Dismantling the arguments against impeachment
The time for impeachment is NOW
“I, [name], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”
— Congressional oath of office
In the flush of excitement after the November 2006 elections, when Democrats had taken control of both houses of Congress for the first time in 12 years and anything seemed possible, there was much discussion in the progressive blogosphere about the tantalizing prospect of finally holding to account the criminals in the BushCheney administration through the use of the constitutional mechanism of impeachment. (This in spite of the fact that incoming House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi had taken impeachment “off the table” half a year earlier.)
To some who had worked so hard to get Democrats elected to Congress, impeachment seemed the most obvious and necessary thing in the world now that BushCo’s Republican accomplices were no longer in the way to stop it – a natural process that would follow the administration’s criminal misdeeds as surely as night follows day.
Others argued against impeachment. Let’s not focus on the past, they said; we need to move our Democratic agenda forward. If Congress spends all its time on impeachment, it won’t get anything else done. Besides, they would argue, Republicans will spin it that we’re just out for revenge. It will hurt our chances in the 2008 elections. Anyway, we don’t have the votes to guarantee success. Not to mention that the Clinton fiasco cheapened impeachment forever in the minds of the public.
The arguments were heated and prolonged. November and December 2006 were interesting months in the blogosphere – and there was nary a candidate diary in sight.
Time passed. Tempers cooled – and so did expectations. The new Democratic Congress was seated in January 2007 amid high hopes. But as the year progressed and most of the bills forming the vanguard of the “Democratic agenda” died slow, ignominious deaths – some cowering in fear of a Republican filibuster or a presidential veto, others mortally wounded at the President’s desk, returning to perish on the Senate floor, still others abandoning their earlier brave promises to the electorate by fleeing Capitol Hill altogether, their places taken by Republican-friendly bills that funded the Iraq occupation or enlarged the president’s power to illegally surveil, imprison or torture – it became apparent that the hopes of both those who counseled patience on impeachment and those who breathed fire for it were to be dashed. The prognostications of many were to be proven wrong, both those who favored impeachment –
December 14, 2006:
And, frankly, I think, upon much reflection these past few days, that Nancy Pelosi’s assertion that impeachment is “off the table” was a brilliant political move. “Off the table” doesn’t mean it’s out of the Constitution . . .
No, Speaker Pelosi will lead a House that will do its job under the Constitution.
– and those who counseled against it:
December 7, 2006:
We have one year to make our case for 2008 to the American people. We need to show not just that we deserve to hold on the Congress, but that we should be given the White House as well . . .
We can spend 2007 either pushing impeachment . . . or we can use it educating the American people about what a Democratic government would look like — passing meaningful legislation that would improve their lives like the minimum wage, health care reform, ethics reform, stem cell research funding, policies that help families and the middle class.
Impeachment does none of that.
– and neither, as it turns out, does a Democratic Congress. Well, almost none of that – the Democrats in Congress did manage to slip a minimum wage increase into a bill authorizing another $120 billion for the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, sort of the same way I slip my daughter’s pills into a dish of applesauce. Oh, and ethics reform – don’t forget ethics reform.
Don’t worry about Bush and company. Congress will pursue its oversight duties. Waxman and Slaughter and Conyers and the rest of those guys aren’t about to take the next two years off. People will be held accountable. Impeachment isn’t the [only] path to accountability.
– except, when current and former administration officials defy congressional subpoenas – thus obstructing investigations into White House wrongdoing – and the White House refuses to turn over evidence, or “destroys” it, how is “accountability” possible?
Kagro X, within days of being handed his new responsibilities as a front-pager at DailyKos, circumspectly answered the question, “But what can Congress do when the executive branch defies congressional subpoenas, and the administration’s Justice Department refuses to enforce them?”
So if you’re conducting oversight of, say, the NSA spying program, and you want answers from Gonzales regarding the program’s legality, and you subpoena him and he tells you to take a flying leap, what do you do?
You could try going to court, but not only will that pretty much run out the clock, but the courts are quite likely to tell you, “What are you crying to us for? You have your remedy. If you’re too chicken to use it, that’s your problem.”
Kagro goes on,
[I]t’s about contemplating the place of impeachment as a procedural tool. Just as it’s the threat of a filibuster that ultimately provides the “power” that makes the “Senatorial hold” possible, so is impeachment the power that makes Congressional subpoena power possible for use against the executive branch.
