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Suddenly They're All for Impeachment...of Gonzales

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By Dave Lindorff

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.

Take Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA). Inslee not only has consistently said he opposes any effort to impeach Bush and Cheney; he has actively tried to stifle a powerful grassroots movement for impeachment in his home state of Washington, which came close to getting a joint resolution calling for Congress to impeach considered in that state’s legislature. As a vote neared, Inslee, together with Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) both rushed back home from Washington DC, reportedly at the request of the Democratic leadership in Congress, to twist the arms of key state legislators and block a floor vote on the resolution, which had been submitted by state Senator Eric Oemig. At the time, Inslee, while assuring his liberal constituents that he agreed that the president was violating the constitution, offered up all the above rationales for saying impeachment was a bad strategy.

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?

And yet Inslee has already won support quickly from 14 other members of Congress for his bill. What these worthies, all Democrats, have in common with Inslee is that, with two exceptions, none of them has favored impeaching the president for crimes far more egregious than those of Gonzales, and not one has signed on to the bill (H Res 333), submitted on April 24 by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), calling for the impeachment of Cheney. That earlier bill has 15 co-sponsors at this point too, but again with two exceptions, they are a completely different group of congress members from the Inslee crew.

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?

Is impeaching Gonzales meant as a sop to placate angry progressive Democratic voters—a way of avoiding public wrath for not supporting impeachment of the president and/or vice president (impeachment activists in Rep. Inslee’s district tell me that for several months now he hasn’t been able to hold town meetings there without the majority of attendees yelling at him for opposing impeachment of the president)?

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.

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Dave Lindorff, winner of a 2019 "Izzy" Award for Outstanding Independent Journalism from the Park Center for Independent Media in Ithaca, is a founding member of the collectively-owned, journalist-run online newspaper (more...)

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