In an April 5 article, the Washington Times interviewed several members of Congress, noting along the way that Congressional Democrats report that “constituents are clamoring” for impeachment of the president.
Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) is quoted as saying he gets “one call after another” calling on him to impeach the president, but he goes on to say impeachment would be “a very divisive thing…and at this point I don’t see that happening.”
Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), one of the House’s most liberal members, reportedly calls impeachment pointless and a distraction from the presidential election.
Diane Watson (D-CA), another of the most liberal members of Congress, says she gets calls for impeachment from every crowd she speaks to, and says that while she would support impeachment herself, it’s “not a strategy our new leadership would want to start with.”
That comment, of course, really gets to the heart of it. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), has for almost a year been hammering home her opposition to impeachment, saying repeatedly that it is “off the table” and (as she said again last week on NBC’s “Meet the Press”) that “Democrats are not about impeachment.”
Pelosi has enforced her will on this issue by not so subtly threatening pro-impeachment members of the Democratic caucus with loss of desired committee assignments or even committee chair postings--likely the reason that a leading impeachment advocate in 2004-6, Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), has for months retreated into an embarrassed silence on the issue.
Lately, however, there are signs that even Conyers, whose obeisance got him the chairmanship of the House Judiciary Committee that should have been his by virtue of seniority alone, is chafing a bit at Pelosi’s strictures.
Anthony St. Martin, founder of the website PledgetoImpeach.org, reports being told by Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL), and by staff members in the offices of both Rep. Watson and Rep. Conyers, that all three of those members of the House would be willing to push for impeachment if they received a petition from voters in their districts representing one percent of the district population (about 6500 signatures).
If true, this may then be the strategy for moving things forward. If last fall’s Newsweek poll is correct that over 50 percent of the American public wants the president impeached--and that would be consistent with earlier polls taken before the election that showed similar support for impeachment--it should not be hard to come up with those kinds of numbers on impeachment petitions, especially in districts that elected people like Davis, Watson and Conyers.
At the same time, efforts are underway now in at least eight states to push through impeachment resolutions in both houses of state legislatures. One attempt failed in New Mexico because of improper arm-twisting by top national Democrats, and a second was sidetracked in Washington state in the same way, but legislative campaigns continue to move ahead in Vermont, Texas, Wisconsin, Maryland and elsewhere. Should one of these states manage to pass a bi-cameral legislative petition calling on the House to initiate impeachment, under Thomas Jefferson’s “Manuel” for rules of the House, the House of Representatives in Washington would be obligated to hold a hearing on impeachment.
Pelosi and other Democratic congressional leaders can be expected to plead that it’s “too late” in the president’s second term to begin impeachment hearings, but this is an absurd argument. Impeachment of the president on some grounds--most notably his willful violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and his abuse of signing statements to invalidate laws passed by the Congress--is so straightforward and the offenses are so self-evident that hearings would hardly be needed. The Judiciary Committee could draw up and vote out bills of impeachment in a flash.
Besides, the counter-argument to the lateness dodge is that it would be important to impeach this president even if it were done after the November ’08 election, because not to impeach Bush for his many crimes and abuses of power would be to give them the stamp of Congressional approval, making them the standard of acceptable behavior for all future presidents.
Pelosi never gets asked that question by reporters when she talks about impeachment being “off the table.”
As for divisive--what does one call appointing an ambassador via a “recess appointment” who has been summarily rejected by the Senate? What does one call sending 25,000 more troops into the Iraq War killing fields after an election that showed the American people to want a quick end to that war? Clearly the Bush administration is divisive. Divisiveness already is the prevailing condition of government in Washington.
Impeachment would, in any even, not be divisive; it would be a national cathartic that would bring a majority of Americans back together around the support of our founding charter.
There are signs that at least some Democratic members of Congress, after years of acting like lower life forms, are beginning to evolve spines and a belated recognition that there is a need to respond to the views of the public, not just the party elite. If they do begin impeachment proceedings, they may even find some support among Republican members of Congress, who also are looking at facing the voters in 2008 with growing anxiety.