Not to delay.
Not to cower.
Not to bend to the will of Nancy Pelosi.
But to stand up tall for the Constitution as head of the House Judiciary Committee.
By introducing 35 thoughtful and detailed articles of impeachment against President Bush on June 9, Dennis Kucinich has put Conyers on the spot.
It's "to be, or not to be" time.
And Conyers knows what's right. He himself introduced a bill to explore grounds for impeaching Bush-but that was in 2005, before the Democrats came to power.
Lewis Lapham of Harper's interviewed Conyers and wrote about his brave and quixotic stance back then. Why was Conyers for impeachment then? " 'To take away the excuse,' he said, 'that we didn't know.' So that two or four or ten years from now, if somebody should ask, 'Where were you, Conyers, and where was the United States Congress?' when the Bush Administration declared the Constitution inoperative and revoked the license of parliamentary government, none of the company now present can plead ignorance or temporary insanity, can say that 'somehow it escaped our notice' that the President was setting himself up as a supreme leader exempt from the rule of law."
So why is Conyers doing nothing now, when, as the Supreme Court ruled again this week, the President has essentially set himself up as a supreme leader exempt from the rule of law?
Because Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer, the cowardly leaders of the Democratic Party in the House, have told him to. They claim, in public, that it would be a waste of time, since Bush's term is running out, or that they have more important things to do. But privately I'm sure they are saying it might not be good for the party in November. I believe they are wrong about that, since Bush is extremely unpopular, and impeachment would galvanize the progressive base. But even if they're right, they're putting petty party politics above the Constitution.
Jack Cafferty of CNN made a similar point in a great commentary on CNN.
And Jonathan Turley and Keith Olbermann have been going over the grounds of impeachment on MSNBC.
The Washington Post covered it.
The AP ran a story. So did the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
And Rochelle Riley of the Detroit Free Press wrote an impressive column praising Kucinich.
But The New York Times didn't do its own story, taking only a handful of words from the AP. And impeachment did not exactly lead the nightly network news programs.
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I also wonder why more members of the House haven't endorsed Kucinich's resolution.
At this moment, there are only three: Lynn Woolsey and Barbara Lee of California, and Robert Wexler of Florida.
"A decision by Congress to pursue impeachment is not an option, it is a sworn duty," Wexler said. "It is time for Congress to stand up and defend the Constitution against blatant violations and illegalities of this Administration."
Woolsey focused on the crime of the Iraq War. "More than 4,000 brave men and omen have paid for President Bush's mistake with their lives," said Woolsey. "And tens of thousands of others will forever bear the physical and mental wounds of war. As a coequal branch of government, the Congress owes it to each one of them, and their families, to hold those who led us to war under false pretenses accountable."
For her part, Lee, too, cited "the President's abuse of the public trust in his fateful and calamitous decision to launch an unnecessary war in Iraq." But she also remarked upon Bush's "campaign of fear mongering and demagoguery to curtail the civil liberties of Americans at home in the name of fighting the so-called War on Terror. Congressman Kucinich has performed a valuable service to our nation by documenting for the record this tragic history."
Lee, Woolsey, and Wexler are showing the kind of principle that should be commonplace but alas is not in Congress. Where are the other decent Democratic members of the House? What are they hiding from? Where is their spine?
Despite the lack of coverage and support, Kucinich trudges on in his lonely battle in defense of our Constitutional government.
If the Judiciary Committee fails to hold hearings within the month, Kucinich says he'll reintroduce his bill.
"We must not only create an historical record of the misconduct of the Bush Administration," he said, "but we must make sure that any future Administration is forewarned about the Constitutionally proscribed limits of executive authority and exercise of power contravening the Constitution."
John Conyers, are you out there?
Are you listening?
Dennis Kucinich is saying exactly what you were saying before you became chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.
Now you have the power. Use it.
To hell with Pelosi and Hoyer.
This is your moment for courage.
Matthew Rothschild is the editor of The Progressive magazine.
© 2008 The Progressive