Impeachment Spring 2007

Faced with the maddening intransigence of Bush and Cheney and the unsurprising timidity of Pelosi and Reid when it comes to the war and related issues, it’s time for the entire progressive movement to unite RIGHT NOW in a collective, urgent campaign for the impeachment of the top two liars, torturers and war criminals who are occupying the White House.

We should demand this not just because it’s the right thing to do, which it absolutely is. We should do it because it’s the course of action which has the most chance of preventing an expansion of the war into Iran and increasing the chances that the Democrats and some Republicans are forced to get serious about legislation that can reverse course on Iraq.

Some progressives argue that we should forget about impeachment because Nancy Pelosi has told John Conyers to cool it, that it’s “off the table,” and, in those progressives’ view, that makes impeachment unrealistic.

The question is, what do these progressives see as the alternative? What else has the potential to focus the massive and wide-ranging discontent within the U.S. citizenry, the 58% of the population, according to a recent poll, who wish that the Bush Administration was history right now?

There is nothing else. There will be various pieces of legislation brought forward by Pelosi and Reid, and something stronger than the anti-“surge” wrist-slap recently passed by the House may get through at least the House, but it is extremely difficult to conceive of how anything of substance will pass the filibuster barrier in the Senate barring a massive political upsurge within the populace demanding strong action to rein in Bush and Cheney.

Which is exactly what impeachment is all about. It is a crystal-clear, American-as-apple-pie remedy for the “I’m the decider” ideologues who show every indication that their solution to the Iraq mess is to make it even bigger by expanding war into Iran and who knows where else after that. It’s their “hail Mary” pass but it’s not with a football, it’s with weapons of escalated destruction.

Is it likely that the Democratic leadership in the House—the body, remember, which by itself can impeach a President–will grow a spine in the next month or two and begin an impeachment investigation via John Conyers’ Judiciary Committee? Probably not. But it is possible that if the spring of 2007 becomes “impeachment spring,” beginning with massive anti-war actions throughout the country on March 17-19 that loudly raise the impeachment demand and continuing up to April 28, national impeachment day—if this happens, which it absolutely can, then we might be surprised to see a breaking of the impeachment logjam by May or June and the beginning of those Judiciary Committee hearings.

That should be our objective. That objective should motivate what we do and how we do it for the next several months.

Ultimately, if we do not achieve that objective, an impeachment campaign is still critical. Members of Congress, the mass media, prominent personalities, those who have some mass influence, need to feel the pressure which leads them to speak up loudly and clearly in support of impeachment. Such a movement is the most effective tactic in our arsenal right now to put the Bush/Cheney gang on the defensive. Given the reality of upcoming 2008 elections and growing anti-war opposition within the Republican Party, such a movement will make it politically difficult for them to keep expanding the war the way they want to.

Impeachment is a perfect example of a good offense being the best defense. We saw how this worked in 1973 and 1974 when Richard Nixon’s Watergate troubles and the investigations into White House-directed criminality made it impossible for Tricky Dick and his national security advisor Henry Kissinger to do anything of substance to prevent the on-going withdrawal of U.S. troops from the southern part of Vietnam and the eventual collapse of the U.S.-created government in Saigon.

Key to this was the existence of a loosely-connected, national grassroots movement, the National Campaign to Impeach Nixon, which came together in the fall of 1973. Through demonstrations, lobbying and various kinds of street heat, it kept up the pressure and helped keep the impeachment issue in the news until, on August 9, 1974, Nixon resigned.

In hindsight people may think that this result was not surprising given the 1972-74 revelations of White House illegality and solid Democratic control of both houses of Congress. But there were liberal Democrats like Washington Post columnist Nicholas Von Hoffman who were taking the position during this time that it would be good for the Democrats if a weakened Nixon remained in office. This view was shared by many other Democrats.

As a national coordinator of the National Campaign to Impeach Nixon, I co-wrote a letter to the Post to answer Hoffman, which said, “We believe the key to ‘those same interests’ [that both Nixon and Vice-President Ford represented] being strongly opposed, the key to a Congress becoming responsible, is a movement of citizens in the cities and towns of this country. This movement sees the protection of our constitutional rights as the most important priority. Congress was forced to move on impeachment because of the massive outpouring of protest after Mr. Nixon fired Special Prosecutor [Archibald] Cox on October 20, 1973.

“We believe that to allow Richard Nixon’s abuse of power to go un-prosecuted would set an ominous precedent for future Presidents. In the process of impeaching Richard Nixon certain gross abuses of power would have to be pinpointed, thus making the same thing more difficult in the future. And if, in the process of impeaching Richard Nixon, a movement is built which refuses to accept imperial rulers or undemocratic regimes, ‘those same interests’ which Ford represents will find it more difficult to get their way.”

Back then the Democrats had more guts than, as seen so far, the 2007 version. But that is no excuse for inaction now. In many ways our situation today is much more dire than back then. We are facing a very real risk of an extremely dangerous expansion of the war at a time when there is an urgent need for resources and attention to be focused on the climate crisis, health care, New Orleans and other major issues. We have already experienced Bush/Cheney/neo-conservative disregard of basic Constitutional rights like habeus corpus and Congressional oversight of the Executive branch of government.

It is essential that the progressive movement—a movement which is much broader and deeper than what existed in 1973 and 1974—demonstrate its allegiance not to the Congressional leadership of the Democratic Party but to doing what is clearly right. How many of us will step up to the plate at this turning-point time in our nation’s history?