Slightly over two months ago the Board of Supervisors passed and Mayor Newsom returned to the Board (though unsigned) Supervisor Chris Daly's resolution to investigate and impeach George Bush and Dick Cheney for "high crimes and misdemeanors." The resolution was then forwarded to various elected officials including Rep. Nancy Pelosi.
With the passage of two months, Bush's approval ratings have continued to drop with one poll suggesting he now sits at an embarrassing 29%. American voters (and some nonvoters) now favor (56%) Democratic control of Congress. And 85% of self-proclaimed Democrats now say waging war on Iraq was the wrong course of action.
Numerous analyses show between 20 and 50 House seats are hotly contested races, and various estimates, including those from the Democratic Party, point toward Democrats regaining control of the House by a minimum of 15 seats with one estimate indicating the gains could be as high as 35 seats. The recent Washington Post poll shows that voters disapprove (63%) of the way Congress is doing its job with only 33% approving.
However, with the outlook highly promising that Democrats will regain control of Congress in November, and Rep. Pelosi will likely become the first woman Speaker of the House, in recent interviews with the Washington Post Pelosi has virtually promised George Bush that he will be granted immunity from impeachment.
On May 7, the Post's Jonathan Weisman reported that Pelosi's goal upon regaining control of the House and being thrust into the powerful position as Speaker will be to call for investigations of Bush's actions and decisions, and Weisman quoted Pelosi as saying of these investigations that "you never know where it leads to." However, on May 12 the Post's Charles Babington quoted Pelosi's press liaison officer, Brendan Daly, as saying "that impeachment is off the table; she is not interested in pursuing it." (As of Wednesday morning, Rep. Pelosi and Brendan Daly were unavailable for comment and did not return my call to clear up the dueling concepts, and Andrew Stoddard of Pelosi's press office chose to defer to Daly when asked about this discrepancy.)
But let's assume that the latter position is now where Pelosi stands and view her current position, how she got there, and what it means to the progressive movement.
In Randy Shaw's report "Is Pelosi Wrong Leader for Dems?" on March 21 (http://www.beyondchron.org/news/index.php?itemid=3065), he quotes DailyKos' Markos Moulitsas that Pelosi has been noticeably quiet regarding the Republican culture of corruption. Of course, I agree that Pelosi has managed to keep Democrats focused on a number of important issues, including protecting the Alaskan environment from profit-mongering oil companies. But she does not possess the fighting spirit of Sen. Barbara Boxer.
Considering that Pelosi represents probably the largest progressive constituency of any elected representative, it appears she has either lost interest in championing progressive viewpoints or, like Bush, is living in a bubble and therefore oblivious to what her constituents want. It's probably more of the former as she attempts to assume a centrist role in what appears to be yet another performance that had voters perceiving the Democratic Party as 'weak' in the 2004 elections.
I asked the author of the Resolution to Impeach, Sup. Chris Daly, what he thought about Pelosi's intent to forgive Bush of his misdeeds, and his response was "I think that pushing harder against the [Republicans] would galvanize a whole new base of folks for the [Democratic Party]," but Sup. Daly sees the current leadership of Pelosi has focused more on organizing the moderates of the Party, and I have to agree with that assessment. The rosy outlook for the Democratic Party this November wasn't achieved by "playing it safe" or by being unassuming; it was achieved by the militant voices in national leadership positions and by the progressive activists in Pelosi's district. It was aided by investigative journalists who finally removed their self-imposed muzzles.
What I see happening here is Pelosi has used these militant voices to push for a Democratic victory in November and now that that appears to be almost a certainty, progressives are being excluded from completing the framework that brought the Party to this point in history. To put it bluntly, it feels like a punch in the stomach as reward for the accomplishments.
As the old adage goes, history has a way of repeating itself, and following a centrist approach could result in a short-lived victory as we move ever closer to the 2008 Presidential election. Various analyses have been offered in the New York Times regarding different levels of success in this year's mid-term elections, but those analyses have been predominantly focused on the Democratic Party following a centrist approach.
The rallying cry for impeachment is what has divided the Republican Party and almost virtually assured Democrats a mid-term election victory. Now is not the time to change tactics and let Bush and Cheney get away with their 'alleged' crimes against humanity. Now is not the time to abandon a social justice struggle and those who have been fighting to achieve that social justice.
When Bill Clinton lied, no one died. But George Bush's lies, illegal actions, and deceptions have cost the lives of more than 2,400 American men and women who served in Iraq. But even more shocking is that Bush's lies have cost the lives of considerably more Iraqi citizens, with estimates ranging from 30,000 to more than a million. Additionally, more than half of Iraqi children have been found to be malnourished.
Americans and others have been denied due process, among other human rights violations. Countless other citizens of other countries have been tortured, a violation of the Geneva Conventions.
To promise George Bush and Dick Cheney immunity from impeachment not only paints the Democratic Party as uncaring about violations of our laws but also sends a message to Bush and Cheney that no matter what illegal actions they have already performed or might perform between now and 2008, they are at liberty to continue to violate human rights and will not be prosecuted. And voters will incorrectly assume (as in 2004) that there are no major differences between the two dominant political parties and will subconsciously react to whoever spins the most believable rhetoric.
Nancy Pelosi should immediately retract her promise to Bush and Cheney of immunity from impeachment and should promise the American people, and the world, that the Republican culture of corruption will not be tolerated, and those found guilty of "high crimes and misdemeanors" will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of our laws.