A massive outpouring of angry mail and phone calls to the nation's leading newspapers led to editors calling Congress members Robert Wexler (D-FL), Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), after having turned down an op-ed by the three calling for immediate hearings on the impeachment of Vice President Dick Cheney.
At least one of those papers, the Miami Herald, which is in Rep. Wexler's congressional district, reversed itself and decided to run an edited version of the editorial it had rejected only days earlier.
Wexler, speaking on Florida Progressive Radio Thursday night, said it was clearly grassroots pressure and reporting on the Internet (inclulding by this site!) that forced editors at the Miami Herald to change their position on the editorial.
He is calling on Americans who want to see Congress begin impeachment hearings to put even more pressure on Congress to also change its position.
"I think it's obvious that Congress is way behind the people on this," he said, "and it's quite obvious that in this case the people have gotten it right."
Wexler said, "If the people in Congress could come up with reasons why the abuses of this administratiion are not serious to impeach, then I'd say Congress should not listen to the grassroots, but I don't think anyone in Congress could say that with a straight face. In fact, it's the opposite. They're saying, 'Even though this administration has committed these crimes against the constitution, we can't do anything about it.'"
Wexler said that he thought Democratic leaders in Congress, who have been aggressively blocking any effort to begin impeachment hearings, even to the point of pressuring state and local party activists into not passing impeachment resolutions, are risking alienating progressive voters--both Democrats and independents--next November by failing to act on impeachment.
"If Congress were really popular, with say 58 percent favorable ratings, then maybe they could do that," he says, "but the fact is that this Congress is very, very unpopular."
Wexler urged activists in favor of impeachment to put increasing pressure on their own congressional representatives, on their local news outlets, and on other members of the Judiciary Committee to support hearings on Cheney's impeachable actions, and vowed to bring a petition he has set up on line, which has garnered over 120,000 signatures in less than a week's time, to show every Democrat on the Judiciary Committee. "I will be asking every Democrat on that committee to support immediate hearings," said the six-term Congressman.
Wexler praised his colleague, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) and a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, for pressing forward with the impeachment issue, and for submitting a bill (H Res 799) for the impeachment of Vice President Cheney.
In another example of the effect of people power is that Rep. Anthony Wiener (D-NY), yet another member of the House Judiciary Committee, has signed onto Wexler's call for immediate hearings. Of the four, only Baldwin is a co-signer of Kucinich's impeachment bill. Since she is one of six members of the Judiciary Committee who are co-signers, that makes a total of nine Judiciary Committee members now who are in favor of Cheney impeachment hearings. That leaves 13 Democrats on the Judiciary Committee, including Chairman John Conyers, who have not expressed any support. But of those 13, five--Conyers and Reps. Brad Sherman, Mel Watt, Bobby Scott, and Artur Davis, voted against a Democratic leadership move to table (and thus kill) Kucinich's bill last Nov. 7, thus suggesting that they are in favor of hearings on the measure. If those five sign on to Wexler's call, that would mean a clear majority--13-8--of Democrats on the Judiciary Committee in favor of hearings on Cheney's impeachment.
In another development, Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI) added her name to the Kucinich Cheney impeachment bill, bringing the total number of co-sponsors, plus Kucinich himself, to 25--the number who initially signed on to impeachment hearings on Richard Nixon in 1974.
Things are definitely moving in the right direction. The bankrupt and cynical effort by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic Party leaders to snuff out the impeachment demands of a majority of Americans and of the vast majority of Democrats is crumbling. If you haven't signed onto Wexler's petition, to to www.wexlerwantshearings.com and help build the momentum.