BACKGROUND: some time around Monday evening, June 9, there was a giddy moment when it seemed that justice was still possible in America. On the Friday before, the Senate Intelligence committee had issued their report condemning the Bush propaganda machine efforts to kick-start the Iraq War as intentional deception. As folks had been saying along Bush lied, Thousands Died. Impeach. And by that following Monday, Dennis Kucinich stood before the assembled might of the US Congress and read 35 different, verifiable, reasons George Bush could at last be removed from office. All across America millions of citizen finally exhaled our sighs of relief and waited for history to happen. And of course it didn't. As planned. With Speaker Pelosi sternly disapproving and Steny Hoyer dutifully leading his majority away from the topic with all post haste, it turned out the Republican party were the ones who championed hearing for impeachment, hoping to easily out debate and embarrass Dem leadership. They actually pressed to have the thing heard right there, but it wound up in committee, presumably to die. And so we waited through June, recurring calls to the Judiciary gave no clue that their stance on why impeachment should not be discussed and when challenged as ineffective against Bush, Conyers office would refer to the ousting of Alberto Gonzales, who was embarrassed out of office over the Attorney General firings. So true to the promise he made to Congress and to the American people, when Congress failed to act for more than 30 Days, on July 11th, Kucinich again introduced impeachment but this time focusing on one charge: the deceptions of imminent threat regarding Hussein in the fall of '02. And somehow an amazing thing happened: on the 17th Conyers Judiciary Committee announced hearings. While the bombshell flashed through the online progressive community, it remained a non-starter for mainstream media. Unlike either the Nixon Hearings over Watergate or Clinton's BJ impeachment, no mainstream media outlet had plans to cover the hearing live for the public to decide. In fact when called in a July 24th survey of the major TV news networks, NBC backpedaled through 6, count 'em, 6 different viewer service reps who didn't even know who to ask to find out if the network was covering it. And the guy who answered the phone in the ABC national news newsroom, not only had not heard about the hearings and but did not even know how to check on the Judiciary committee's schedule of upcoming hearings. When finally guided to the public notice, he grudgingly allowed they'd "do something on it, I'm sure," and hug up. Of course not wanting to draw too much attention to the hearings in advance, the ever meek Conyers originally billed the hearing as "The Imperial Presidency" and later milded down even that, to "Executive Power and Its Constitutional Limitations." In fact when the hearings finally started after a good twenty minutes of live glad-handing, Conyers duly admonished the crowd they were not allowed to show any reaction to any statements made and both witnesses and committee members were neither allowed to speak of impeachment nor in the pejorative in general of the president or name him directly in any accusatory fashion. A faux rule which easily fell to the wayside once the testimonies started. At first I was so dazzled by the fact that the hearings were even happening, that my wife and daughter and I got up early and gathered in front of the TV at 7am AZ time for the opening gavel on CSPAN and just stared open mouthed. The line that eventually got me to realize I could be taking notes was, "Informed criticism, as annoying as it may be to those in positions of power, is the stuff of democracy"-Brad Miller D-NC in his opening remarks.
As planned. With Speaker Pelosi sternly disapproving and Steny Hoyer dutifully leading his majority away from the topic with all post haste, it turned out the Republican party were the ones who championed hearing for impeachment, hoping to easily out debate and embarrass Dem leadership. They actually pressed to have the thing heard right there, but it wound up in committee, presumably to die.
And so we waited through June, recurring calls to the Judiciary gave no clue that their stance on why impeachment should not be discussed and when challenged as ineffective against Bush, Conyers office would refer to the ousting of Alberto Gonzales, who was embarrassed out of office over the Attorney General firings. So true to the promise he made to Congress and to the American people, when Congress failed to act for more than 30 Days, on July 11th, Kucinich again introduced impeachment but this time focusing on one charge: the deceptions of imminent threat regarding Hussein in the fall of '02.
And somehow an amazing thing happened: on the 17th Conyers Judiciary Committee announced hearings. While the bombshell flashed through the online progressive community, it remained a non-starter for mainstream media. Unlike either the Nixon Hearings over Watergate or Clinton's BJ impeachment, no mainstream media outlet had plans to cover the hearing live for the public to decide. In fact when called in a July 24th survey of the major TV news networks, NBC backpedaled through 6, count 'em, 6 different viewer service reps who didn't even know who to ask to find out if the network was covering it. And the guy who answered the phone in the ABC national news newsroom, not only had not heard about the hearings and but did not even know how to check on the Judiciary committee's schedule of upcoming hearings. When finally guided to the public notice, he grudgingly allowed they'd "do something on it, I'm sure," and hug up.
