Here in San Francisco, supporting impeachment is like preaching to the choir, but I am now convinced that it has gone from desirable to necessary. Now that Congress has voted to withdraw our troops from Iraq, the U.S. government is at an impasse. George Bush is “the Decider,” and he stubbornly refuses to work with a new Congress that was elected to end this disastrous War.
If anything, growing opposition will only make this President dig deeper into his heels. He’s a lame duck who will never have to face the voters again, so why should he give in to the will of the people? Before the Democrats wimp out and drop their efforts to withdraw, we must ratchet up the pressure – and the logical solution at this point is to call for his impeachment.
For months, political observers have noted the strong interest that voters have about the 2008 election – even though the first ballot won’t be cast for another year. The reason is that voters are so sick of the Bush Administration that they have moved on. But with the President’s approval ratings in Nixon territory
(and likely to continue dipping further), why not just put the Administration out of its misery and impeach Bush and Cheney now?
On April 5th, Beltway pundit Joe Klein wrote
that the Bush Administration is in “epic collapse.” According to Klein, the three latest developments from the White House – the showdown on Iraq, the scandal at Walter Reed Hospital and the firing of the eight U.S. Attorneys – “precisely illuminate the three qualities that make this Administration one of the worst in American history: arrogance (Iraq), incompetence (Walter Reed) and cynicism (the U.S. Attorneys).”
As the public moves beyond this arrogant, incompetent and cynical Administration, Bush and Cheney are determined to thwart Congress while they still can. For weeks, Bush has said that he will veto any legislation that calls for a deadline to get out of Iraq – although that’s the only way to end the War. And if no budget gets passed by the time money runs out, the President has the nerve to blame Democrats for “not supporting our troops” – even though everyone knows it’s his fault that we’re there to begin with.
While there are legitimate concerns about what would happen politically if Congress pushes for impeachment, a better question is what will happen if they don’t
pursue it. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will push for stronger withdrawal legislation after the President's veto, but it’s clear that many lack the resolve to continue fighting. Already, Barack Obama – who has earned support for having opposed the War from the start – has said
that Congress will not de-fund the War, and that “nobody wants to play chicken with our troops on the ground.”
As the standoff continues, who doesn’t believe that Congress -- rather than the President -- will blink first? Bush hasn’t even vetoed the spending bill, and Democrats are already talking capitulation. Yesterday, Senator Carl Levin (who chairs the Armed Services Committee) said
that if the President goes ahead with his veto, Democrats may agree to remove a withdrawal date. “We’re not going to cut off funding for the troops,” he said.
Congress needs to take bold action that will show the President that they're not playing around. If he continues to blame them for "putting our troops in harm's way," they must vote to remove him (and Dick Cheney) from office.
Impeachment is no longer just a “San Francisco value,” as more and more Americans believe that it’s the right thing to do. A Newsweek poll from last October found a slight majority (51-44) in favor of impeachment, up ten points from a year ago. Since then, we have seen a President who refuses to read the mandate from the 2006 elections, believes that we should escalate – not withdraw – from Iraq, claims to “support our troops” but won’t give them the proper care they need, and fires U.S. Attorneys for political reasons.
For years, the movement to impeach Bush and Cheney has built up grass-roots support across the country. Last November, San Francisco and Berkeley voters easily passed propositions in favor of it. In Vermont, 39 towns have passed pro-impeachment resolutions – and it has been introduced and debated in ten state legislatures throughout the country. Congressmen John Lewis and Keith Ellison have supported impeachment for years, and Senator Russ Feingold moved to censure the President after the NSA “wire-tapping” scandal broke out.
Now even Republicans like Senator Chuck Hagel are coming around
on this issue. “Any president,” said Hagel, “who says 'I don't care' or 'I will not respond to what the people of this country are saying about Iraq or anything else' or 'I don't care what the Congress does, I am going to proceed' — if a president really believes that, then there are ways to deal with that. This is not a monarchy.”
The Democratic leadership in Congress is still queasy about pressing for impeachment – but they must realize that it’s necessary to avoid surrendering to this Administration. Nancy Pelosi said last November that impeachment was “off the table,” but she also resisted for years a deadline to get out of Iraq – until progressives pushed her to make it happen.
In December 2005, Barbara Boxer asked for the legal opinions of four constitutional scholars on the grounds for impeachment. She later said that she wasn’t “ready” to go forward with it, but will she be ready now?
John Conyers is the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and he now has the power to investigate abuses in the Bush Administration. When he was the ranking minority member, Conyers attempted to look into the Downing Street Memo – but the Republicans who controlled the committee wouldn’t give him the time of day.
Now the Judiciary Committee must begin investigations – on the NSA Wiretapping Scandal, the use of torture at Guantanamo, the Valerie Plame affair, and the Administration’s criminally incompetent response to Hurricane Katrina. Along with the President’s current standoff with Congress (where over 70% of Americans support withdrawing from Iraq), hearings that illuminate the abuses of the Bush Administration will help bring public pressure for impeachment.
Of course, any effort to impeach George Bush must simultaneously impeach Dick Cheney. Like his father, President Bush has pursued the cynical strategy of choosing a Vice President who is even more despicable than he is – discouraging any talk of impeachment. But with Cheney at the heart of every decision in the White House, it won’t be hard to find strong grounds to impeach him at the same time.
If Bush and Cheney were impeached, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would become President. Pelosi has already shown leadership by going to Syria – and meeting with foreign leaders who the Bush Administration won’t even talk to. The fact that George Bush harshly condemned her visit proves that she must be doing something right.
Everyone wants to see a woman become President, but wouldn’t you rather it be Nancy Pelosi than Hillary Clinton? The Bush-Cheney Administration has ruined this country for six years too many. Our next President will inherit a mess that will take decades to repair. It’s time to bring it to an end – now, rather than in two years.
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