Impeach Cheney First?
It is no secret that Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich has been toying with the idea of moving articles of impeachment against a member of the Bush administration. And he appears to be focusing more and more of his attention on the man that many activists around the country see as the ripest target for sanctioning: Vice President Dick Cheney.
Despite House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's efforts to convince Democrats to keep presidential accountability "off the table," Kucinich is just one of many House Democrats who have acknowledged in recent days that they are hearing the call for action loud and clear from their constituents and from grassroots activists across the country.
"I get one call after another saying, 'Impeach the president,'" says Congressman John Murtha, D-Pennsylvania. Congresswoman Diane Watson, D-California, says constituents in Los Angeles "are saying impeachment. I am hearing that more and more and more."
Kucinich, for his part, has sent more signals than anyone else in the caucus about his interest in raising accountability issues. The congressman, who has broken with Pelosi on issues relating to the funding of the war in Iraq, has been blunt about his frustration with the caution of Congress when it comes to addressing executive excess.
"This House cannot avoid its constitutionally authorized responsibility to restrain the abuse of Executive power," he told the House last month, adding that "impeachment may well be the only remedy which remains to stop a war of aggression against Iran."
Around the same time, in a letter to supporters of his anti-war bid for the 2OO8 Democratic presidential nomination, Kucinich asked it it was time to put impeachment on the table. The response was an overwhelming "yes."
Earlier this week, according to media reports Kucinich emailed House colleagues with a note that began, "I intend to introduce Articles of Impeachment with respect to the conduct of Vice President Cheney."
Kucinich put the plan on hold after the Virginia Tech shooting massacre. But the general expectation is that he will raise the issue anew after a decent interval.
Cheney's office sees no grounds for impeachment. "The vice president has had nearly 40 years of government service and has done so in an honorable fashion," says Megan McGinn, Cheney's deputy press secretary.
McGinn got that line out with a straight face.
Americans of who are not on the vice president's payroll are inclined to recognize Cheney's manipulation of intelligence prior to the Iraq War, his active role in going after administration critic Joe Wilson and Wilson's wife Valarie Plame, and his ongoing links to the Halliburton war-profiteering cartel as arguments against giving the vice president any prizes for "honorable" government service.
Impeachment activists have in recent months pushed an "Impeach Cheney First" message, in part to counter the complaint that impeaching Bush would put an even darker figure in charge. Of course, going after the most powerful vice president in history has consequences, as well. In the unlikely event that Cheney were removed from office, one line of reasoning goes, Bush would for the first time find himself in charge.
John Nichols' new book is THE GENIUS OF IMPEACHMENT: The Founders' Cure for Royalism. Rolling Stone's Tim Dickinson hails it as a "nervy, acerbic, passionately argued history-cum-polemic [that] combines a rich examination of the parliamentary roots and past use of the 'heroic medicine' that is impeachment with a call for Democratic leaders to 'reclaim and reuse the most vital tool handed to us by the founders for the defense of our most basic liberties.'"
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