The Bush administration is no barrier to the burgeoning movement for impeachment. In fact, George Bush and Dick Cheney should probably be made honorary members of the various coalitions seeking to remove them from office. Not a day goes by when the president and vice president do not take actions that strengthen the case for impeachment -- actions that, on Cheney's part, have already inspired ten U.S. House members to endorse articles detailing his high crimes and misdemeanors.
Many more House Democrats would sign on for impeachment if the leadership of their caucus was not pressuring them to back off.
Thus, the greatest barrier to the movement to hold the president and vice president to account is House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California.
Before last year's election, Pelosi announced that impeachment was "off the table." It is probably good that she did not try to nullify another section of the Constitution -- say, the part about freedom of speech. But Pelosi did serious damage to the system of checks and balances when she declared that her House would not use the tool created by the founders to assure that the legislative branch could keep errant executives in line.
No one really expected Pelosi to lead the charge for impeachment.
As the office holder who follows Cheney in the line of succession to the presidency, the Speaker ought not be the primary proponent of the removal of those ahead of her in the Oval Office queue.
But the solemn oath she swore to support and defend the Constitution of the United States should have precluded her from cherry picking the sections to which she chose to "bear true faith and allegiance."
More importantly, it should have precluded the Speaker from muscling members of her caucus to eschew talk of impeachment.
Unfortunately, Pelosi has misread her moment in history.
Even more unfortunately, she refuses to acknowledge her error.
Enter Cindy Sheehan, the "Peace Mom" who two summers ago gained the attention and sympathy of the world when she demanded that Bush explain why he sent her son to die in an unwise and unnecessary war.
Sheehan, whose advocacy for impeachment is every bit as ardent as her advocacy for bringing the troops home from Iraq, has never cut Bush any slack.
And Sheehan's not cutting Pelosi any either.
Earlier this year, Sheehan's frustration with Pelosi's failure to take the steps necessary to restrict funding for continuation of the war caused the tireless activist to step back from the forefront of the peace movement. But Sheehan's back as of July 10, leading a caravan and march from Texas to Washington to to demand the ouster of Bush and Cheney.
And when she arrives in Washington July 23, Sheehan she will issue the ultimate challenge to Pelosi.
If the Speaker has not put impeachment back on the table, Sheehan promises to announce that she will mount an independent campaign against Pelosi in November, 2008.
"Democrats and Americans feel betrayed by the Democratic leadership," says Sheehan, who is furious with Pelosi and her caucus for not doing more to end the war and hold Bush to account.
That betrayal is felt particularly in Pelosi's San Francisco district, where voters have overwhelmingly endorsed referendums calling for an end to the war and for the impeachment of Bush and Cheney. Now, members of Code Pink--Women for Peace and other groups are camping out in front of Pelosi's home to protest her failure to represent their views and values.
Sheehan, a California, sums up homestate sentiments regarding Pelosi when the activist says: "She let the people down who worked hard to put Democrats back in power, who we thought were our hope for change."
The depth of the frustration in San Francisco with the Speaker's leadership -- or the lack thereof -- is what makes Sheehan suggest that, "I would give (Pelosi) a run for her money."
Certainly, Sheehan's notoriety would make the race a more serious one than the easy runs Pelosi has enjoyed since she won her House seat in a 1987 special election.
Could a Sheehan challenge actually upset Pelosi? That's a longshot -- and Sheehan, who is far savvier about politics than her critics recognize, knows this.
But she also knows that politicians are most likely to respond to political pressure. So Cindy Sheehan is turning up the heat on Pelosi with a political threat that George Bush -- after his long and bitter experience of tangling with the "Peace Mom" -- would undoubtedly advise the Speaker to treat with a good measure of seriousness.
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.'"
Copyright © 2007 The Nation