It's time for impeachment to come out of the deep freeze.
For a year now, Democratic leaders like Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL), Rep. Nancy Pelosi D-CA), Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) and DNC head Howard Dean have been working to tamp down the pressures to hold the president accountable for his crimes and abuses of power by way of impeachment.
House Speaker Pelosi for her part made it clear after the Democrats won the House that she would tolerate no talk of impeachment, even reportedly threatening one-time impeachment advocate Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) with the denial of his cherished position as chair of the House Judiciary Committee if he pushed ahead with or accepted bills of impeachment from other House members.
House leaders and Democratic Party leaders also worked behind the scenes to kill off grassroots attempts to follow Thomas Jefferson's alternative route to impeachment by getting state legislatures to pass bicameral impeachment resolutions. They strong-armed legislative leaders in the senates of both Washington State and New Mexico to block efforts to put such resolutions to a floor debate and vote in those two states, and have been working mightily to block a similar grassroots campaign in Vermont.
But the Democratic Party's efforts to tamp down impeachment efforts are coming unraveled, courtesy of the ongoing criminality of the Bush administration, which seems hell-bent on aggrandizing as much executive power as it possibly can before the clock runs out on Bush¹s second term of office.
Democratic state committees, the top party organizations at the state level, in both Oregon and Vermont, have overwhelmingly passed resolutions calling on the House of Representatives to initiate impeachment proceedings. In Vermont, 38 towns--roughly a third of those holding annual town meetings this past month--voted impeachment resolutions (only six were rejected), and an effort continues to move forward in both houses of that state's legislature to introduce and pass a Jeffersonian impeachment resolution to send to the House in Washington. Other efforts are underway in New Jersey and Maine.
Republican Senator and presidential dark horse Chuck Hagel of Nebraska has publicly stated that impeachment is a possibility, given the president's arrogant rejection of public or congressional accountability with regard to the war in Iraq and other issues.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) has openly talked of submitting a bill of impeachment.
What's missing in all this has been media attention. In fact, until lately, the media have pretty much only reported about impeachment in the negative, running stories when an impeachment resolution gets blocked by a state legislature, but not when it gets backed by a legislative committee, or by a Democratic state party organization.
There has not been a scientific poll asking about impeachment sentiment since last October, when Newsweek Magazine published a poll showing that an astonishing 51 percent of Americans favored impeachment--half of those people even saying it should be a priority for Congress. Now things may be starting to change. Sen. Hagel's comments on the possibility of impeachment, first made in a Vanity Fair magazine profile, were reported on ABC, and impeachment advocate John Nichols was interviewed about impeachment and Hagel's comment on MSNBC. CNN also ran a story.
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That's not much, but it's an indication that the ground is shifting.
With the White House pushing forward with a new war-marketing campaign--this time against Iran--and given mounting evidence of new White House crimes, from the political firing of federal prosecutors and the abusive use of national security letters by the FBI to spy on tens of thousands of Americans, to the disaster of the show trials in Guantanamo, to the lying by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, to evidence of both President Bush's and Vice President Cheney's involvement in the outing of and obstruction of justice into the investigation into the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame, to the escalation of the war in Iraq and to the lying about and enforced manipulation of government evidence on global warming, the American people are getting completely fed up with the Bush administration.
A recent poll found that as lame as it has been in challenging the Bush agenda over the last six years, the Democratic Party has now become the favored choice of 50 percent of Americans, while support for the Republican Party has fallen to only 35 percentÃ¢â‚¬Â¹barely higher than the paltry 30 percent who still cling to their support of the president himself.
It would seem to be only a matter of time before Pelosi and the rest of the Democratic Party leadership will be forced to open the floodgates and permit the filing of impeachment bills.
The arguments made against impeachment--that it would be 'divisive,' that it would interfere with more 'pressing matters' in Congress, that it would mean making the almost universally loathed Cheney president, and that it would 'hurt Democrats' in 2008--are all looking increasingly shop-warn and contrived.
In fact, as the Bush crimes against the public, the Republic, the law and Constitution mount, the Democratic defenders of the president against impeachment are increasingly looking simply cynical and ridiculous.
There is a kind of seesaw effect at work here, where the weight of presidential power and prestige, combined with Democratic cowardice, has kept one side firmly planted on the ground, while critics of Bush crimes and constitutional abuses have remained stranded up in the air. But as the weight of the evidence of Bush administration criminality, arrogance and unconstitutional actions have mounted, and as more and more citizens have lost faith in the government, the beam has been tilting. It won't be long before it is the administration and the Democratic Party leadership who find themselves dangling and without support.
At that point, Pelosi and the DNC will have to surrender to the will of the grassroots, and step aside for the ensuing stampede of impeachment bills.
Impeachment, like spring, is in the air.
DAVE LINDORFF is a Philadelphia-based investigative journalist and columnist. His work is available at www.thiscantbehappening.net and www.counterpunch.org. His most recent book, co-authored with Barbara Olshansky, is "The Case for Impeachment: The Legal Argument for Removing President George W. Bush from Office" (St. Martin's Press, 2006).