And whereas the Democratic Congress has demonstrated its willingness to cave in the face of mere threats of obstruction by Republicans, the Republicans on the other hand have shown that they will stop at nothing – the so-called “cataclysmic fight to the death” promised shortly before the November 2006 elections – to keep Democratic initiatives from moving forward. This Democratic Congress, truly, is left with only one option, an option clearly spelled out in the Constitution: impeachment.
With that context in mind, let us examine the major objections to impeachment that have been voiced by those who, for whatever reason, have argued against its pursuit:
Objection: “It will take too long”
Bill Clinton was impeached by the House of Representatives on December 19, 1998 and acquitted by the Senate on February 12, 1999. Fifty-five days. Granted, the
fishing expedition boondoggle witch hunt investigation that finally resulted in impeachment charges took almost five years, but BushCheney have made the job easy for those seeking impeachment against them – they have admitted, very publicly, to several impeachable offenses, and have very publicly committed others.
- The BushCheney administration is on the record as having tortured prisoners and repeatedly lied about it – indeed, it has now defiantly stated that torture is legal, in contravention of many treaties to which the United States is a signator.
- It is on the record as having illegally wiretapped Americans, probably from the very first days of the administration.
- It is on the record as openly defying established laws written by Congress and signed into law by the administration itself.
- It is on the record as defying multiple congressional subpoenas stemming from investigations into executive branch wrongdoing (this is known in the vernacular as “obstruction of justice”).
- It is on the record as being “unable” to produce evidence in congressional investigations into administration malfeasance, often claiming that the evidence was “destroyed” or “lost” (this, too, is commonly known as “obstruction of justice”).
- It is on the record as having repeatedly lied about the threat posed by Iraq with respect to weapons of mass destruction and connections to terrorists, in order to mislead the American public and members of Congress into support for an illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq (such an invasion and occupation being known in the vernacular as a “war crime”).
- It is on the record as having facilitated the the misappropriation of hundreds of billions of dollars during the illegal invasion on and occupation of Iraq, and shielding criminal and murderous acts by agents acting on behalf of the U.S. government during that occupation.
- It is on the record as having lied about the potential threat posed by Iran with regard to nuclear weapons.
- It is on the record as having lied to Congress about a whole range of activities, from the firing of U.S. attorneys to illegal wiretapping of Americans to the threat posed by various nations.
With all of this evidence already on the record, an impeachment investigation should not take very long – and with respect to at least a few cases, probably isn’t even necessary.
“We don’t have the votes”
Well, duhhh! Of course we don’t! How many votes did Barack Obama have when he began his run for the presidency? Nobody has the votes before they start:
It makes no more sense to argue against impeachment by saying we don’t have the votes right now than it does to argue against universal healthcare or campaign-finance reform because – let’s face it – We Don’t Have The Votes Right Now.
But let’s look at this from a different point of view: Any potential impeachment of George Bush or Dick Cheney, once the investigations and hearings have run their course, will place current day Republicans in a terrible quandary: they will be faced with a choice between standing side by side with a president and vice president who will have been demonstrated to have been thoroughly corrupt and criminal – an act of political self immolation – or facing the music, and choosing to preserve not only their own political hides, but the future existence of the Republican Party. They will be forced to choose between supporting torture, illegal wiretapping, lying to Congress, war crimes, obstruction of justice, politicization of the judiciary, and violation of literally hundreds of federal laws – or supporting the rule of law. And if any senator voted “guilty” in the Clinton impeachment but “not guilty” in the BushCheney impeachment – well, not even the Tasmanian Devil can spin that fast.
The lawlessness, avarice, petty criminality, barbarity, arrogance and contempt of the Republicans in charge the past six years will be revealed in all of their horror. What will follow those revelations is almost inevitable – although I have no doubt the current thugs leading the Republican mafia will put their own hoodlumish spin on it.
And as soon as that jagged gash has been torn in the once-seemingly impenetrable hull of the ship of Republican state – the S.S.Titanic Clusterfuck – and the ship has taken on enough water, all the little rats who have been trying to stay out of sight during the past six years as they gnawed gaping holes in Americans’ safety, security, financial well-being and international respect, will rush pell-mell to the lifeboats.
And when that surge of craven cowardly rats gets to the gunwales and looks up, whiskers twitching, the only lifeboats they’re gonna see – the only way they’re not going down with that doomed fast-sinking ship that is The Republican Party As We Know It – are all gonna have one word emblazoned across their transoms:
Think those Republican rats are gonna hesitate for even one second to get on board those boats to save their little rodent hides?
