By David Swanson
Imagine that you’ve not eaten a decent meal in months, that the hunger is squeezing and burning you from the inside, and that suddenly you find yourself at an 18-course feast of a dinner — say perhaps at a summit meeting of world leaders discussing food shortages. You sit down at the table, and they bring in giant platters of the most delicious foods, building a rolling mountain chain of delicacies from one end of the table to the other. On Thursday, July 10, 2008, Americans, rich and poor, had this experience. Our national sustenance is found in our Constitution and our Bill of Rights, and it’s been many months that we’ve been deprived of them. In May of 2006, then House Speaker to be Nancy Pelosi had ordered impeachment “off the table.” On Thursday, Congressman Dennis Kucinich put it back on, and we suddenly feasted our eyes on our recently lost Fourth Amendment, on our old staple Habeas Corpus, on our sweet Freedom of Speech, and on our bountiful right to be represented and hold our elected officials to the rule of law.
How did this happen? Millions of Americans made clear to Pelosi their demand for impeachment hearings for Cheney and Bush. And one member of Congress took unusual steps to bring impeachment back from exile. First Kucinich introduced 3 articles of impeachment against Cheney. Then he introduced 35 against Bush. And on Thursday he introduced a single article of impeachment against Bush charging him with misleading Congress into a war on Iraq. And in each case, Kucinich introduced his resolution on the floor of the House, forcing the issue into the media and public discourse, and forcing a vote by his colleagues.
Apparently feeling the pressure and reluctant to have Kucinich raise impeachment on a weekly basis, Pelosi told the media that she expected the Judiciary Committee to consider the matter this time, at least in some half-way sort-of-impeachment hearing. Kucinich held a press conference on Thursday at which he said that what he wants is an opportunity to present his proposals to the Judiciary Committee.
Imagine, for the sake of argument, that Kucinich gets what he’s asking for or that Pelosi follows through on her statement in one way or another. The public pressure that has been building for over three years will have achieved a victory. The work of Judiciary Committee members led by Robert Wexler lobbying Chairman John Conyers to begin impeachment hearings will have contributed. But the proximate cause of Pelosi’s restoration of impeachment to our public table will have been Kucinich’s willingness to introduce impeachment resolutions.
What, one has to wonder, would happen if other members of Congress, perhaps beginning with Wexler, were to introduce their own resolutions, with or without cosponsors, with or without forcing votes on the floor of the House. What if each of the dozens of members who have signed onto Kucinich’s resolution and Wexler’s letter, or to Conyers’ own resolution in the last Congress, or who otherwise profess to support impeachment — what if each of them were to introduce a resolution each week until Pelosi and Conyers granted them, too, a committee hearing? How many such hearings would have to happen before a full-blown impeachment hearing was begun?
Representatives willing to finally adhere to their oaths of office could introduce articles of impeachment on Cheney or Bush or both. They could plagiarize any of Kucinich’s 39 articles or borrow any of the hundreds of others posted on impeachment websites and in books on the topic. Or they could write their own. They could also forego introducing actual articles of impeachment and follow the example that helped drive Alberto Gonzales to resignation. This was the full text of the widely supported resolution that chased him out of town:
“Directing the Committee on the Judiciary to investigate whether Alberto R. Gonzales, Attorney General of the United States, should be impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors.
“Resolved, That the Committee on the Judiciary shall investigate fully whether sufficient grounds exist for the House of Representatives to impeach Alberto R. Gonzales, Attorney General of the United States, for high crimes and misdemeanors.”
How hard would it be to rewrite that for Dick Cheney and introduce it once a week? With thousands of Americans working endless hours, fasting, risking arrest, and otherwise sacrificing for impeachment, can’t a few congress members be troubled to read a few sentences into the Congressional Record?
My favorite resolution, which I’ve been trying to get someone to introduce for years now, and which Kucinich included as #27 among his 35, would simply charge Cheney and/or Bush with refusing to comply with numerous subpoenas, ordering current and former staffers not to comply, and refusing to enforce contempt citations. Such a resolution is not partisan, controversial, or subject to any concern regarding Congressional complicity in the offenses. The related investigation would take no time or resources because there’s nothing to investigate. And this impeachment would give life to other oversight techniques. Congressman Henry Waxman’s proposal to get a bill vetoed that would eliminate Karl Rove’s position in the future is cute, but impeachment might actually force Rove to talk.
In 1973, nearly 90 Democratic House members introduced separate bills to impeach Nixon. Two-thirds of them were to investigate whether Nixon’s deeds deserved impeachment; the other third were actual articles of impeachment. Most of them had no cosponsors. Today there are at least 90 members of Congress who have shown some form of support for impeachment. If they act now, at the very least they will go on record as having wanted to preserve the rule of law. If they will not act now, please ask them exactly what would constitute an offense grave enough to move them to action.