In Defense of Robert Wexler

By David Swanson

My review of Congressman Robert Wexler’s book includes plenty of criticism of him. I would add my extremely negative view of the new get-tough-on-the-nonexistent-threat-from-Iran bill that he’s cosponsored. But this attack on him is utter nonsense.

Was Wexler late in coming to impeachment? Of course, he was. But not as late as many other Congress members, and not as late as many more who we hope will still come around. We want to welcome them with open arms, not attacks for showing up tardy.

Is there more that Wexler could do for impeachment? Of course, there is. But he has already taken the almost unheard of step of publicly whipping his colleagues and committee chairman. He has uniquely put his voice in the media. He has uniquely assigned both congressional staff and campaign staff to work on the issue, and to work in cooperation with grassroots groups.

While Congressman Dennis Kucinich has taken the lead, as Wexler openly acknowledges and praises, Wexler has taken steps that nobody else has taken and done more for impeachment than anyone in Congress other than Kucinich.

Does Wexler hope to generate support for his election campaigns and sell copies of his book? Does he hope to generate some fame for himself, maybe even take pleasure in some talk of a vice-presidential nomination? Maybe even raise some money to pay the salaries of all the staffers he – and NO OTHER MEMBER OF CONGRESS – has working on impeachment?

Well, what could be better? What would indicate more life in our tattered democracy? Electing saints who cared nothing for public opinion would be the death of a democracy. Electing anti-politicians who didn’t want to compete is by definition not possible. The wonderful thing about Wexler is that, even compared to most politicians, he’s willing to make a lot of noise for positions actually held by his constituents. Sure, he’s attracting attention to himself – but for exactly what we want him to attract attention to himself.

Already a quarter millenium back, as democracy was being born, David Hume pointed out that there is very little harm, if any, and often much good, in people taking pride in their good behavior. Would we prefer they did the right thing but with indifference to people around them? Or did the right thing but with shame and secrecy? Or did the wrong thing?

Let’s grow up, here. I want to see every congress member who claims to take a position to do more than cosponsor a resolution. I want them to make it a focus of their next campaign. I want them to write a book about it. I want that book to be a best seller. I want them to get on TV and talk about it endlessly. I want them to pressure their colleagues to get on board. Why wouldn’t I?

Now, perhaps I’m corrupt as well. Perhaps AfterDowningStreet and Democrats.com hope to build their membership and run ads for Wexler’s book and run ads from other poor chumps attracted by all the work we do to try to make impeachment happen, while meanwhile I’m secretly traveling around the country giving speeches promoting impeachment, and I make a living at it, and I might write a book someday and want people to buy my book too.

But I hardly see the harm in putting ourselves out for impeachment. I think the Congress member who just signs a resolution and then goes out and tells everyone it’s only for show and not really possible can be thanked for doing something more than most and yet can also be upbraided for hypocrisy and counterproductive actions. But the member of Congress who publicly and privately devotes endless hours to pushing for impeachment as a real possibility? We’re going to condemn him because he’s running for reelection and selling a book? That’s where you lose me.

And that’s where you’ll have to completely condemn every single member of Congress. Kucinich, too, sends people to his campaign website. His website, too, asks for money and Email addresses. And he should do that, and I would complain if he didn’t. Our job is not to complain that he’s promoting himself. Our job is to ask even him, as our leader in Congress, to do more, and to ask everyone else in Congress to catch up to him. And if he writes another book, our job is to make it a bestseller – and maybe even read it, and maybe even learn something.

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