Heh. There won’t be enough lifeboats for ’em.
“It will hurt Democrats in the 2008 elections”
Oh, yeah? Based on what?
Back during the Impeachment Wars of ’06, some folks actually posited that Republicans’ poor showing during the midterm elections in 1998 (elections that were essentially bracketed by the unfolding of the Lewinsky scandal and the subsequent impeachment hearings) was due to their pursuit of impeachment per se. That position is utterly wrong. If impeachment per se were enough to disenchant voters to such an extent that they would manifest their dissatisfaction at the voting booth, an identical phenomenon would have shown up during the November 1974 elections – an election which, had Nixon not resigned a few weeks earlier, would have been taking place during the middle of his impeachment hearings.
But no such phenomenon took place: Democrats picked up 49 House seats and three Senate seats in that election.
It is worth noting that in November 1972, Richard Nixon won the presidency in one of the biggest landslides in the modern era. Fifteen months later, in February 1974, 51% of Americans opposed the impeachment of Richard Nixon. In May 1974, the House Judiciary Committee began its hearings. By July 30 1974, the Committee had agreed upon three articles of impeachment, which it was preparing to present to the full House of Representatives. On August 9, 1974, Nixon resigned. On November 5, 1974, voters expressed their disgust with the Republican party by taking 48 seats in the House and three in the Senate away from them (one former House Independent switched to the Democrats as well).
I would instead posit that Republicans’ poor showing in the 1998 midterm elections was due to their transparently political pursuit of impeachment of a very popular president on utterly specious grounds.
“Democrats will be labeled vengeful, divisive and politically motivated”
Of course we will – that goes without saying. Any Democrat drawing breath is labeled divisive and politically motivated by the right-wing sockpuppets at Faux Snooze and their ilk. So what? The louder they scream about something the Democrats are doing, the more correct it is, of that you can be sure. Besides, there’s a vast difference between being “labeled” divisive and being perceived as divisive. How much of the American public do you think will swallow the line that these hearings are a partisan witch hunt? Whoever does buy that line most likely is not a potential convert, in any event.
The tiresome Democratic refrain, “Oh, dear – the Republicans might say bad things about us!” has, I hope, been pretty well discredited. Remember all the hand wringing about skipping the Fox news debates? How much flak have the Democrats gotten from the right wing noise machine for standing up to the FISA travesty? What was the downside in public opinion for the Democrats refusing to back down on SCHIP? The fact of the matter is, public opinion has tilted toward impeachment for a couple of years now, and public opinion looks favorably upon a Democratic Congress that stands up to executive malfeasance.
But the most effective defense against the “vengeful political theater” meme is a sober, respectful, serious impeachment proceeding. One that opens, say, with a statement from Chairman Conyers that might go something like this:
Three months ago the House of Representatives considered H. Res. 803. The resolution read as follows:
“RESOLVED, That the Committee on the Judiciary, acting as a whole or by any subcomnlittee thereof appointed by the Chairman for the purposes hereof and in accordance with the rules of the Committee, is authorized and directed to investigate fully and completely whether sufficient grounds exist for the House of Representatives to exercise its constitutional power to impeach Richard M. Nixon, President of the United States of America. The Committee shall report to the House of Representatives such resolutions, articles of impeachment, or other recommendations
as it deems proper.”
The House adopted that resolution by a vote of 410 to 4. We are proceeding under the mandate of that resolution.
I do not need to stress again the importance of our undertaking and the wisdom, decency and principle which we must bring to it.
We understand our high constitutional responsibility. We will faithfully live up to it.
For some time we have known that the real security of this nation lies in the integrity of its institutions and the trust and informed confidence of its people. We conduct our deliberations in that spirit.
— Rep. Peter Rodino, Chairman,
House Judiciary Committee, May 9, 1974 (PDF file)
– as opposed to the pathetically banal opening statement by the Republican chairman of the Judiciary Committee in the Clinton impeachment – an opening that told everything that needed to be known about the sham that was to follow.
An impeachment proceeding that is couched – rightfully so – in terms of protecting the Constitution of the United States of America will be respected and its importance understood. The difference between a John Conyers-run impeachment hearing against the current administration and the absurd political theater of the Clinton impeachment will be obvious to the American people from the moment the first gavel falls.
