Citizens! I have a pamphlet from the ACLU's national legislative director in hand and it reads as follows: "We seek to provide you a means by which to effect the peaceful overthrow of a tyranny. There should be no mistake about it, a usurper has acquired power in America. He seeks to make it absolute. He and his aides lie to us on television and berate us for our disbelief. He speaks to us flanked by a photograph of family and our flag which he wears on his lapel. He confesses to crimes against the Constitution and believes he speaks of exoneration. He invites all of you to participate in his crimes. He accepts responsibility, but not blame. He relies on Executive Privilege and the institution of the Presidency. He uses lawyers to subvert the law and patriotism to subvert the Constitution. Mr. Nixon asks us to rationalize his way to our own corruption."
Oh, what? Who did you think I was talking about? This insightful and poignant statement by Charles J. Morgan, Jr. accompanied an October 24, 1973 letter and pamphlet by the ACLU to the citizens of the U.S. urging the impeachment of Richard M. Nixon. In 2003,Nixon's former chief counsel, John Dean himself declared the deeds of the Bush administration to be 'worse than Watergate,' so where is the ACLU today? We are told by David Swanson, cofounder of AfterDowningStreet.org, a national impeachment coalition that on Friday, November 2, he expects Nicole Sandler of Supertalk940.com in Miami to ask ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero and ACLU Florida Executive Director Howard Simon on air why in the world the ACLU is not backing impeachment the way it did in 1973.
Until then, let us look at recent comments made by ACLU President, Nadine Strossen. Strossen argues that because the Democrats in Congress are, in part, responsible for allowing the President to go unchecked and in some cases actively approved his illegal actions, she is opposed to impeachment.
In a recent interview by David Shankbone for Wikinews, Strossen declared that, "it would be a terrible idea to impeach him." She went on to say that any attempt at impeachment would "deflect the responsibility from the Democrats. It makes it too much of a partisan issue. There is a bipartisan responsibility here. For that reason I strongly oppose it."
What Ms. Strossen fails to understand about the impeachment movement is that the people are not looking to impeach a President who is a Republican, but a President who has, in her words, "Lied to Congress, the American People, to the media . . . He's had a view that as Commander-in-Chief he can do whatever he wants, that he's above the law, that he doesn't have to abide by the laws that are duly passed by Congress." I don't recall in the six times that impeachment is mentioned in the Constitution, a disclaimer that despite strong grounds for impeachment if it even has the appearance of partisanship then it's a no-go. In fact, I don't recall 'party' being mentioned. In fact, I recall it reading that "Congress shall impeach."
Perhaps Strossen's concerns about it being a 'partisan' issue stem from a perceived image that the group has fought to stave off for years. The ACLUs decision in 1973 to take out full page ads demanding Nixon's impeachment resulted in an outpouring of financial support and temporarily increased their membership rolls by tens of thousands. But, they were, according to a publication by the New England School of Law, often accused of "privileging leftist politics over civil liberties."The article goes on to say that, "In early 1998, the ACLU launched the first sustained advertising campaign in its history, taking out monthly newspaper ads on various civil liberties issues in an effort finally to put to rest the public perception that it was a partisan, ‘liberal left’ organization." Surely a principled organization like the ACLU would not put public relations ahead of justice - would it?
Mr. Shankbone remarks, "You just don't think it [impeachment] would be productive." Strossen responded, "I don't think it would advance civil liberties." Yet the assault on civil liberties is the reason the ACLU has been so critical of the administration. It is why they are working overtime to end torture and extraordinary rendition, why they are fighting to shut down Guantanamo and restore Habeas Corpus and repair the wiretapping mess.
The Bush administration initiated all of these infractions on civil liberties and because some spineless Democrats went along for the ride, the American People and the country must suffer for it? Could it not be argued that if the Congress begins to see more unity and strength among established organizations calling for the impeachment of President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, that they may begin to rethink some of their votes?
Repeatedly, this administration has scoffed at the idle threats and subpoenas. All the lobbying in the world will not bring us to the point where President Bush will willingly relinquish his power grab. It just ain't gonna happen. Even if our Congress were filled with courageous men and women who understood that justice trumps the 2008 elections, this President would continue to issue signing statements designed to place himself above the law as he did when he claimed the power to define torture or declare any one of us enemy combatants.
As Ms. Strossen, herself, claimed regarding new laws, "In one breath he is signing them, and in another breath he is saying he doesn't have to follow them." How she, in turn, can come to the conclusion that impeachment would "not advance civil liberties" is beyond comprehension.
Strossen explains that, "I'm not speaking for the ACLU, I know some people in the ACLU would like to see it." Are these "people" the ones responsible for a powerful New York Times ad. The ad shows an image of a solemn and defeated Nixon followed by the words "He lied to the American people and broke the law." Below it, a smug George Bush accompanied by the simple words "So did he." The word, impeachment, is not necessary as it is read implicitly into the statement that follows, "What should we do when the U.S. President lies to us and breaks the law?"
The creators of this ad understood what Ms. Strossen and many critics of impeachment fail to discern. They close the ad with these lines, "Because it’s not about promoting a political agenda. It’s about preserving American democracy."
Interestingly, this ad premiered on December 29, 2005, only 11 days after Rep. John Conyers introduced H. Res 635 - a resolution that would create a select committee to investigate and make recommendations regarding grounds for impeachment. Apparently, the Dems weren't the only one who were all talk in 2005.Impeachment was broached again by the ACLU in 2006, when an ACLU panel urged impeachment over the spying program. In a February 21, 2006, article by Monisha Bansal (9 months before the 2006 elections), Laurence H. Tribe, professor of constitutional law at Harvard University remarked that "If the political alignment in the country were otherwise, impeachment would be a no-brainer." John Dean, White House counsel during the Nixon administration, added "There is no question in my mind that this president has already committed one or more impeachable offenses. This is pretty serious stuff. It's worse than Watergate." Regarding the wiretapping, Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the ACLU submitted that, "It violates the basic rules of the road of how you operate. No judge, at any level has signed a warrant for this."
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