The campaign to impeach Alberto Gonzales -- organized by Democracy for America and filmmaker Robert "Outfoxed" Greenwald's Brave New Films crew under the slogan "President Bush won't fire Attorney General Alberto Gonzales... but YOU can!" -- is keeping the heat on the Bush administration's most scandal-plagued appointee. At a time when the drive-by media is playing the president's game by turning its attention away from the constant -- and increasingly dramatic -- revelations of high crimes and misdemeanors on the attorney general's part, this sort of citizen activism becomes all the more essential.
More than 77,000 Americans have signed onto the campaign's online petition, which declares: "We, The Undersigned, urge the House Judiciary Committee to begin the process of impeachment of U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, in accordance with Article II, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution, which provides for removal of the President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States. We believe the process will prove that Atty. General Gonzales has committed High Crimes and Misdemeanors, including the abuse of power and violation of the public trust, both impeachable offenses."
Greenwald's first video promoting the campaign, a devastating review of the attorney general's lies, went to No. 1 on YouTube. The second video, now up as www.impeachgonzales.org, is an even more powerful indictment.
Assessing specific crimes committed by Gonzales, it features revealing testimony by former Justice Department aides and fired U.S. Attorneys -- including New Mexico's David Iglesias, speaking about "threatening" phone calls he received from top Republican officials -- and blistering questioning of the attorney general's actions by members of the House and Senate. The edgiest challenges to the hapless Bush appointee come from House Judiciary Committee members Maxine Waters, D-California, and Robert Wexler, D-Florida.
Wexler demands of Gonzales: "Did the president select Mr. Iglesias to be put on the termination list? Did the vice president put Mr. Iglesias on the termination list? Who put Mr. Iglesias on the list to be fired? It's a national secret, isn't it?
After scenes of fired U.S. Attorneys talking about "unprecedented" pressure from politicians and phone calls from key aides to Gonzales, Waters tells the attorney general: "There's a pattern here, and it doesn't look good."
Across the screen flash the words:
"Misuse of Power."
This week, Democracy for America activists around the country will begin delivering boxes of petitions to congressional offices nationwide, with the purpose of letting key members of the House and Senate know there is local support for impeachment.
The message from DFA is an important one for Congress. At a time when public disappointment in the legislative branch of the federal government is beginning to rival frustration with the executive branch -- as evidenced by recent polls that show approval ratings for the Congress into the depths occupied by Bush -- it is clear that simply letting the president have his way isn't working. There is no question that, as DFA chair Jim Deans laments, "President Bush continues to back his old Texas crony over the integrity of the Justice Depatrment." But against the president's stonewalling, there is a reality to which Dean correctly draws our attention: "Remember Rumsfeld? Michael Brown? Scooter Libby? The President loves to talk tough. But we've proven that with enough pressure we can make them step down, get fired, or go to jail."
Recalling Bush's "Heckuva job, Brownie" defense of his Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator shortly before Brown was forced out for blowing the response to Hurricane Katrina, Dean is suggesting that the operative phrase of the moment should be, "Heckuva job, Al!"
The bottom line is a vital one for those who are serious about the American experiment: If Alberto Gonzales is allowed to remain in office without an appropriate challenge from Congress -- even if that challenge falls short -- then the contemporary interpretation of the sections of the Constitution dealing with executive-branch accountability will be radically at odds with the intention of the founders. And the prospect that wrongdoers and incompetents in future administrations -- be they Republicans or Democrats -- will be rendered nil.
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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