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What do Rep. John Conyers (D, Michigan), chair of the House Committee on the Judiciary, and President George W. Bush have in common? They both think they can dis Cindy Sheehan and count on gossip columnists like the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank to trivialize an historic moment.
I’ll give this to President Bush. He makes no pretence when he disses. He would not meet with Sheehan to define for her the “noble cause” for which her son Casey died or tell her why he had said it was “worth it.”
Conyers, on the other hand, was dripping with pretence as he met with Sheehan, Rev. Lennox Yearwood, and me Sunday in his office in the Rayburn building. I have seldom been so disappointed with someone I had previously held in high esteem. And before leaving, I told him so. Throwing salt in our wounds, he had us, and some fifty others in his anteroom arrested and taken out of action as the Capitol Police “processed” us for the next six hours.
As we began our discussion with Conyers, it was as though he thought we were “born yesterday,” as Harry Truman would put it. With feigned enthusiasm he began, Let’s hold a Town Hall meeting in Detroit so we can talk about impeachment. Get out my schedule; let’s see, we need to hear from everyone about this.
That Town Hall/panel discussion was arranged by the Michigan chapter of the National Lawyers Guild less than two weeks after the Detroit City Council passed a resolution, cosponsored by Conyers’ wife Monica Conyers—calling for the impeachment of Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. We had hoped that Monica’s clear vision and courage might be contagious.
Husband a No-Show
Apparently, that incident was of such little consequence to the congressman that he had completely forgotten about it and was about to try to resort to the same subterfuge. And that was less than two months ago. Small wonder, then, that he has apparently forgotten the oath he took, much longer ago, to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States from all enemies, foreign and domestic.
Selective Alzheimer’s? I don’t know. What was clear was that he had forgotten a whole lot. I pointed to James Madison’s role in crafting a Constitution that mentions impeachment no fewer than six times. And for those, like John Conyers, who may have forgotten, Madison had this to say at the constitutional convention, “A President is impeachable if he attempts to subvert the Constitution.) I mentioned my career as a CIA analyst, said there is abundant proof, much of it documentary, that Bush and Cheney had deliberately deceived Congress into approving a war of aggression, and asked what could be more subversive of the Constitution.
The congressman’s reply: Madison did not say Conyers has to impeach every one. Why, if I had to impeach everyone for high crimes and misdemeanors, that’s all my committee would have time to do.
I remember from Rhetoric 101 the name of that device: reductio ad absurdum.
How about just Bush and Cheney? we suggested.
Conyers protested that he would need 218 votes in the House and complained that the votes are not there. His priorities showed through in his loud lament that if he fell short of the 218 votes, the Republicans and FOX News would have a field day.
Frightened by FOX
There was no getting through to Conyers, who seemed astonished at the direct questions we were posing. While reflecting on this later, a dictum of my father, also a prominent lawyer began to ring in my ears; to wit: “When you reach the age of ‘statutory senility,’ you do everyone a favor if you retire.” He followed his own advice when he retired as Chancellor of the Board of Regents of the University of the State of New York, long before senility—statutory, or otherwise—set in for him.
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