The Tipping Point
By Vern Nelson
OC Voice Columnist
A strung-out nation Jonesing for justice felt a jolt of hope July 15 when Congress voted 238-180 to send Dennis Kucinich’s Article of Impeachment HR 1345 to the Judiciary Committee for a hearing July 25. This is not his comprehensive 35 Articles of Impeachment from last June, which had been rejected by the leadership, and not his three previous articles against Cheney, but a new one dealing only with Bush lying to the Congress about his reasons for invading Iraq.
It was nice to see nine Republicans finally breaking ranks with their lockstep Party to support this hearing. Three familiar names were among those nine: North Carolina’s Walter Jones, who turned against the war years ago and is embarrassed that he’ll be forever remembered for his renaming the Capitol cafeteria’s French fries as “Freedom Fries;” Maryland’s lame-duck Cong. Wayne Gilchrest, who was against the war from the start and was sadly beaten in the recent primary by a rightwing extremist, continuing the pattern of moderate Republicans as being more endangered than the panda; and of course, Texas’ ineffable Dr. Ron Paul.
Even if there’s no time now to actually remove the criminals from office in their remaining 5 months, removing lawbreakers from office is only one aim of impeachment – more importantly it’s supposed to help prevent future abuses. Five months of the investigations that impeachment entails will be just what the doctor ordered: for help with future criminal proceedings, for putting a crimp on continued lawbreaking and for preventing Presidential pardons of accomplices.
And you Democrats who fret that impeachment proceedings will make you seem as petty, partisan and vengeful as the jackals who impeached Clinton for lying about sex, not only are you being pusillanimous as always, you’re also way off base.
For one thing, Clinton’s popularity was at 60 percent when he was impeached; we know where Bush’s is. Everyone also knows the difference in severity between what the two Presidents are accused of. And Congress’ approval rating has sunk below Bush’s precisely because of the calculating political timidity you’re showing now. Sure, impeachment will bring forth a hue and cry from the 29 percent of dead-ender Bush supporters and the media that over represents them, but numerous polls have shown that impeachment of Bush will be a political winner for Democrats (If you need that, to do the right thing).
Which brings us to:
The Catch (natch)
Some big limitations have been placed on these “impeachment hearings” at the insistence of Democratic leadership. It’s already been agreed that there won’t be an actual vote on proceeding with impeachment. The hearing, with very strict time limitations, is going to be on impeachment “and other [supposed] remedies” to a lawless presidency, with emphasis on the other remedies; and it will focus not on crimes but “abuses,” causing constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley to dismiss it as a “fancy dress ball.” (I would have said “Potemkin impeachment hearing.”) Add to that the near-complete media blackout, and enthusiasm is certainly dampened. Just making this hearing happen at all was like pulling teeth, from the Speaker who for some reason wants to keep impeachment “off the table.”
Pelosi Just Keeps Failing Us
This latest failure of the Democratic leadership comes on the heels of many great disappointments to the American voters who overwhelmingly elected a Democratic Congress in 2006 to end the war and rein in Bush’s lawlessness. Pelosi and her conservative second-in-command, Steny Hoyer, have been the authors of the following notable cave-ins and betrayals that make it hard for us progressive Democrats to face our Green and independent friends:
- Removing from a war funding bill a provision that would have required Bush to seek congressional approval before launching any new war on Iran.
- Immunizing the telecommunications companies that helped the government illegally spy on us without warrants.
- Consistently shepherding through war funding bills with no strings attached and no timetables.
- Keeping impeachment “off the table” until now, and when public demand became too big to ignore, allowing only the toothless hearings described above.
That’s why my son and I are going up to San Francisco this week to help collect signatures to get Cindy Sheehan on the ballot. The celebrity war protestor and bereaved mother is running as an independent against Pelosi precisely because of Nancy’s hostility to impeachment and halfhearted efforts to end the criminal occupation of Iraq. But she needs over 10,198 signatures from San Francisco voters by Aug. 8. She is well on her way to that goal now and her recent endorsement by the San Francisco Green Party should help her get even closer.
All of us progressive patriots should do whatever we can to help Cindy get across the message-we want real change in this country, not just Bush Lite! Go to www.cindyforcongress.org and see what you can do to help!