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Public Hungry For News On Impeachment

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Before Barbara and I got a chance to get any real national attention for The Case for Impeachment outside of programs on Air America, the best the book did on the Amazon sales ranking was about #3500.

Then last weekend, we had the opportunity, over a period of two days, to air a 7.5-minute interview on NPR, and a 75-minute presention on C-Span's "Books TV" program. Suddenly the book leapt in the rankings to #42, well ahead of #400, Greg Palast's best-selling Armed Madhouse, and even #80, Ann Coulter's Godless, and closing in on #27, Al Gore's best-selling Inconvenient Truth!

It makes you wonder what would happen if the mainstream media, like the NY Times, Washington Post and LA Times, and liberal publications like the Nation, In These Times, Salon, Slate, the Progressive, Harper's, the New Republic and others, or shows like "Fresh Air" and "Democracy Now," would stop ignoring the book and instead review it.

But ignoring "The Case for Impeachment" is just part of a larger censorship going on around impeachment, as I explain in this story which is appearing in the current issue of Extra!, the publication of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (www.FAIR.org):

Adultery was serious; this is just the Constitution

Impeachment Not on Media's Radar

By Dave Lindorff

There is a growing grassroots campaign demanding the impeachment of George W. Bush. Across the nation, towns and cities have been passing pro-impeachment resolutions. Websites promoting impeachment keep springing up. In several states, bills have been introduced in state legislatures that, if passed, would become formal bills of impeachment in the U.S. House of Representatives, requiring initiation of impeachment hearings under congressional rules dating back to the early 19th century.

Starting last fall, several polls (Zogby, 10/29=29/05, 1/9=12/06; Ipsos, 10/6=9/05) reported that a majority of Americans thought Bush should be impeached if he lied the country into war in Iraq or if he authorized warrantless spying on Americans. Those poll results were reported all over the Internet, but they barely made it into any mainstream corporate news reports. Indeed, impeachment itself is getting short shrift in the media, despite all this impeachment organizing activity.

When the House Judiciary Committee's ranking minority member, Rep. John Conyers (D.-Mich.), introduced a bill in December calling for creation of a select committee to investigate "possible impeachable crimes" by Bush, the dramatic move received virtually no mainstream coverage beyond an AP wire item (12/21/05). Even as the number of Democratic House members co-sponsoring that bill rose from an initial handful to 39, it has received scant attention. The first time impeachment made the front page of the Washington Post was March 25, 2006, when that paper finally ran a story on the wave of town government resolutions across the country.

Interestingly, though, the Post did provide Conyers space on the op-ed page for a column explaining that he would not immediately push for impeachment should he become chair of the House Judiciary Committee ("No Rush to Impeachment," 5/18/06).

Similarly, when Sen. Russ Feingold (D.-Wisc.) introduced a censure measure in the Senate Judiciary Committee, the New York Times tucked it away on page A17 (3/13/06). But days later, when Republicans tried to sideline the measure by claiming that such a move would help them in November by "energizing" their conservative base, the Times perversely played that classic "reaction" story on Page 1 (3/16/06).

In part, the media downplaying of impeachment may reflect a now-longstanding fear on the part of editors of frontally challenging the Bush administration. It may, however, also reflect the affinity of many in the higher echelons of the corporate news media for the timid and conservative Democratic Party leadership, which has made no bones about its fear and loathing of impeachment and of other more confrontational stances of the party's progressive wing.

Certainly the corporate media's approach to calls for Bush's impeachment contrasts markedly with the same outlets' coverage of the Clinton impeachment effort in the late 1990s. Though public support for Clinton's impeachment never got above about 36 percent, even at the height of congressional impeachment proceedings, many media outlets responded to the prospect of impeachment by calling on Clinton to resign. According to the Columbia Journalism Review (11=12/98), by September 1998, 181 newspapers (roughly one in 10 papers in the country) had called for his resignation--including major papers like USA Today (9/14/98) and the Philadelphia Inquirer (9/12/98). Other news organizations, among them Business Week (9/28/98) and the Houston Chronicle (9/10/98), were calling for censure.

Yet Clinton's offense was simply lying under oath about an adulterous affair.

Bush, in contrast, has admitted to ordering the National Security Agency to monitor Americans' telecommunications without a warrant, in clear violation of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (New York Times, 12/16/05). Beyond that, documents show he okayed torture of captives in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, contravening the Third Geneva Accord on treatment of prisoners of war, an international accord that was long ago adopted as U.S. law (Human Rights Watch, "Background Paper on Geneva Conventions and Persons Held by U.S. Forces," 1/29/02).

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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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