No, it is not “vengeful” to investigate impeachment – it’s responsible, and adult, and democratic, and law-abiding. In much the same way that the administration’s fevered pursuit of “telco immunity” in a revised FISA law is a desperate move by desperate people, “vengeful Democrats” is a meme cooked up by scared-shitless Republicans who know their ass is grass if any investigations go forward – and bought into by querulous Democrats who still haven’t figured out that the American people are clamoring for accountability. No, what investigating and not following up is, is ineffectual and impotent, and, since that’s just what the Democrats in Congress have done – investigated and not followed up – that’s just how they’re perceived as a result: ineffectual and impotent.
“The Clinton fiasco cheapened impeachment in the minds of the public”
I would like to believe that thinking Democrats have not fallen victim to the belief that the Clinton impeachment set the standard for impeachments. I rather would like to believe that the Clinton impeachment brought into stark relief the difference between a farcical impeachment and a serious one, the serious one, of course, being that of Richard Nixon. Here’s how serious the Nixon impeachment was: Nixon resigned from office rather than be impeached, because he knew that the case against him was solid, and he would go down in defeat, dragging the Republican Party with him. Clinton, on the other hand, knew that the case against him was a joke. And so did the American people:
Let’s not run away from this talk of impeachment because of something the Republicans did. The group of vermin that has been the Republican leadership over the past 12 years didn’t just sully the good name of “impeachment” and “investigation” through their mind-boggling dereliction of duty since 1994 – they sullied and devalued the very idea of governance, of “democracy,” of “national security,” of “patriotism.” Does that mean we should abandon talk of governance, of democracy, of national security, of patriotism? Hell, no – of course not. No one would argue that. So why are we having this discussion about using the word “impeachment” just because the Republicans made a mockery of it?
The Republicans have made a mockery of everything having to do with good government – that doesn’t mean we should abandon good government. The Republicans have made a mockery of the Constitution – that does not mean we should abandon the Constitution. There is much that is good that the Republicans have made a mockery of, that should not be abandoned. Compassion. Family values. Christianity. Education. Free enterprise. Democracy itself.
Oh, but don’t get me wrong; I get it: Those Republics are clever bastards, for sure. For more than 30 years, they have been successfully eroding public confidence in government and the tools of government to the point where now, with an administration in office that has arguably done more to harm this country than any other administration in history, people are seriously maintaining that we should not use the one unassailable tool available to us to halt this malfeasance and restore the possibility of a government that works for the benefit of the general public . . .
See, the truth is, the Republics’ impeachment of Bill Clinton succeeded brilliantly – the fact that anyone is even seriously discussing the advisability of impeachment, given the misdeeds of the current crowd in power – not just in the White House, but scattered throughout the federal government and the judiciary – is astonishing. The Overton Window regarding the use of impeachment as a tool of governance was ripped out, plastered over, and moved to the other end of the house, in a project begun by the Republics in 1974.
Seen in that light, the so-called “failure” of the Clinton impeachment was no more a “failure” than a sacrifice fly in baseball is a “failure.” Sure, the sitting Republics in the House lost a little ground – though they kept the majority – but more importantly for the Republic agenda, they advanced The Cause of Eroding Public Confidence in The Government. Cynicism cranked up several notches. As a direct result of the circus that the Republics turned the Clinton impeachment into, more Americans – including many on this site – saw impeachment as merely a political tool that essentially should never be wielded, because of all of the (newly added) negative connotations it (newly) carried.
“We need to look to the future, not rehash the past”
This statement reflects a fundamental misunderstanding about the nature of this impeachment:
Impeachment of the BushCheney administration is not about the past, it’s about the future.
If we have learned anything about the failures to impeach Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, it is that the incremental damage to the Constitution caused by such laxity is not only significant at the time, but will be built upon by each successive mendacious regime to occupy the White House.
John Conyers, 1974:
[T]he process of impeachment is not, and was never intended to be, familiar, convenient, or comfortable. It was framed with the intention that it be used only as a last constitutional resort against the danger of executive tyranny . . .
Whether intentionally or not, the Congress has participated in the degeneration of its power . . .[N]o legislation is self-executing. Whatever its limitations and faults . . . legislation, and the constitutional provisions on which it is based, will only have meaning to the extent that the Congress invests them with meaning . . .
If we do not now fully dedicate ourselves to regaining every bit of constitutional ground we have surrendered, then – to paraphrase one of the President’s men – we shall have lost our constitutional and moral compass.