Of course not wanting to draw too much attention to the hearings in advance, the ever meek Conyers originally billed the hearing as "The Imperial Presidency" and later milded down even that, to "Executive Power and Its Constitutional Limitations." In fact when the hearings finally started after a good twenty minutes of live glad-handing, Conyers duly admonished the crowd they were not allowed to show any reaction to any statements made and both witnesses and committee members were neither allowed to speak of impeachment nor in the pejorative in general of the president or name him directly in any accusatory fashion.
A faux rule which easily fell to the wayside once the testimonies started. At first I was so dazzled by the fact that the hearings were even happening, that my wife and daughter and I got up early and gathered in front of the TV at 7am AZ time for the opening gavel on CSPAN and just stared open mouthed.
The line that eventually got me to realize I could be taking notes was, "Informed criticism, as annoying as it may be to those in positions of power, is the stuff of democracy"-Brad Miller D-NC in his opening remarks.
What follows is an attempt keep up live with the pace of the action over the nearly six hour hearing. I am not a stenographer and so many of the issues discussed required a certain amount of background info to contextualize that the quotes are few and the summaries many. However since the chances are good mainstream media may never present much coverage of this hearing historic hearing, here's my best shot:
Following Conyers' gentle often befuddled sounding opening remarks, which included the lines, "the politicization of the Department of Justice, the misuse of signing statements, the misuse of authority with regard to detention, interrogation and rendition, possible manipulation of intelligence regarding the Iraq war, improper retaliation against critics of the administration... and excessive secrecy," several committee members also made opening remarks with GOP loyalists uniformly outraged over the very essence of the hearings Ranking Repug Lamar Smith hissed loudly the mantra of the GOP objections: congressional consideration of the numerous lies, deaths, unjust imprisonments, and misspent billions of President Bush amounts to "the criminalization of political partisanship." In other words the problem is not that Bush and his supporters committed these heinous acts, but that they were members of the Republican Party and those complaining about their actions are members of the Democratic Party.
Trent Franks (my own representative, woe is me) gave the most offensive anti-hearing address complaining that the terrorists were winning because the hearings were taking up time that Congress should have been working to further restrict and invade rights in the War on Terror. Franks contended that though the president has only has a 30% approval rating Congress' approval rating is in single digits due largely to its despicable hounding of the poor president. Coincidentally later that same day MSNBC showed the latest poll which had the numbers at Bush 23%, Congress 15%.
Walter Jones D-NC complained about the signing statements which Bush has repeatedly used to, in some cases, completely undo the purpose of the legislation, noting that though signing statements go all the way back to Monroe, all presidents before Bush only totaled to 600 that Constitutionally damaging or violating and Bush alone has generated over 800 alone.
After several Dem reps talked about the various areas of neglect and abuse of the Bush admin and the bills they've introduced to try to combat these abuses, Elizabeth Holtzman, author of the book, The Impeachment of President Bush and former US rep. from New York laid out a forceful case on numerous legitimate sounding "high crimes and misdemeanors."
It is worth remembering that Bob Barr, the 2nd public witness before the committee, is a strident conservative and had been one of the key players in the Clinton impeachment process. He said there are "legions of instances ... where, to be most generous, the understanding of liberty are lacking." Barr, speaking with purposefully dispassion, clarifies that the Bush usurpations of presidential power and Constitutional abuses did not start with Bush, but his administration has taken it to new extremes. And further this is first the first step for future presidents who, he noted, typically use the excesses of previous presidents "not as a ceiling, but as a floor." Unlike the vast majority of the actual testimony in the hearing, Barr's testimony was available online within hours of the hearing and can be found here.
Former Salt Lake City mayor Rocky Anderson focused the way the extensive secrecy the Bush admin has invoked suggesting that the sheer number of things we don't know due to the intensive secrecy of the Bush Admin is perhaps the scariest part of the matters at hand. Due to that secrecy, without Congress pressing for investigation the world may never on the possible scope of "the monstrous human rights abuses" of the Bush admin.
