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Dems' Timidity May Cost Them Dearly in 2008

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By Bernard Weiner, The Crisis Papers We can and must agitate for their removal, but let's be real: Cheney and Bush are not likely to be hauled before a House impeachment panel anytime soon, and maybe not even before their terms expire in January 2009. Yes, I know, they deserve to be impeached and tried in the Senate. If Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Chairman John Conyers truly believed in accountability and in the concept of nobody being above the law, an impeachment panel would already have begun its work. Or, at the very least, the idea of impeachment would be "on the table." There certainly are enough "high crimes and misdemeanors" ( ) in the various CheneyBush scandals to justify such a move. In addition, both men have demonstrated "gross malfeasance" in endangering the United States by ignorantly and recklessly sticking a military poker into the hornet's nest that is Iraq and the Greater Middle East -- starting a war of choice based on lies and deceptions, with no Plan B to fall back on. As long as the U.S. stays in occupation, American troops will be swarmed and stung again and again, and more countries will be dragged into the angry hornet colony as well, the effect of which will be to further increase the growth of anti-U.S. terrorism. To be sure, Democratic activists should continue to try to generate a public groundswell urging impeachment, but, as I say, it may not happen soon, or even ever. Let's talk about why that may be so, and what progressives can do in the interim. DEMOCRATIC CONFUSION & TIMIDITY The Democrats, who were out of Congressional control for nearly twelve years, are way behind the public curve on so many issues. As numerous polls have made clear, the voting public -- sick to death of this Administration's stupidity, incompetence, corruption and dangerous policy-making -- put the Dems back into power in Congress in November of 2006 precisely to take bold stands on the Iraq war, corruption, the shredding of Constitutional protections, etc. But the Dems, seemingly confused and trapped by their elitist inside-the-beltway perspective, too often are behaving as if the midterm 2006 election never happened. No wonder public approval of the Democratic-led Congress has deteriorated so quickly. The Democrats have the option, for example, of filibustering the Iraq war-funding bills -- 41 solid Senate filibusterers would put a monkeywrench into CheneyBush's disastrous war expansion. The Dems could take that route, but they don't. They are looking toward the 2008 presidential election, which they blithely assume they will win as the war and the GOP continue to implode; the Democrats -- still falling into the trap of accepting the way the GOP frames the hot-button issues -- do not want to risk being attacked from the right as being "unpatriotic" by "not supporting the troops." And so the Democrats have become enablers of the CheneyBush war, with the blood of U.S. (and Iraqi) dead and wounded on their hands as well. They should be ashamed of themselves. PROBLEMS IN EXTRICATING U.S. TROOPS Underlying this timidity is the belief that they'll be able to extricate the main bulk of U.S. troops out of Iraq once a new, Democratic president takes office in 2009. Three problems with that scenario: 1. Even if one believes that the U.S. can hang on in Iraq through January 2009 -- not a sure thing, as the fiasco there grows more chaotic and catastrophic daily -- the situation on the ground at that point may be so far gone that no halfway-decent option is possible other than humiliating retreat, a la Vietnam in 1975. (Bush doesn't seem to care all that much about this scenario, as long as it doesn't happen on his watch.) The options right now are awful, but at least one can envision the start of an orderly withdrawal process, perhaps even negotiated in some fashion with "insurgent" leaders. The domestic spin: Bush and/or the Congress can assert that the U.S. has done all that it can reasonably have been expected to do: toppled the dictator, helped establish a democratic government, poured billions into reconstruction. They can argue that the Iraqi government, and sectarian Iraqi society in general, have not been able to meet the benchmarks required, and so it's time for the U.S. to go. 2. All this assumes that CheneyBush want to get the U.S. out of Iraq. However, there is enough evidence to prove the contrary: The constant enlargement of the current escalation and preparations for sending tens of thousands of new troops there (many Reservists and National Guard members) in the Fall. The U.S. has completed the hardening of at least four major bases in Iraq, which suggests they're staying, not leaving. The U.S. is completing the construction of the world's largest embassy, in Baghdad's Green Zone, which likely indicates that America is in the Greater Middle East to stay. Then, too, there is Bush's bragging admission to some Texas friends that he's engineering the war so as to make it virtually impossible for a future President to leave Iraq. ( click here ) 3. The situation in Iraq, and