"I have a choice. I can either stand by and lead my constituents to believe I do not care that the president apparently no longer believes he is bound by any law or code of decency. Or I can act." -- U.S. House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers
The latest version of the lengthy report on Bush and Cheney's crimes produced by John Conyers' staff on the House Judiciary Committee includes a foreword by former Congresswoman Liz Holtzman which ends thus:
"This pattern of immunity for presidents must stop. Impeaching President Bush for lying to get us into a war will not only protect us from him, but also send an unmistakable message to future presidents: never again."
I'm sure Conyers likes that foreword, because he put it in there and it undoubtedly helps to sell books. Impeachment sells, and some people will do anything that sells, even faking decency. Some of the best paid prostitutes probably impersonate virgins.
"We can fire Bush!" Conyers likes to shout at rallies, later explaining that he simply means we can sit on our hands for two years until Bush's term ends. Conyers is refusing to even begin impeachment hearings, even against Cheney, even against Gonzales. He's refusing even to meet with the author of his book's foreword to talk about it. He's refusing even to meet with 400 of his constituents gathered to discuss it.
On May 29th, Conyers arrived early at a town hall meeting in Detroit that he had agreed to participate in. He left before it began, and never returned. He had, at the last minute, scheduled another public forum for the same time, about gas prices. The crowd at that one was reportedly much smaller and included a number of people who insisted on talking about impeachment.
Conyers' only legitimate excuse for not moving on impeachment would be if he were moving on criminal indictments. His report begins by listing numerous violations of law committed by Bush and Cheney. But Holtzman's short foreword argues for the advantages of impeachment over indictment. I find her case persuasive, and so apparently does some portion of John Conyers.
The question facing the world right now is how to send the rest of John Conyers an unmistakable message. An activist named Gordon Bennett sent me one idea:
"I am planning," he wrote of Conyers' book, "to tear out one page at a time, maybe highlight a key statement, and send it to his Detroit office with a short message pasted to the page from his book, something like,
"WHY WASTE ALL THIS EXCELLENT RESEARCH? LET'S GET ON WITH IT!
"YOU'VE MADE THE CASE IN PRINT. PLEASE MAKE IT ON THE FLOOR OF THE HOUSE!"
Anyone interested in joining in Bennett's effort can find Conyers' report for free at http://www.afterdowningstreet.org/constitutionincrisis or purchase it at all the usual online bookstores. Mail your page a day to
Chairman John Conyers
2426 Rayburn Building
Washington, DC 20515
669 Federal Building
231 W. Lafayette
Detroit, MI 48226
Or, here's a better idea. Fax it each day to (202) 225-0072 or (313) 226-2085.
There is a portion of John Conyers that is absolutely golden, that means to do absolutely right by us and our descendants. But that is precisely why we are so reluctant to hold Conyers to account. We're willing to keep moaning about Bush and Cheney. We'll even denounce Nancy Pelosi for her efforts to pressure Conyers not to impeach. But the fate of this nation and all the nations it impacts around the world is too big a matter to allow our friendship and admiration for John Conyers to block us from demanding - and I mean DEMANDING - that he live up to his oath of office.
Conyers pushed this issue when his party was in the minority. His staff produced a brilliant report. But those facts make his failure to act less, not more, excusable. And let's be clear, after five months in the majority, Conyers is failing to act, not waiting to act. No more evidence is needed. No better evidence than what we possess for several offenses is even conceivable. And no investigations are going to progress much further, now that the White House has made clear that it is going to simply ignore subpoenas (actually, Cheney announced that before the elections, but who's counting).
Nor can Conyers be said to be waiting for his colleagues to gather together the numbers to guarantee passage of Articles of Impeachment. Those numbers will follow impeachment proceedings, not precede them. But Congress Members will only follow where their most senior and respected members lead. If no one leads, nothing will happen - except the ongoing commission of the sort of crimes chronicled so pointlessly and tragically in Conyers' report. The list of crimes is a smorgasbord of impeachment options. If the war is too tough a sell within Congress, Conyers can proceed with the spying, the signing statements, detentions, torture, Katrina, elections. He only needs to pick one in order to do what is needed. Not to act is to be complicit in all of them.