrats - and some Republicans - spoke out against the war, including some who had originally voted to permit the Bush administration to invade Iraq.
But concluding the war and impeaching Bush don't look like compatible policies to most members of Congress, said progressive Democratic columnist Harold Meyerson, executive editor of the American Prospect, in a telephone interview.
"Impeachment is a distraction since it's not going to happen," said Meyerson.
"At the root of this is the notion that Bush lied us into war and that's been out there 4 1/2 years. Impeachment would stop everything else in Congress and the Democrats think they actually need to accomplish stuff instead of fighting unwinnable battles, especially with poll numbers falling for Congress. The main thing is to defeat Republicans electorally."
Republican analyst Arnold Steinberg said an impeachment drive would help his side: "This gambit will excite the leftist base but marginalize reasonable Democrats and alienate independent voters - and motivate Republicans. I can only say, 'Grow up and get a life.' Or, better yet, 'Go for it.' You'll end up sinking Democratic Party prospects for 2008."
Critics seeking to define the headquarters opening as a conclave of the political fringe could point out the largely middle-aged, deeply left-wing audience or the accordion player in floppy shoes who opened the rally with a version of "America" that substituted "siblinghood" for "brotherhood."
But the audience also included fresh recruits Trevor Torquato, 19, and Lauren Kuzma, 17, of Murrieta.
"I'm actually new to politics," said Torquato. "I'm here to be educated. I'm going to register with the Green Party today."
"I'm just hoping all of this will get Bush out of office," said Lauren, "so we can get our troops out of Iraq. They don't really talk about that in school. They talk about past history, not what's going on now."
The impeachment center was sponsored by Progressive Democrats of Los Angeles, Westside Greens, Santa Monica Democratic Club and the Los Angeles Greens.
Activists plan to meet every Saturday from 2 to 6 p.m. at the 3rd Street storefront, where they'll stuff envelopes, do phone banking, spread the word about http://www.bcimpeach.com and make plans to circulate petitions and lobby elected officials. They report that 79 municipalities and townships nationwide have passed impeachment resolutions.
Former Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg, who spoke at the event, insisted that principles ought to trump narrow political imperatives. "Leadership requires that people step out," she said. "It is not hopeless. Stand up. Do something for your rights."
Copyright 2007 Los Angeles Times