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Ducking Impeachment in Congress and the Newsroom

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By Dave Lindorff

On Monday last week, something important happened in Washington.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich, the Democratic representative from Cleveland, OH,
who early in the primary season won some of the biggest applause lines
in the Democratic presidential candidate debates, introduced 35
articles calling for the impeachment of President George W. Bush for
high crimes and misdemeanors.

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You'd be excused if you didn't know this happened. There was almost
no reporting on the event that day or the next, which took several
hours to accomplish, along with several hours Tuesday for to be read
into the Congressional Record. Kucinich's address to the House was
broadcast live on C-Span. But it was not announced in advance or
highlighted on the C-Span website, and there were not many news reports
on the historically significant fact that articles of impeachment had
been filed against the president during subsequent days.

A week later, it has still not been reported in the New York Times,
the nation’s self-described “newspaper of record,” even though the
Times had just days before Rep. Kucinich’s action, editorialized about
the enormity of the president’s lies in tricking the country into
invading Iraq—one of the crimes leading Rep. Kucinich’s long list.

A number of papers did editorialize against impeachment, including
the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Florida Sun Sentinel—but it says
something that these publications thought it more important to attack
Rep. Kucinich’s action than to actually report on it as a news item.

Even the Washington Post’s news report was an example more of the
sclerotic state of American journalism than of genuine reporting. It
began:

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“Having failed in efforts to impeach Vice President Cheney, Rep.
Dennis J. Kucinich (D-Ohio) escalated his battle against the
administration this week by introducing 35 articles of impeachment
against President Bush, using a parliamentary maneuver that will
probably force a vote today.”

Any journalism student who wrote a lede like Post staff writer Ben
Pershing’s in a classroom exercise would have gotten a “D” or an “F”
for it. Talk about backing into a story! First of all, Kucinich hasn’t
“failed” in his effort to impeach Cheney. Congress has failed to
impeach our criminal vice president and regent. Technically, Kucinich’s
Cheney impeachment bill is still lodged in the House Judiciary
Committee, where it is now joined in political limbo by the Ohio
congressman’s new Bush impeachment measure.

The unwillingness of the nation’s news media to seriously consider
the need for Congress to respond to and challenge the president’s clear
abuses of power—even as they themselves condemn of those abuses of
power—is a blot on the journalistic profession perhaps worse, and of
more lasting consequence, than their failure to act as watchdogs and
critics during the run-up to the Iraq War, when they acted more as
patriotic cheerleaders than as news organizations.

As impeachment advocates, including Rep. Kucinich, have pointed out,
unless this president and vice president are impeached by the current
Congress, any—and probably every—future president will feel empowered
by unchallenged precedent to ignore laws passed by the Congress, to go
to war without Congressional approval, to spy on Americans in violation
of the law, to ignore court orders, to abrogate international treaties,
and to lie to Congress and the American people. Unless Congress asserts
its rights under Article I, it will no longer even be a co-equal branch
of government, but instead will have been reduced to nothing more than
a debating society.

Editorialists, while refusing to honestly report on this
Constitutional crisis, have been parroting the claim of gutless and
calculating Democratic Party leaders like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in
saying that with the nation at war and with a critical election
approaching, there are “more pressing” matters to consider than
impeachment, and that impeachment would be a “diversion.”

This is nonsense. As hundreds of American troops continue to die
each quarter in a war that never should have happened, and that was
launched five years ago and continued for half a decade thanks to
administration lies and deception, there is nothing more important
facing this nation than restoring Constitutional government and
Constitutional checks and balances—something that can only be done
through the Constitutional process of impeachment.

The American people instinctively know this. In polls, fully half or
more of the public consistently continue to say, even at this late
date, that they want the president impeached. Considering the media
blackout on the issue, this is truly astonishing and even heartening.
But it will take more than polls to get impeachment rolling. The public
needs to start demanding that its representatives take action, on pain
of being voted out of office.

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I was at an anti-war forum in New Jersey last Friday evening
sponsored by a group of peace activists calling themselves the Iraq
Forum Organizing Team. When forum panelist Rep. Rob Andrews was asked
by an audience member whether he favored impeachment and supported Rep.
Kucinich’s articles of impeachment, Andrews fudged. He claimed,
ingenuously, that the articles had been sent to the House Judiciary
Committee for hearings, and said that he personally thought that Bush
had committed an impeachable “high crime” by outing the identity of a
covert agent of the CIA, Valerie Plame, and added that if the Judiciary
Committee “develops a bunch of evidence” to support that charge, he
would vote to impeach.

As I pointed out to the congressman, he certainly knows that that is
a cheap dodge. I said that he was well aware that the way legislation
moves forward in Congress is that members like himself sign on as
co-sponsors of legislation they favor, and that then, and only then,
those measures get hearings. Without co-sponsors, bills go to committee
to be killed by inaction, which is the intention of sending Kucinich’s
articles of impeachment to the committee. I said if Rep. Andrews were
honestly to believe that the president might have committed any high
crimes, he should either file articles of impeachment himself, or
co-sign the excellent set of articles already filed by Rep. Kucinich.
Instead, Andrews, like the rest of the Democrats and Republicans in the
House, with the notable exception of Rep. Wexler and California Reps.
Barbara Lee and Lynn Woolsey, have avoided Kucinich’s articles like the
plague.

The audience loudly applauded this condemnation of Rep. Andrews.

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Dave Lindorff is a founding member of the collectively-owned, journalist-run online newspaper www.thiscantbehappening.net. He is a columnist for Counterpunch, is author of several recent books ("This Can't Be Happening! Resisting the (more...)
 

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