My father had a sign on his wall saying "Playing it safe is risky business". I've always felt that meant we should always do the right thing, even in difficult circumstances. Then again, I've never been a Member of Congress.
John Hall, freshman Congressman from NY's 19th District was recently asked by a constituent if he supports investigation for impeachment. His reply struck me as being extremely similar to the reply I got from Congressman Eliot Engel in the next district over.
First Hall stated a blanket criticism of Bush/Cheney, speaking of "the wrong direction" and "damage done" in leading us into "a devastating war in Iraq based on misleading statements and false information". He agrees BushCo "undermined the criminal justice system, weakened Constitutional protections for U.S. citizens, and created staggering federal deficits with its misplaced priorities and reckless federal spending. It has condoned the use of torture and illegal wiretapping, and attacked the Constitutional separation of powers." Good so far, right?
But Hall believes we should merely censure the President - for misleading the public about the basis for war in Iraq, for outing Agent Plame, pardoning Scooter Libby, ignoring federal statutes, gagging appointees in Congressional hearings, signing statements, FISA violations, the Alberto Gonzales debacle and more.
Though impeachment hearings would seemingly tie all these things together, Hall does not believe "our country should be put through an impeachment proceeding at this time." This, despite 50% of the population in support of it? Hall continues "Further, it is apparent that no article of impeachment would result in a conviction in the Senate." I wonder how Hall can say this with such surety before the actual presentation of evidence and testimony - is he telling us 'between the lines' that we are wasting our efforts because the fix is in?
Hall writes "The process would be extremely disruptive to efforts to pass substantive legislation to block further abuses by the Bush-Cheney Administration and efforts to pass legislation to help solve problems for American families." In other words, Hall thinks impeaching Bush/Cheney would slow Congress's ability to stop abuses by Bush/Cheney? Here is where I get lost - there must be something in Congressional logic that eludes my "general" logic.
Impeaching Bush/Cheney, in my mind would be an extremely direct way of stopping abuses by Bush/Cheney, especially if they are removed from office. But even if there is no conviction in the Senate, the influence of the White House becomes severely diminished once all the dirt is hashed publicly. Many lawyers, pundits and scholars feel the impeachment proceedings will bring out many important facts, all at once, tying all of these various abuses and violations together - the mother of all hearings.
Hall paradoxically writes "...I was elected in 2006 by voters who urgently want change in Washington, and an end to the disastrous Bush-Cheney policies." He then lists how many areas Bush/Cheney in which must be opposed: fiscal responsibility, homeland security (such as 9/11 Commission recommendations), meaningful ethics and lobbying reforms, alternative energy programs, child health insurance, student loans, etc. But why fight all these battles separately instead of tackling the source of the problem? Read on...
Hall adds he did vote "with a majority of the House to send H. Res. 799-a resolution outlining articles of impeachment against Vice President Cheney, to the Judiciary Committee to consider..." but the bill, after going directly to the House floor "bypassed the Judiciary Committee and would have subverted procedures for introducing impeachment findings...a dangerous precedent for future Congresses. In addition, the resolution itself cited actions which, while outrageous, do not meet the Constitutional standard for impeachment of "treason, high crimes or misdemeanors."
Fellow Americans, this is exactly the reason we need a thorough investigation and official hearings. Either Congress will meet these high standards of evidence of high crimes and misdemeanors during the process, or not, in which case the accused will be exonerated - wouldn't they want this if they were innocent?
But not investigating gives the White House an automatic pass in the face of a long list of improprieties, courtesy of a timid Congress. Reps. Hall and Engel both sound so vague because they cannot come out and say 'we haven't got the juice to do this'.
Some say it's moot, because it's already too late, the preceedings would take too long and that Bush should be allowed to ride out their term, with the torture, wiretapping and defense contract cronyism continuing for another year. Rep. Hall believes the current committee investigations and oversight hearings have "dramatically increased accountability, which was completely lacking in the previous Republican-led Congress", essentially telling us these 'baby steps' are best for us.
Though only in his first term, Hall is already something of a calculating politician, balancing his stands on the issues not on how he ran for office, but what will now keep him there. This is perhaps not so much Hall's fault as a problem with our system, where elections are won with money and support from special interest groups and political friends, not the votes of a discriminated, informed electorate.
Hall knows his Congressional seat is highly coveted by the Republicans who he took it from. He owes thanks to support in his 2006 run to Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Jack Murtha, Steny Hoyer and others. In return, he endorsed Hillary for President ponderously early in the game, in spite of her poor war record and her lovey-dovey relationship with Entergy, the company that helped Bill Clinton back in Arkansas and who now runs the Indian Point nuclear plant. Hall's watchers question this endorsement because of his (formerly) long history as an anti-nuke activist, helping to raise money and organize celebrity studded music festivals for the cause when he was himself a chart-topping musician.
Rep. Hall has himself indicated he entered Congress "raring to go" but has learned it's more about "consensus-building". Unfortunately, this may be as good as it gets for the anti-war movement. The reality of Hall's district is that it's very purple and he is already under a hot challenge by an Iraq war vet and outspoken pro-war activist whose priorities for the 19th Congressional district in suburban NY are combating "Islamic fascism" and increasing border security to prevent immigration.
Though outspoken against Bush in myriad ways, Hall must believe stopping short of signing on for impeachment will win him votes in his district with moderates, independents or even fed-up Republicans.