Charles Pierce, July 2007:
I was in the late, lamented Eliot Lounge in Boston, chewing it over with a friend who’d reported extensively on the scandal. I told him that the country was going to pay a fearsome price one day for having let these crimes go unpunished. That the whole business lodged something malignant deep in the government that needed to be roughly, and bloodily, excised. I believed an impeachment inquiry should have been opened on both the president and the vice-president . . .
Tell me we’re not paying for that now. Tell me we’re not paying for tolerating a renegade theory of Executive power. Tell me we’re not hearing how inconvenient and cumbersome and counterproductive the impeachment process of the Constitution is. Tell me the Democratic candidates aren’t soft-pedaling the whole issue, preferring to micromanage the end of the kind of war that the renegade theory of Executive power makes not only likely, but inevitable. (Go back and read the minority report of the Iran-Contra committee. Go see who wrote the part about how the president has an inherent right to do stuff like this. Hint — he has a lesbian daughter, a bad heart, and lousy aim.) Tell me the press isn’t running away from the gravity of the whole business. Tell me you haven’t heard some anchor-drone or another sigh about how hard it all is to understand. Tell me that Bush presidencies don’t invariably come down to buying the silence of the people who can put you away. Tell me Alberto Gonzales isn’t Edwin Meese, except less competent. Tell me that Elliott Abrams, John Negroponte, Michael Ledeen, and the rest of the Iran-Contra Legends Tour ever would have found their bloody hands back on the levers of government if we’d done what we should have done as a nation 20 years ago.
The current administration has thumbed its nose repeatedly and in every way possible at Congress’s authority. To let that stand, as Conyers so brilliantly pointed out in his essay, would undermine Congress for many generations to come. Dick Cheney’s cockamamie ideas about a “unitary executive” were encouraged by his experience in the Nixon administration, festered for many years after the Ford administration (until Cheney was named secretary of defense under Bush the First), and only fully bore fruit upon the inauguration of George W. Bush. And Cheney was not the only money-grubbing neocon sleeper to awaken with the utterance of those magical numbers, 5-4.
The criminals at the heart of this administration did not suddenly spring from nothingness into being with the appointment of George W. Bush to the presidency in December 2000. No – the maggots that eventually became the noisome blowflies spreading filth, disease and death around the world from the White House got their start long ago, and were nurtured and fattened by many years of feeding in the dank, fetid corners of American government. They and their foul belief systems should have been exterminated from politics long ago, but few people recognized them for what they were – and so they were allowed to go on propagating, getting fatter, rubbing their filthy little fly hands together in preparation for the day when they would be able to feed out in the open, defying anyone to point out the obvious: That these tiny little men were and are nothing more than vermin, spreading decay and attracted by the scent of death, whose political existence, if not eradicated once and for all, will continue to befoul the world for years to come. Like a malignant tumor, this cancer must be removed utterly, leaving no trace; otherwise, it can metastasize and spread, only to show up again later and in another location.
Cheney’s wet dreams of a “unitary executive” with the powers of a king should have been dashed with cold water by the impeachment of Richard Nixon and a thorough discrediting of the entire criminal, monarchial, “if-the-president-does-it-it’s-not-illegal” doctrine under which the Nixon administration operated. Conyers, in his 1974 essay, was right: by not addressing the issue head-on, Congress in 1974 made possible the abuses of the current BushCheney administration. Far from having been cut off at the knees, this administration has – most recently and perhaps most egregiously with its defiant, up-is-down, black-is-white declaration that torture is not illegal – acted as though it has no brakes on its power. It has told the American people and the world, “We can do anything we want, and you cannot do anything to stop us.”
“Let’s implement our Democratic agenda first”
Yeah. How’s that workin’ for ya so far?
[T]he presence of George Bush in the Oval Office is the biggest stumbling block there is to fulfillment of the Democratic Party agenda in this country. If George Bush will not observe – never mind actively enforce – laws that have been duly passed by Congress and signed into law – signed, in many cases, even by himself – what possible reason on earth does anyone have to believe that he will (a) approve, or (b) abide by, laws over which he has veto power and with which he fundamentally disagrees? To believe that fulfillment of a Democratic agenda is possible with George Bush in the White House is as delusional as the man himself.
Thirteen months after the 110th Congress was seated, can anyone seriously debate that?
“Nothing else will get done in Congress”
In the 93rd Congress – the one that prepared articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon – 17,690 bills were introduced in the House. So far, more than halfway through the 110th Congress, somewhere around 5,500 bills have been introduced in the House. Maybe 1970s congresspeople were better able to walk and chew gum at the same time, what with all the disco dancing, streaking and bra-burning. Maybe; I don’t know.