Noted Conservative, Stephen Presser, the Northwestern University law professor who had provided the definition for the Constitutional concept of impeachment during the Clinton Impeachment in 1998, served the same role in these hearing and, in order, threw out the all 6 of the major issues that those calling for impeachment had championed: including signing statements, willful defiance of congressional subpoenas, the politicalization of the Justice Dept., the whole signing statements debate, the misrepresentation of WMDs, misuse of authority and even torture.
Assertions which the next witness, Bruce Fein, former Reagan Deputy Attorney General also a Constitutional law expert, intensely disputed, claiming the executive branch has pillaged our Constitution and civil liberties as thoroughly "as the barbarians sacked Rome."
Next celebrity DA/author, Vincent Bugliosi, whose current bestseller is called The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder, attempted to summarize his whole book in a short five minute time limit and focused on the now widely documented lies the Bush Admin used in the run-up to the Iraq War, opened by saying at this stage of his career he doesn't have time to mess around: the lies that Bush has told have led directly to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. At this the crowd in the hearing room burst into applause. Rep. Lamar Smith returned to his role as designated killjoy asked the room be cleared. Conyers, ever polite, declined to do this, but admonished the crowd politely.
As if brought in to be a balancing act to Bugliosi's vitriol, Jeremy Rabkin, a George Mason University law professor, acknowledged he had been called in by the minority contingent, even though he didn't want to be put in a position of defending the Bush Admin. He then quite clearly dismissed the efforts of various witnesses to bring in additional issues such as FISA and signing statements, since those lesser abuses pale in comparison to the charges of lying to the public and Congress on WMD. That charge alone is enough though he personally rejects it to the point of treating it as laughable. (Coincidentally the 2nd round of Kucinich's impeachment attempt took that very other same approach and whittling the initial 35 charges to one: liar us into war.) In conclusion Rabkin condemned the hearings themselves as disloyal and out of touch with the vast majority of Americans, noting "the rest of the country is not in this bubble to think it is OK to refer to the president as Caligula."
Frederick A. O. Swartz, who had serious objections to the Bush Admin, repeatedly referred to torture and the suspension of habeas corpus among other things, noting that the "US should not adopt the methods of our enemies," called for further investigation before America completely loses her "moral luster." Still, despite his concerns with Bush's abuses, he explained that he does not support impeachment, because of the timing, not enough time before the election and the regrettable invariability of the process becoming even further political.
Lastly, Elliot Adams, president of the Noble Prize winning Veterans for Peace, opened by recounting the famed Benjamin Franklin quip from the Constitutional Convention that America now had a republic, "if we can keep it." After listing the various good works of his organization, he explained he had to break away from that stuff to focus on the war crimes of the Bush Admin, and as a soldier, he was outraged.
When given a chance to restate or give additional comment, Holtzman again called for the rejection of lesser measures because the president has been able to evade all lesser efforts to rein him in. Bob Barr comically had a heavily redacted version of the Bill of Rights warning that if we don't stop Bush we won't be able to stop some later president.
Rocky Anderson addressed points brought forward by Presser and Pence went so far as to use the word "Fraud." Presser, while complimenting the process, flatly dismissed the suggestion that the 944 false statements the Bush admin made were intentional lies. There was no proof, he contended, that the president acted "with lack of good will."
Bruce Fein warned that the shape of the war on terror and the expansion of presidential powers are timeless, timeless threats to America. Following Bugliosi's second reiteration of the lies Bush told and the contention that all subsequent deaths based on those lies, Americans and Iraqis alike, audience member Cindy Sheehan got herself ejected, in the new round of audience applause.
Rabkin simply yielded his time saying that he was not impressed with people repeating their alarmist statements with greater emphasis, so he did not intend to repeat telling them "to calm down." Frederick Swartz's second reminded us of the importance of action.