elsewhere internationally, may be explosively different from the relatively "stable" situation that obtains now. Pakistan's pro-U.S. government may be no more. The Palestine-Israel struggle may be even more convoluted and bloody. Turkey may have launched a full-scale invasion of the Kurdish part of Iraq. Iraq may be totally enveloped in open civil war. Iran's scientific facilities may have been bombed from the air by the U.S. and Israel. (The war-on-Iran hype-machine is running full time these days, fomented by Cheney, Rove and Lieberman, and aided by the corporate mass-media spinners. The betting is that the attack on Iran might well come in October, if not before.) RUNNING OUT THE CLOCK In the meantime, CheneyBushRove continue their in-your-face, bullying approach to Congress whenever it takes even little steps to rein in the Administration's overweening power. The object of the enterprise is to run out the clock on their second term without them getting impeached or tried criminally; to accomplish this, that triumvirate will just continue their tried-and-true M.O.: Grab what we want, do what we want, until someone stops us. If Chairmen Conyers or Leahy or Waxman request and then subpoena documents, for example, the Bush Administration will continue to simply ignore them, or file endless appeals to the Bushevik-stacked appelate courts. Delay, delay, delay. The Democratic response is to make a lot of noise in frustration but not to force real action and confrontation. WAYS OF CONFRONTING BUSHEVIKS The Democratic committees are slowly, in piecemeal fashion, going after various scandals and corruptions and terrible policies, but in no coordinated way and with no courage to simply confront the Executive Branch and thus bring our current Constitutional crisis to its head. (Perhaps a partial explanation for this timidity can be found in the Dems' suspicion that the U.S. Supreme Court -- which ultimately would rule on the Constitutional confrontation between the Legislative and Executive branches -- is now front-loaded with Bushista ideologues Alito, Roberts, Thomas, Scalia. So why risk it?) But more likely, the Democrats, as they demonstrated when they were the minority in Congress and now as the majority party, simply don't know how to attack an administration that feels no compunction about lying, ignoring all the rules and traditions, and regularly acting above the law. The CheneyBushRove Administration is a kind of criminal conspiracy, which controls the Department of Justice and much of the court system, and they simply won't change their ways unless absolutely forced to. Impeachment is one of the few realities that might force them to. Here are three possible scenarios for concentrated oppositional tactics: 1. ARREST THE LAW-BREAKERS What would happen, for example, if when the subpoenaed documents demanded by the Legislative Branch are not produced by the due date, the Sergeant of Arms and the Capitol Police were to march up to the White House to demand them or have the officials who authored or control them face immediate arrest? That would speed up the Constitutional showdown, with the courts forced to rule on this legal standoff ASAP. If the status quo continues -- a one-day hearing here, a document requested there, still more stonewalling and lying -- the Roveian strategy of running out the clock until 2009 probably would work, and the possibility of impeachment prior to the end of their tenure would be virtually impossible. 2. FORCE GOP TO VOTE AGAINST APPLE PIE Crisis Papers co-editor Ernest Partridge has come up a brilliant suggestion that would force the Republicans in Congress into an untenable position: ( ) >>"Five months into its new term, the Congress now in control of the Democratic party has done essentially nothing to restore the rule of law and the supremacy of the Constitution. The initial decisive act leading to that end might be as simple as the passage of this two sentence resolution: >> "'The Congress of the United States hereby affirms that the Constitution is the supreme law of the United States. Accordingly, any and all legislation and executive orders in violation of the Constitution are null and void'." >>"The word 'affirms' is crucial, for it states that at no time was the Constitution legally 'in suspension,' and thus any legislation or acts by the Bush administration in violation thereof were at all times illegal and invalid. Accordingly, the word 'restoration' must be avoided in such a resolution. >>"The Democrats should bring this resolution to a vote, and dare the Republicans to vote against it. The GOP would doubtless resist by calling it a 'meaningless political stunt,' and would struggle to prevent an open vote. But if it were to be brought to a vote, who would dare go on record with a denial that the Constitution is the supreme law of the land? The point is that the Democrats, all of us, need to be more creative in figuring a way out of this mess, rather than simply relying on the tried-and-true ways of political interaction in Washington, D.C., which ways have at least partially brought us to this awful point. 