By Dave Lindorff
Faced with an obstructionist leadership in the House, and a mainstream media that have forsaken their role as a Fourth Estate monitor of government abuse, three Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee are calling on the public to demand that the Congress initiate impeachment hearings immediately against Vice President Dick Cheney.
Speaking at a telephone press conference Friday organized by Democrats.com, Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL) said that following a bi-partisan vote Nov. 7 by the full House to send Rep. Dennis Kucinich’s Cheney impeachment bill (H Res 799, formerly H Res 333) to the Judiciary Committee, it was time for those hearings to “immediately” get underway.
Scoffing at the argument that has been made by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and others in the Democratic leadership that impeachment might hurt Democratic chances in the November ’08 elections, or that it could deter Democrats from their Congressional agenda, Wexler says, “I believe that there is a constitutional obligation for the Congress to hold this administration accountable, and it should not depend on what people think the impact might be on an election. The only question should be: Did Vice President Cheney abuse his powers?”
He adds, “If the American people believe that the democrats are holding a legitimate inquiry into serious issues of constitutional importance, they will not hold it against them. And besides, initial polling would indicate that this is not some off-the-reservation idea.”
The Florida legislator, who had not been among the 22 co-sponsors of the impeachment bill submitted last April 24 by Rep. Kucinich, says that by beginning impeachment hearings in the House, “We would create our own fate, and we shouldn’t be afraid of that fate.”
A major problem in challenging the Democratic leadership, however, has arisen in the form of a national media that simply ignores the growing national impeachment movement and the growing calls for impeachment within the Congress. Wexler reports that an opinion article penned by himself and two Judiciary Committee colleagues, Reps. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), which was sent to a number of leading newspapers, including the Miami Herald, the Washington Post and the New York Times, was rejected for publication—an astonishing act of censorship for a document authored by three members of congress on an issue of such significance as impeachment of the vice president.
In that article, Wexler, Gutierrez and Baldwin write:
The issues at hand are too serious to ignore, including credible allegations of abuse of power that if proven may well constitute high crimes and misdemeanors under our constitution. The charges against Vice President Cheney relate to his deceptive actions leading up to the Iraq war, the revelation of the identity of a covert agent for political retaliation, and the illegal wiretapping of American citizens.
Now that former White House press secretary Scott McClellan has indicated that the Vice President and his staff purposefully gave him false information about the outing of Valerie Plame Wilson as a covert agent to report to the American people, it is even more important for Congress to investigate what may have been an intentional obstruction of justice. Congress should call Mr. McClellan to testify about what he described as being asked to “unknowingly [pass] along false information.” In addition, recent revelations have shown that the Administration including Vice President Cheney may have again manipulated and exaggerated evidence about weapons of mass destruction -- this time about Iran’s nuclear capabilities.
Asked why he thought leading publications had refused to publish the op-ed piece calling for an immediate start to impeachment hearings, Wexler says, “I think the mainstream media, at least thus far, have bought the notion that impeachment hearings are outside the bounds of what Congress ought to be doing.”
He adds that there may be a fear, on the part of corporate media executives and editors, and on the part of Democratic Party congressional leaders, of having been “complicit” in many of the administration’s constitutional crimes. “There may be some significant conflicts of interest,” he says, that could make them feel uncomfortable about the idea of impeachment hearings.
To push back against this unseemly resistance Rep. Wexler and his two House colleagues have decided to go public with their message. Wexler has set up a website, called WexlerWantsHearings. He is urging Americans from across the country to go to the sign and sign on to his call for an immediate start to hearings. “I want to be able to go to my colleagues in the house and say I have 55,000 people calling for hearings,” he says.
People should also be contacting their local and national media outlets—and especially the New York Times, Washington Post and Miami Herald—demanding that they report openly and honestly on the growing impeachment movement, and that they publish the Wexler, Gutierrez Baldwin op-ed.
While he does not say where he thinks House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) stands at this point on the subject of starting hearings on the long-stalled Kucinich impeachment bill, which has languished in a subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee for over half a year, Rep. Wexler said he has spoken with Conyers about the matter. “I have a lot of confidence in John,” he says.