Let’s put political considerations aside, and just consider what the right thing to do is. Is there anyone reading this who would dispute that the right thing to do is to hold the criminal Bush Cheney administration to account for its perversions of the last seven years? We have to get passed that threshold before we can continue this discussion, because the only objection is that it avoids about impeachment are that it would be politically inexpedient.
The idea that people are not interested in seeing an impeachment proceeding: at what point does this stop being a political calculation for Democrats? At what point does it become a question of right versus wrong?
All of the above “reasons” advanced for avoiding the constitutional duty of impeachment are merely conjectures, all of them unfounded fears about some terrifying future event – all of them, in other words, fears about a future that no one can foresee based loosely on events of the past that have little or nothing to do with today’s reality. And sitting here in February 2008, at the start of the eighth and final year of the BushCheney administration, one would think that Americans in general and Democrats in particular would have had enough of being paralyzed into inaction by the fomenting of inchoate fear, that Americans would know the difference between allowing the Constitution to be rendered meaningless by irrational anxiety over some perceived existential threat, and doing the right thing because one realizes that, in fact, that very same Constitution forms literally the foundation of the republican democracy that hundreds of thousands of Americans have given their last full measure to create and defend over the past 232 years.
The only thing we have to fear is fear itself – nameless, unreasoning, unjustified, terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.
— Franklin Delano Roosevelt,
first inaugural address,
March 4, 1933
Franklin Roosevelt spoke those words at a time when this country was in the midst of an unprecedented economic crisis. We now are in the midst of an unprecedented constitutional crisis and the words that John Conyers wrote 34 years ago ring truer now than ever:
In stark contrast to the ephemeral “what-ifs” that have to this point paralyzed congressional Democrats and prevented them from carrying out their sworn duty to preserve and protect the Constitution of the United States of America from all enemies, foreign and domestic, here are the facts – the unimpeachable facts, if you will – about the misdeeds of the current criminals who have been allowed to continue occupying the White House in spite of the overwhelming evidence of their criminality:
and here list the “on the record” stuff
Americans are running away from Republicans in droves. Why is that? Could it be because Republicans and unfailingly demonstrated themselves to be awful managers and venal criminals?
kagro’s excellent prognostication Nov 12, 2006
bullshit markos . we get it
btd argues the “separation of powers”
– only problem is, Congress has been shown exactly what its power is, even when in the majority
conyers’s “constitution in crisis” (WARNING: 27Mb PDF file)
conyers’ diary in aug 2006
We have seen so many transgressions by this Administration that it is easy to forget last week’s scandal amid this week’s new outrage. I am hopeful that compiling all of these events of the last few years will help wake all of us up to the gravity of these matters and the cumulative damage to our country. . .
All the while, the Republican Congress sits idly by. Rather than performing its constitutional duty as a co-equal branch, it has chosen to stymie any and all efforts at oversight. After six long years of deceptions, attacks and yes, outright lies, I am convinced the American people have had enough.
“I’m not doing this to fail,” he said. “This goes back to a little bit of my civil rights background. We were in an impossible situation. The civil rights leaders came to Martin King and said, please, we hear you’re going to start a civil rights movement in the South, you’ll get all of us killed, Martin, don’t do that!” But if he hadn’t, said Conyers, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 would never have passed.
“We’ve lost more rights and constitutional prerogatives in this short period of time than under any president that my studies reveal,” he continued. “So now’s the time. What we have to do is, we have to work on faith. We have to believe that there are enough American people who will agree with us that enough is enough. We’ve got to believe that, and we’ve got to work on that between now and November, and I think we’ll win.”
– John Conyers, March 2006
As the first year of the Democratic Congress has shown, this administration has no intention of cooperating with congressional investigators on any level. It has a defied subpoenas, destroyed or withheld evidence, instructed administration officials at all levels not to cooperate with Congress, and generally shown that it believes that Congress does in fact have only one tool with which to enforce its oversight authority. Whether this defiance is a result of Congress’s own self-declared unwillingness to use that one tool is irrelevant.: what matters is that, by its actions, the administration has left Congress with no other choice. And that choice is simple: either Congress enforces its oversight authority through the use of impeachment, since all other tools have been exhausted by the administration’s unwillingness to recognize Congress’s authority; or Congress abdicates its responsibility to check executive power run amok, and thus removes the single greatest remaining hurdle still standing in the way of the monarchial, delusional, corporatist unitary executive fantasies of a small cabal of anti-democratic modern-day fascists.