3. FILE WRITS OF MANDAMUS For instance, here's yet another inventive proposal, sent our way by Barbara G. Ellis of the progressive-activist Democracy for America chapter in Portland, Oregon: >>Because the Congressional Democrats in the first half of the 110th Session have paid no attention to voters giving them a House majority and a mandate to end the Iraq occupation and the Bush administration -- but all attention to Pelosi/Emanuel's frets about the 2008 election - a method exists to get their attention now, quickly, and easily that each impeachment group in all corners of this country can do. >>It's to have a Writ of Mandamus arrive in each of their local offices on Monday, July 16, charging each with breaking their oath of office to support and defend the Constitution and permitting the Bush Administration to overthrow the Constitution and our democratic form of three branches of government. And failing to apply the stipulated remedy - impeachment - designed by the Framers to prevent these high crimes. >>They can prevent a court finding them in contempt by: Signing on ASAP to co-sponsor Rep. Dennis Kucinich's HR 333 to impeach Cheney; 2) Authoring a bill to impeach both Bush and Cheney and dropping it into the hopper; Compelling Rep. John Conyers, as chair of the House Judiciary committee, to bring HR 333 to a committee vote and, thence, to the House floor for a vote. >>Mandamus is a tactic that can be used as quickly on a spineless representative just as quickly as a group in her/his district can get an attorney to file this action in the federal court. A court may quash it, but in the last two years several favorable rulings have been issued in 6 states (Texas, among them, on Houston city corruption). >>The thrust here, however, is more to get the rep's attention that they are complicit in destroying the Constitution. If the courts grant mandamus, it's a big bonus. If Karl Rove terrifies them and the thoughts of losing big campaign funds terrifies them even more, let's terrify them with this 700-year-old (Edward II, 1311 AD) court order compelling public officials to do their sworn duties. [For more info on how to file the writ, write us here and we'll pass on your inquiries to the Oregon DFA chapter, whose website is not yet activated.] DEMS NEED TO FEEL THE HEAT, TOO But what to do if the Democrats continue their scaredy-cat ways, being unwilling to frontally attack the Bushista forces, and thus wind up permitting, enabling, the worst of the CheneyBush policies to continue? More soldiers and civilians lost, more billions wasted, more elections stolen, more corruption encouraged, more degradation of the culture, more political illegalities inside the Administration, more wars of aggression, etc. etc.? The Republicans in Congress are feeling the electoral heat, more than a year ahead of the November 2008 election, trying desperately to walk the fine line of supporting their party leader (Bush) at the same time they distance themselves from his most egregious policies, the major one being the war in Iraq. Maybe it's time the Democrats started to feel the electoral heat as well. The liberal/progressive base of the party could make it plain to wavering, wimpy Democratic legislators that support for their re-election is not automatic, and that they might face determined opposition candidates in the primaries (see: Lamont, Ned). Indeed, if they don't change and act like a true opposition party should, they will face loss of financial support from the base, and a distinct shortage of volunteers walking precincts and making phone calls before the election, etc. Or, an even more radical consequence might be a mass desertion from the Democratic Party in the presidential election, and support for a courageous third-party candidate. Who that might be is unclear. In addition to Ralph Nader, who would enjoy virtually nil support among Democrats, the names I've heard fantasized about include Bill Moyers, Chuck Hagel, Dennis Kucinich, Mike Gravel. Any others?) IT'S TIME FOR SERIOUS ACTION Summing up: The Democrats, continuing their fearful, snail's pace politics-as-usual, are playing into the hands of the CheneyBush Administration and their GOP lackeys (and that includes Lieberman) in Congress. The public presented the Democrats a mandate on a silver platter last November, and they need to act forthrightly from it. The Democrats need to become a true party of opposition and use their power to end the war, stop the corruption, repair the voting system, and restore America's justice system and reputation abroad. As Yoda said, no more talk -- do! # Bernard Weiner, Ph.D., has taught government & international relations at universities in California and Washington, worked as a writer-editor with the San Francisco Chronicle for nearly two decades, and currently co-edits The Crisis Papers ( To comment: . First published by The Crisis Papers and Democratic Underground 6/19/07. Copyright 2007 by Bernard Weiner.
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Bernard Weiner, Ph.D. in government & international relations, has taught at universities in California and Washington, worked for two decades as a writer-editor at the San Francisco Chronicle, and currently serves as co-editor of The Crisis Papers (more...)
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