Next came the committee members turn to ask questions. When ranking Republican Lamar Smith, R-TX, cross-examined he focused, too little surprise, on Presser and Rabkin, the witnesses that supported his assertions that the whole thing was an overblown waste of time and stain on the great Republican Administration of George Bush. Presser was focused on the non-criminal nature of Bush abuses of power. Rabkin simply listed other presidents who had led the country into wars on less than truthful statements (such as McKinley, Franklin Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson) doubted that the public would take accusations against those presidents either.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler D-NY flat out rejected Presser's and Rabkin's defense of Bush lies as innocent unintentional mistakes based on good intentions and pointed out that there is considerable proof (such as the Senate Intelligence Committee report of June 4th or the Center for Public Integrity's exhaustive listing of 935 documented "false statements.") that Bush consciously lied to Congress in Oct. of '02, and so it doesn't matter what his intentions were, a lie is a lie. Next, cross examining Bruce Fein, Nadler explored possible future Constitutional remedies for presidential abuses and ways to limit presidential pardon powers, to which Fein replied that the necessary and proper clause, our friend from Article I, Section , 8, paragraph18. Nadler, feeling very enthused, then moved on to Holtzman to compare the current process to her role in Nixon's aborted impeachment. Again animated Holtzman exclaimed the process started with the Saturday night massacre and the American people." She further noted that back in the day, parties were more willing to address the issues of the president's behavior, not their own party loyalties. "Maybe I'm a cockeyed optimist ... Impeachment inquiry itself handled fairly with the full participation of the minority party ... with everyone participating ... with Constitutional scholars there so no one has feel that we're out to get someone ... it can work, we have to make it work for the good of the country."
Rep. Steve King, R-IO, noted Holtzman's call for non-partisan participation of both parties. He then scolded that if the shoe were on the other foot, the Dems wouldn't play along well, either. He then focused on the famous 16 words from the 2003 State of the Union address, you remember the whole Nigeria yellow cake issue, noting that Joseph Wilson's original debriefing from his fact-finding trip to investigate the claim Iraq was trying to buy uranium from Africa appears to support the contention, though it is worded as heresay. He later showed a previously secret report claiming that in 2007 the US army shipped 550 tons of yellow cake uranium from Iraq, showing that the government was just in their claims. He then attempts to use the old Republican ruse of pointing out all the Dems who signed on the Bush wagon including Obama back in 2004.
Rep. Bobby Scott, D-VA, asked if there were available measures short of impeachment since there are clear abuses that should be redressed. Scott also dismissed Presser and Rabkin's dismissals of the importance of Bush's abuses, especially torture issues and the politicalization of the Justice Dept. and used a variety of witnesses, including Fein, Barr and Holtzman, to show they are important after all. First Fein clarified that during discussions in the Watergate hearings, the Justice dept. concluded that a president couldn't be criminally prosecuted while in office, impeachment was the only recourse. Holtzman agreed and further went on to note that on the issues of torture, or any deaths resulting from that torture, there are "no statutes of limitations for any US national including the people at the highest rung of our government." She concluded, "The real remedy for a president who continues to act as if he believes he were above the law is impeachment and there is no running away from that." Bugliosi stepped in to remind all present that though Bush is protected from prosecution while in office, the Jan. 20th he is fair game and America has the right to start pursuing the prosecution now.
Trent Franks stuck to his message of dismay that the terrorists are winning and that there were many notable Democrats who also called for a War on Iraq based on claims of WMDs. He also did a rousing review of quotes to demonstrate how much the terrorists hate us for our freedom. "And somehow we're going after this president you has done everything in his power to protect us." Of course, in putting together his terror routine, Franks failed, as so many GOP leaders do, to mention that the American public and politicians were operating on intelligence supplied by Bush in the first place. When Swartz tried to comment Franks concluded his turn rather than let him speak. He also mentioned that by focusing on "fairytales" instead of terrorists, all there that morning should be ashamed.
Mel Watt, D-NC, asked who was protecting us from those who claimed they were protecting us from the bad guys. After a quick shout out to his old buddy Bob Barr, Watt stated he would not lead a call for impeachment, having been through the Clinton impeachment. Watt felt it wasn't worth attempting to impeachment when there could be no nonpartisan investigation, even though "this is the most important issue I believe this Congress could be pursuing ... I am convinced the Republicans were wrong when they did it, I'm not saying we would be wrong to try it ... but I'm not sure it would be a practical matter ... it's clear to me we would not have the votes ...I wish we could raise the standard for the president ... If somebody brings the resolution I'll be right here ... I want the American people to 'impeach' this president in November of 2008 and this whole administration ... and the idea that a president can protect me from terrorists by doing whatever the hell he wants."
