For the past year, as the impeachable crimes of President Bush and Vice President Cheney have mounted, Democratic members of Congress have scrambled to present a whole array of explanations for why they can’t support impeachment.
Chief among these has been the argument that “we don’t have the votes to convict” in the Senate. This has been closely followed by the argument that impeachment would “take too much time” and that it would “divert attention from the important legislative work” of the Democrats in Congress. Right behind this, and linked to it, has been the argument that “the important thing is ending the Iraq War,” and that “impeachment would interfere with that goal.” Then there has been the argument that impeachment would be “divisive” and that the voters want the Congress to “work constructively” on the nation’s problems. Finally, there has been the argument that impeachment is not necessary because Congress under the Democrats would be conducting “investigations” that would serve the same purpose of impeachment in rooting out the administration’s wrongdoings.
Okay. It’s clear to me that all those rationales for inaction on impeachment are simply excuses. But for the sake of argument, accept them as a given. If we do this, we are left to wonder why, if these are valid reasons for Democrats to duck impeachment of the president or vice president, they don’t apply also to the impeachment of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
Yet Inslee has been quick to file a bill (H. Res 589) for the impeachment of Gonzales on a charge of lying to Congress about the National Security Agency’s warrantless spying program.
Can Inslee today say that “the votes are there” in the Senate to convict Gonzales? Of course he can’t. Can he say that a Gonzales impeachment would not be a “diversion”? Of course not. Can he say it would not “divert attention” from ending the war in Iraq? Of course not (in fact, unlike the impeachment of Bush or Cheney, which would focus on the lies leading up to the war, the impeachment of Gonzales, as proposed by Inslee, would have nothing to do with the war and would indeed be a diversion from that key issue!). Would the impeachment of Gonzales be “divisive”? Certainly it would be at least as divisive as an impeachment of Bush or Cheney. And as for the “investigations” argument , Congress is in the midst of investigating Gonzales, and has the option of having him prosecuted for perjury—an option that isn’t even available when it comes to Bush and his crimes—so why the bum’s rush for impeachment?
Take Rep. Tom Udall. Udall, who represents the state of New Mexico, was in a position to support the impeachment of the president back in the spring, when an aggressive effort was underway in his own state’s legislature to pass a joint resolution calling on Congress to initiate impeachment hearings against Bush. Instead of supporting that effort, Udall stayed out of the fray, and while no one has charged him with arm-twisting in the state legislature the way Inslee did in Olympia, WA, he also apparently did nothing when other leading Democrats did work behind the scenes to block the effort.
Other House members who are jumping on Inslee’s “Impeach Gonzales” bandwagon but who have refused to consider impeaching Bush or Cheney include: Xavier Becerra (D-CA), Michael Arcuri (D-NY), Ben Chandler (D-KY), Dennis Moore (D-KS), Bruce Braley (D-IA), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Steve Cohen (D-TN).
Only Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) and Keith Ellison (D-MN) are supporters of both Inslee’s Gonzales impeachment bill and Kucinich’s Cheney impeachment bill.
So what is the deal here?
Are Inslee and the majority of his co-sponsors backing a Gonzales impeachment because they aren’t getting any flak about it from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who a year ago announced that under Democratic control, impeachment in Congress would be “off the table”? Are they even getting behind-the-scenes encouragement from Pelosi?
Or is it that impeaching Gonzales on the narrow issue of lying about NSA spying avoids the messy problem of having to admit that all too many Democrats have been complicit in or even supportive of most of Bush’s and Cheney’s crimes against the law and the Constitution?
Clearly, impeaching Bush or Cheney for lying about the war would be an embarrassment to many Democrats, like Sen. Hillary Clinton, for example, who supported those lies and supported the illegal invasion of Iraq.