Put the you can’t have it both ways argument at the end, along with the idea that these objections are mostly based on fear of the future. Then put in the argument about the constitutional ramifications and ask how anybody now after a year of the Bush Cheney administration can seriously argue that the damage to the separation of powers could be any worse than it already is and that in fact impeachment is the only way to address that damage. Which is why the framers put it in the Constitution the first place-as a last resort when the executive branch refuses to act in good faith and that’s prevented the normal exercise of the balance and separation of powers.
If one were able to remove all of the “political factors” that have led Nancy Pelosi, John Conyers and other congressional Democrats to declare impeachment off limits – to strip away the concerns about November’s elections, the concerns about timing, the concerns about what others might say – if one were able to decide whether to pursue impeachment strictly on the basis of whether it were the right thing to do, would one do it?
I hope that no one reading this hesitated for even a moment before answering, emphatically, “Yes!” If ever a president and vice president deserved impeachment, George Bush and Dick Cheney do.
You can’t have it both ways: Either: (a) Democrats are not going to win the White House in 2008, in which case this Democratic Congress had better do everything it can to keep the next Republican president from inheriting all of the unchecked powers grabbed uncontested by the BushCheney cabal; or (b) Democrats are going to win the White House in 2008, in which case the “ruining our chances in 2008” argument goes out the window, and Congress is freed to Do The Right Thing.
about winning the 2008 elections: what if we DON’T win? What then? We will have left in place a criminal administration, and enabled – indeed, sanctioned – its criminal behavior. No, to avoid impeachment in the hopes that the criminals will be thrown out in 2008 is absurd, and based on a future that no one can foresee. The affirmative step of impeachment, on the other hand, is a known quantity that we can control, right now.
The same mindset that would justify immunity for the telcos in FISA would justify forgoing impeachment: perpetrators of crime should not be held accountable for their crimes.
Some would argue that all that is needed to deal with this criminal administration is the result of a new general election. And, of course, at this point, it appears likely that-absent election fraud-id. the Craddick administration will take its place in the White House next January. This argument, of course, holds no water. Because of the magnitude of the crimes that were committed to, both against many peoples of the world and against the Constitution of the United States, the many many wrongs of the Bush Cheney administration cannot go unaccounted for., anymore than good for crimes of any other war criminal. Think about it: much of the rest of the world wants to put Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney on trial as war criminals, yet there are those in this country seriously propose to let them off scot free, as if they had done no wrong whatsoever.
First page of argument re: Nixon indictment
second page of argument re: Nixon indictment
Third in a series on impeachment. Others in the series:
John Conyers, 1974: Why Nixon should have been impeached
Impeachment: Conyers Ulysses
I have video of them eating dead babies
Impeachment Oldies But Goodies:
C mon, Nancy the Republics are falling apart
Weeding the Rose Garden: Thoughts on impeachment
Impeachment: You’ll NEVER fit in those pants
Running in ’08? Try Impeachment(r), now with added Pragmatism(r)!
Support our troops: Impeach
Neocons at the helm: There won’t be enough lifeboats
On Gettysburg, impeachment, and the left flank
We must not pursue the “i”-word
Boston Globe: Cheney seeks return to Nixon era
C mon, Nancy the Republics are falling apart
Separate the diaries: why the time for impeachment is now, or the time for impeachment is now.. In the “now” diary, include snippets from all of the previous diaries. And finish with Conyers is quotes from his essay.
Those who would use the Clinton impeachment as precedent for a reluctance to run through another impeachment process might want to consider the precedent being set by ignoring congressional subpoenas. You can’t have it both ways – if, in fact, precedent is being set, that it has been set in both cases. The other possibility, of course, is to weigh each case on its merits.
Arguments against impeachment: some have even argued (Armando) that resorting to impeachment will weaken the relative standing in Congress to check abuses of the executive branch. The power of future congresses to check the abuses of the executive branch.