Rep. Louie Gohmert R-TX condemned most of the witnesses, reminding them that if misleading to congress is a criminal offense they should consider their "brash allegations." Gohmert focused on Clinton's earlier failures and poor President Bush who "naively" "accepted" "Clinton's lies" about Iraq WMDs. He further claimed that Joe Wilson started speaking out to protect his friends in France who were scamming the UN oil for food deal. He also added, like Franks that the focus of the day should have been on the terrorists, not the innocent, though naïve president. The biggest problem right now is that the Supreme Court had just voted to "release terrorists on American soil."
Zoe Lofgren, D-CA, who also was on hand for the Watergate hearings, hoped to use the current hearings to "curb future abuses." Lofgren reflected on watching when, Chuck Wiggins, a major Nixon supporter on the Watergate committee finally realized that Nixon had been lying and "his faith and his president had been betrayed." She wasn't sure she wanted to support impeachment as a practical matter considering the time available, but was unsure of other means of address. She still laments when Congress abdicated habeas corpus because the president said he was trying to make us safer.
Swartz, finally getting to comment, laid out some precepts of how a commission could created to investigate the Bush admin after they've left office. Barr got a nod to champion his proposed methods of redress if he should become president. "It's hard to know where to start," Barr chuckled. He talked about repairing a variety of abuses including revising the "doctrine of state secrets," FISA and signing statements.
Dan Lungren, R-CA, addressed Holtzman and Bugliosi and returned to the popular Republican phrase, the criminalizing of political difference of opinion. He looked back to earlier presidential abuses including the little mentioned tale of Wilson having political cartoonists imprisoned for unfavorable cartoons..He also likened Japanese Internment to Nixon's post-presidential tax investigations and said the Democrats were "tantamount to overcharging the case." He asked if impeachment is the proper tool. Turning to Rabkin and Presser for support, Lungren interrupted Presser and himself to complain that people in the audience were holding signs. Aides and security then circulated through the crowds until members of the crowd broke out in loud, but unfocused protests, including, of all things, paper throwing. After a couple of minutes of chaos, Conyers asked upset audience members to just leave. King again recessed for a recess. Then Presser pressed on despite the background noise. "Do you have a president who acted in good faith or do you have a president who just wasn't interested in doing that?" Rabkin disputed the assertion that there were no other recourses other than impeachment. He further suggested that if we were to impeach the president, there are numerous others who should also get the boot.
Sheila Jackson Lee, D-TX, echoed Barbara Jordan (who had the same congressional seat, and seat in the Judiciary during Watergate) that the role of the hearings was to protect the rights of "simple people." Jackson Lee briefly returned to the issue of signing statements then explained, while she wouldn't call directly for impeachment, she "believes we have a very firm basis for suggesting high crimes and misdemeanors," but she did call for other lesser commissions to look into abuses, though timing is an issue. She asked Fein to clarify the president war powers of congress, as opposed to the powers of the president. Fein noted that the founding fathers asserted that a president who either lies or conceals information from Congress, thus preventing Congress from acting properly, has committed a great crime against the country and that is an impeachable offense. "A popular government without popular knowledge is a farce." Bush concealed information from Congress, thus impairing Congress' ability to responsibly act on their power to declare war.
Jackson likened Bush Iraq run-up to the current Whitehouse effort towards Iran. Fein also took the opportunity to note the president's limitation of WMD info in 2002-2003 set the tone for the whole nations' interpretation of the issue at the time. Jackson Lee also gave Bugliosi a chance to expand on the Bush concealment of dissenting opinions by 16 different US agencies who each said Hussein was not an imminent threat as Bush and company continued to insist that he was and needed to be stopped by force. According to Bugliosi, the WMD issue is less important than the Bush charge of imminent threat.
Mike Pence, R-IN, choose to use his time to prop up the credentials of Steven Presser, presumably to reinforce Presser's legal opinions as law, Pence, "fascinated with [Presser's] analysis," also lauded Madison and Mason at length, noting the founding fathers' rejected "maladministration" as an impeachable offense because we couldn't have presidents impeached over policy issues. Pence then, tossed off a couple of props for of all people Dennis Kucinich, then revisited the distinction between the obstruction of justice charges against Clinton and those against Bush. Presser again asserted Bush had not pursued personal interests.
