Immediately upon meeting Bill Harper, Chief of Staff for Representative Betty McCollum (D-MN 4th) in her St. Paul offices today I handed him a "FRIENDS DON'T LET FRIENDS VOTE REPUBLICAN" button and a DVD copy of the Bill Moyers' Journal episode on PBS featuring impeachment advocates John Nichols and Bruce Fein. Nichols wrote "The Genius of Impeachment" and Fein wrote the first article of impeachment against President Bill Clinton. It is the strongest discussion on record to date for impeachment in our estimation.
Mr. Harper first listened very patiently and earnestly without interrupting my train of thought even once for nearly ten minutes as I laid out my and our case in favor of impeachment and why we encouraged Rep. McCollum to support impeachment efforts of both Vice President Cheney and President Bush. This set a great tone for what wound up being a 75 minute one-on-one face-to-face meeting of deep reflection and analysis of the nation's painful and destructive last seven years as well as a calm debate on the relative merits of the various possible courses of action in response to best facilitate healing and recovery.
While not disputing or disagreeing with any of my assertions directly and appearing to agree with much of what I had to say, Mr. Harper responded on behalf of Rep. McCollum by saying that she is very conscious of the fact that the Democrats in the House of Representatives, who now hold a strong majority there feel "accountable" and responsible for the direction of the country, not just in the short term, but over the next years and decades and that this broad overview affects their immediate choices in dealing with the Bush Administration as well as their Republican peers in Congress.
Mr. Harper equated the recent shift in the nation's political perspective as reflected in the Democratic party gains in the 2006 mid-term elections to a giant ship just now beginning to change course and that any nationwide change is a complicated, cumbersome and time-consuming process. We agreed that we all need to admit that we "let happen" the Bush years by not doing enough to elect better officials and by not insisting upon stronger election integrity safeguards sooner. I, however, noted that we must be very careful not to rebuild upon a cracked foundation or "paint an eggshell" in our hurry to repair damage wrought by misguided Bush misleadership. In retrospect, the analogy of attempting to right a ship with gaping holes in her hull threatening her constitution and thus her ability to remain seaworthy may have been more in keeping with his chosen analogy.
He noted Rep. McCollum's "focus on kids and health care" and other related domestic needs of her local constituents (mostly in St. Paul) as well as her defined roles accorded by her appointments to the prestigious and powerful House Appropriations Committee (budget and spending) and the Government Oversight and Reform Committee while also expressing fears that impeachment hearings would become a "mobilizer" for the Republican voter base, thus costing votes and maybe elections in 2008. In essence, he conveyed the fears of many Democrats that the "opportunity costs" of choosing to pursue impeachment could be reflected in both domestic legislation not passed and elections lost.
He also noted that "we are talking about two impeachments", which is a facet of the common argument that there isn't enough time. I didn't confront that argument in our meeting but Clinton's impeachment process lasted four months and Nixon resigned less than three months from the beginning of his impeachment hearings. It could have been a wonderful Christmas present to the nation if begun in September. Impeachment of Cheney would in effect be the impeachment of both as their activities are inextricably bound, so a second impeachment would take considerably less time than the first.
I did my best to counter the "it'll hurt election chances" fears in stating that the vote at the end of impeachment hearings in the House could not be known in advance and that if the evidence and testimony about the multiple crimes and misdemeanors committed by multiple past and present members of the Bush Administration were to see the antiseptic light and feel the effects of fresh air that only full revelation of the ugly truth can bring, citizens would be clamoring for impeachment and removal from office of the perpetrators. House members would feel greatly increased pressure and lobbying from constituents to support impeachment once fully apprised of the spectrum of crimes and misdemeanors that most Americans are as of yet unaware of.
It is my view and that of our organization that once the depth and magnitude of the criminal activity of the White House pierced the corporate media shield into the frontal lobe of the digitally lobotomized electorate as can only effectively happen through impeachment hearings that could not be ignored, complicit Republicans couldn't run far enough nor climb high enough be safe from the rising tide of citizen outrage and Democrats would win in a landslide.
Democratic Party wins are not the goal of ImpeachforPeace as an organization, rather full political and legal accountability for civil and public servants is our goal. But if scandalized politicians being washed out en masse is the result of that accountability, that is a victory for not only us, but the entire nation and the world.
Mr. Harper also noted that a legitimate argument concerning Executive Powers relative to the other branches is being floated by Bush supporters - this argument of course deeply rooted in Cheney's long-held desire for the establishment of a "unitary executive" with powers and authority far exceeding that of Congress or the courts. Harper didn't agree at all with this perspective, but noted that it would be the strongest card played by those who would fight to keep impeachment from succeeding.
I listened and said nothing. As citizen activist I don't need to weigh the relative merits of a course of action as much as those involved in politics need to. I did confirm that Rep. McCollum is widely regarded as a "safe seat" in 2008 by political anaylists and confirmed his opinion of Rep. McCollum as "highly principled" and motivated by what is right. It is our hope that Ms. McCollum will consider our appeal to make as strong a public stand against the Bush Administration's policies and agenda as her conscience encourages her to.
As the meeting was drawing to a close, I played the role of the tough journalist/examiner and challenged Mr. Harper to tell me what Rep. McCollum's reply would be to the question: "What would it take for the Congresswoman to cosign H. Res. 333 to impeach Cheney or initiate or support any other impeachment efforts?" I added: "Would a new pre-emptive war of aggression being initiated against Iran be enough?".
Mr. Harper replied somewhat indirectly in saying that "We can't use a powerful Constitutional tool such as impeachment as a political weapon" and that it shouldn't be used for partisan purposes. He continued in saying that the precedent he feared was that it would appear to be retaliatory and that it would be visited back against the next Democratic President, noting however that a Democrat being elected as President was far from a foregone conclusion.
In conclusion, Mr. Harper stated on behalf of Rep. McCollum that impeachment was "not our priority".
I concluded in return that we of ImpeachforPeace.org on behalf of many citizens feel that along with others in Congress who have sworn an oath to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic", Rep. McCollum is at odds with her oath of office in not doing everything in her power to hold domestic enemies to the Constitution fully accountable for their actions in order that the precedent of this outlaw regime not be allowed to stand unchallenged.
I asked that Rep. McCollum make a public statement on her position on impeachment - whatever it is - and that she use her position of great authority and responsibility to not just move forward with progressive legislation that brings healing and recovery from the damage done to our nation but to also publicly condemn and repudiate those that have been most instrumental in visiting this nightmare upon us.
Ms. McCollum, it is on our children that your focus is rightly placed. Their health and protection is of tantamount concern to you and to us. We share this most honorable focal point with you.
Please do everything within your purview - which is much larger than that of we individual citizens who are fighting with all our strength - to assure your children and our children that the premeditated and comprehensive assault on our freedoms, liberties and core values as Americans and responsible global citizens not be allowed to go unchecked and stand as precedent.
In no way do we wish to diminish or distract you from your chosen and assigned mission as Representative of your city and your district in Congress. On the contrary, we challenge you to stand up and speak out as only you uniquely can in favor of full accountability by all means available to Congress for those who threaten not just the physical health (the impending SCHIP veto the most recent prima facie evidence) but the Constitutional protections and liberties that we are counting upon you and your peers in Congress to protect, support, defend and restore for them.
Thank you for your service to our community, our state and our nation.