I completely disagree. Like John Conyers in his 1974 essay, “Why Nixon Should Have Been Impeached,” I would argue that failure to impeach weakens the power of the legislative branch, for the very reason that Kagro alludes to: as long as the executive branch knows that the legislative branch is not willing to use its own mechanisms of enforcement, the executive branch knows it can act with utter disregard of the legislative – a fact that has been thoroughly borne out over the course of the 110th Congress so far.
conyers’ lame-ass excuses
rahm emanuel’s lame-ass excuses
I would like to move forward on our common challenges rather than tearing the nation apart.
lawyers’ letter to lahy, conyers
This is for the separation of powers paragraph:
Another argument cited by impeachment opponents is the belief that the use of impeachment will send a message and establish a precedent dangerous to future generations. That is to say, that the only way to for Congress to exercise its oversight authority over the executive branch is through the use of impeachment.; in other words, impeachment will be seen as a tool of first resort rather than a tool of last resort.
But, to repeat what Kagro X so eloquently pointed out,
Just as it’s the threat of a filibuster that ultimately provides the “power” that makes the “Senatorial hold” possible, so is impeachment the power that makes Congressional subpoena power possible for use against the executive branch.
Mentioned Bush’s approval rating in the ARG poll. 2/19
For the paragraph concerning Democrats being labeled as vengeful: the American people are bright enough to understand a significant threat to the Constitution, when it is brought out and laid out before them. To this point in this administration, all of the damage to the Constitution has been wrapped in rhetoric painting the theft of civil liberties as “protecting our way of life”.
Tell me: do you honestly believe that Americans cannot tell the difference between the so-called “impeachment hearings” held during the Clinton administration and the type of hearings that will be held regarding the Bush Cheney administration? And here you might want to run graphs showing presidential approval ratings during Clinton’s and Nixon’s impeachment proceedings.
George W. Bush
it’s too politically risky. (Put this one last).
It will take too long.
Democrats will be seen as partisan, vindictive, and or vengeful. This is actually a subset of the quote “politically risky” argument.
We don’t have the votes.
patrick henry’s speech
Mr. President, it is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren, till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be of the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation?
For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth — to know the worst and to provide for it. I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided; and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past. And judging by the past, I wish to know what there has been in the conduct of the British ministry for the last ten years, to justify those hopes with which gentlemen have been pleased to solace themselves and the House?
Include Pelosi’s quotes about it not being worth it.
cite the January 1974 poll that showed that 51% of Americans opposed the impeachment of Nixon; contrast that with recent polls regarding potential impeachments of Bush and or Cheney.
It will diminish the effectiveness and value of impeachment. This is an argument that is ridiculous on its face. Compare the process that led to the near impeachment of Richard Nixon to that of the process that actually led to the impeachment of Bill Clinton.
During the Republic Congress’s impeachment hearings against Bill Clinton, not a single witness was called to testify at the trial.
Do you think that the man who wrote these words about the impeachment of Richard Nixon (CITE CONYERS’ ESSAY) and sat through committee hearings which were opened with these words (CITE RODINO OPENING) would stand for a circus of an impeachment hearing?
The only thing standing in the way of such process might be the Bush administration’s intransigence regarding revelation of evidence. This is a lesson that Cheney and his ilk learned while during the Nixon administration.
, when he was finally forced to turn over his tapes, made the case against him; it was only a few days later that the articles of impeachment were prepared for the house. The Bush Cheney administration has steadfastly refused to to provide the evidence that would make it possible to impeach them and convict them. Congress must know this. By refusing to prosecute and hold accountable the Bush administration for its defiance of congressional subpoenas, the hundred 10th Congress has taken impeachment off the table not only for this administration, but for every future gym and administration.
Diary title: Conyers, Leahy: impeachment off the table for ever
If any reader of this site to has any doubts that substantive hearings would reveal wrongdoing on a scope heretofore unprecedented in American history, then I do not know what to say to them. Further, if any reader of the site believes that revelation of such wrongdoing, and solid, bulletproof documentation of such wrongdoing, will not prove politically fatal to Republicans, then I also do not know what to say to them.
Once hearings are held, and even more damning evidence is revealed about this administration, no senator who voted in favor of Clinton’s impeachment in 1998 could possibly vote against impeachment of these criminals. And if they did, we would use that vote as a cudgel to beat them about the head and neck electorally next November.
New diary title: the time for impeachment is now. Make the case that the transgressions are so great that certainly the threshold has been crossed. Also make the case that the outcome of the 2008 elections is not a certainty, and the risk of not doing anything to address the problem now is too great. If nothing else, the threshold for public awareness of the Constitutional destruction that has been wrought will be raised to the point that in the event of John McCain wins the presidency, at least Congress will most likely still be controlled by Democrats, who by that time, after having will have public backing in its efforts to fight in the further destruction of the Constitution.