Robert Wexler, D-FL, one of the co-sponsors of the Kucinich's impeachment measures, refuted that torture, among other offenses, are not simple "policy issues, they go to the issue of abuse of presidential power." No matter what else Congress looked at, wasn't the president's repeated instructing his staff to refuse to cooperate with Congressional investigations. That is not a policy issue, it is a Constitutional action." After reiterating that the president cannot put himself above the law, he gave the floor to Rocky Anderson who also listed a litany of ways where the president and his staff have clearly and repeatedly refused to even appear despite numerous congressional subpoenas while Congress "cavalierly ignored" it. Fein weighed in that all by itself Bush's refusal to cooperate with Congress is all enough for a quick, clear-cut, impeachment. Holtzman adamantly concurred, noting that refusing to appear on congressional supeonas 'subverts the Constitution" which is, all by itself, an impeachable offense.
Steve Cohen D-NY asked first if Holtzman was sure Bush had committed clear impeachable offenses; then if the vice-president is impeachable and could be actually done at the same time, despite the Whitehouse assertions that the vice president cannot be impeached because of his Constitutional, though underserved, role as president of the Senate. Holtzman smiled as she explained they could "do a two-for." Cohen concluded, "There's not a method to their madness, just madness." Bruce Fein came back on to discuss whether disgraced Attorney General Alberto Gonzales himself had committed impeachable offenses and then built on the idea that there was still plenty of time for a full-scale impeachment since many of Bush's clear actions on FISA, habeas corpus, and other "blatant" refusals to follow US law are widely documented, would be easily proven, and "rise to the standards of high crimes and misdemeanors." Fein further explained that an impeachment on various Bush actions which were clearly in violation of Congress are indeed crimes where Bush has already confessed. "You don't need an archeological investigation."
Rep. Hank Johnson, D-GA, brought Presser back to clarify the difference between impeaching Clinton for lying and impeaching Bush for lying and, despite Presser's repeatedly saying that he "didn't see the facts the same way." "It seems to me that you take the position that we shouldn't even be looking at the facts. Is that it?" Johnson eventually got Presser, through extensive use of double negatives to eventually acknowledge that the gravity of the issues at hand and the possibility of "probable cause" showed it would be responsible to further investigate, which is the purpose of an impeachment in the first place. Johnson then asked the same question to Holtzman who said Congress would be shirking their responsibility if they did not hold impeachment hearings.
Rep. Brad Sherman, D-CA, opened by lamenting that "Congress has become an advisory board to the president;" then made some sort of joke about Jesse Jackson and his threat to the nuts of Barack Obama. When no one laughed along, Sherman focused in on the Bush Admin's "nonfeasance" to see if that was an impeachable offense. Bruce Fein started to give a long answer, which Sherman helped him summarize as "yes." He talked further on how to protect future congresses from future signing statements. Sherman also visited Holtzman asking if it was proper for a prosecutor to press for a trial when they knew they couldn't get a conviction, but she wouldn't bite and declined a clear answer.
Tammy Baldwin, D-WI, addressed the concerns of Bush's expansion of the presidential powers with a metaphor based on Washington building a toolbox out of the cherry tree he did not actually chop down, and then asked about Congress's lack of action to prevent it. Once again Bruce Fein was brought in explain that the Congress has its own self to blame. Fein contended "the founding fathers would be shocked to find one man claiming the power of war." Baldwin further noted that she has no reason to trust Bush to behave during these the last six months of his term and wonders if we should use an impeachment proceeding to contain him. Rocky Anderson said nothing short of "criminal sanctions" could stop Bush from attacking Iran and Bugliosi when called on to expand, declined to speculate.
Adam Schiff, D-CA, called for an investigation, a Church-style inquiry, and not one limited to this term of Congress and asked "what steps can we take today?" He further wanted to focus on the issue of signing statements and the Office of Legal Counsel and their use of legal opinions to protect Bush staff from accountability. "is there legal accountability? If not how do we instill legal accountability?" He brought back Frederick Schwarz to clarify that the secretive nature of the OLC and Bush's use of signing statements. Schiff, then worried about running out of time, asked if Schwarz felt that suit could be brought against members of the Bush admin to get them to release more info. Schwarz, referring to the district court efforts to get Harriet Miers to stop refusing to cooperate with Congressional subpoenas. Fein explained that he had been in the OLC earlier, and all the earlier work of that office was public, and Congress should insist on a return to that practice "shoddy scholarship is so embarrassing they change their mind ... Sunshine is the best disinfectant."
Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-FL, revisited the GOP complaints about the 45 different hearings the committee, noting that "members on the other side of the aisle are lamenting" the massive workload had to do with the backload from the first six years of the GOP dominated Congress ignored Bush abuses. She then asked for an opinion on the degree of egregiousness of Bush's use of singing statements. Schwarz explained that the breadth of the president's use of signing statements to contradict and often negate Congressional laws (nearly 1100 so far and still counting). Schwarz contended the president's use of signing statement could be, by itself, sufficient cause for impeachment and "unprecedented in its audacity." Wasserman Schultz then asked if signing statements could be removed altogether. Schwarz was unsure, but Bruce Fein suggested that Congress simply cut the purse strings for any law a president countermands the intent of with his signing statement. Wasserman Schultz quipped, "This president has no shame."
The next questioner, Keith Ellison, D-MN, got Fein to clarify that even if Congress were to pass a law restricting the use of signing statements, Bush could still write a signing statement refusing to follow the law. Fein wryly grinned and acknowledged it could happen. Ellison then brought Kucinich back to the microphone, to reiterate his initial claims he made of purposeful deceptions on the Bush Admin's part regarding WMDs, a Hussein/ Al-Qaida link, and other claims Bushies made that contradicted existing intelligence. Kucinich started to slowly explain to how he had analyzed the two versions of the Oct 2002 in which Congress passed its war-making powers over to the president. Ellison hurried him along. Kucinich laid out the list of claims Bush was making in the laws that the Whitehouse already knew was untrue even as they were pressing for war. Kucinich compared the existing prewar intelligence compared to the claims that Bush was making at the time. Ellison then asked Stephen Presser to whether or not Kucinich's assertions, if accurate, "would form the basis for an inquiry for impeachment." Presser agreed; but Jeremy Rabkin would not accept Kucinich's charges enough to even consider whether or not if true, they were impeachable, though if Kucinich was correct it would justify an impeachment inquiry. "The only reason I'm here is to get to the truth. Let's get to the truth."
The last to speak, Dan Lungren, R-CA, came back to the microphone to say that "there is an essential difference between an misstatement of facts and an intentional misstatement;" and as a former prosecutor he knows such allegations are easily made and hard to prove, it's "a long road;" only to find himself cross-examined by Rep. Jerrold Nadler, on whether or not the faulty and misleading intelligence reports Bush gave to Congress rises to the level of lying. Again Lungren used the opportunity to complain about the crowd behavior. Conyers apologized for the crowd's behavior and said disrupters would not be invited back to this chamber. After that, citing Eisenhower's memoirs, he justified Bush's choice to have faith in the intelligence we had and we should accept his good will and intentions. Like Eisenhower, Bush merely "made a decision based on the best intelligence he had."
"The way this has been portrayed as a president chomping at the bit to violate the Constitution is just unreasonable," Lungren concluded. Nadler countered that the issue wasn't about the quality of the intelligence Bush had, but that prima fascia Bush selected the information he wanted to use and hid the rest from the world community. Lungren stuck to his guns despite a final effort to challenge him by Rep Scott.
Conyers concluded the hearings by echoing Mel Watt in calling the hearings the most important that the committee had held. Immediately following the hearing CNN continued to broadcast an interview with John McCain that did not address the hearings. Headline News cut away from a fluff piece on salmonella in Mexican jalapenos, to dismiss briefly the hearings and erroneously report that the Judiciary had held "hundreds of hearings and none had lead to any action." Obviously ignoring the committees own count of 45 hearings, which among other things, have led to the ouster of Alberto Gonzales.
Later that evening when CSPAN ran the hearings a second time I was able to fine tune some of the notes and check on the major coverage of the hearings. As expected, none of them actually interrupted ad time TV to do the public service of covering the hearings, though Keith Olbermann ran a segment in the 3rd slot of Countdown, disparaging the sincerity of the hearings and mostly giving Bob Barr who left the hearings early a chance to campaign. An occasional scan of various network scrolls showed no evidence of the hearings whatsoever, EXCEPT by 11:16pm AZ time (after 2am in DC) a brief scroll "Kucinich Presses for Bush Impeachment, Republicans Scoff." A final check of the major network websites showed ABC had the hearings in the lower portion of their homepage, while CNN had it as their lead article thought, their rendition discussed nothing more than the opening two remarks by Conyers and Smith. There was no mention at all on CBS, NBC or MSNBC. --mikel weisser writes from the left coast of AZ
--mikel weisser writes from the left coast of AZ