This isn't partisan politics. Fundamentally, this is Constitutional Law and Criminal Law. This administration assails our basic values and notoriously attacks the Constitution. They run roughshod over the Separation of Powers. They sneeringly dismiss the Bill of Rights and the Congress.I've been reading James Madison's, Alexander Hamilton's, and Thomas Jefferson's thoughts about this. They were clear: Power in the hands of one person or faction would threaten our freedom. They took steps to divide power between three branches to avoid this, but the radical Republicans overrode the founders by creating a rubber stamp Congress and by packing the Supreme Court. This allows horrendous policies - many of which violate the rule of law - without checks or balances to curtail abuses. That's not the American system.
Bush, Cheney and others committed serious crimes: lying us into war (under the oath of office), unwarranted and warrantless spying on innocent US citizens, violation of treaty obligations including those outlawing torture, and more. If these precedents stand, then there is nothing the Executive Branch cannot do. Unless we demand accountability now, then we concede that there is no counterbalance to any Administration abusing unlimited unconstitutional power. We have two choices: either we can let this Republican-led violence against our Republic stand as we sit by silently, in complicity, or else we can at least try to stop our Republic from falling.
There are those not persuaded by concerns for the survival of the American Republic, so we must consider more than the essential nonpartisan, rule of law imperatives involved. Aside from those concerns, Democrats want to know if demanding accountability helps them politically. Common sense and recent history say yes, but some Democrats think discussing impeachment will backfire on them the same way the effort to impeach Bill Clinton backfired on Republicans. How? Look around. Did it cost them the Senate? The House? Not for ten years! They just lost control of the Congress - not because they went after Clinton in the mid-90s. Because of the crimes that require impeachment of Bush and Cheney! They still control the White House and will until January 2009 - unless we do something about it. If that's backfiring, we could use some of that.
Most Americans opposed the impeachment of Bill Clinton. Even so, many - perhaps millions - clearly responded to the intense media attention surrounding public exposure of every bit of Clinton's - and Lewinsky's - dirty laundry. The trumped up scandals left a bad taste in their mouths which voters took out on Al Gore. All puns intended. Republicans' relentless hammering of Clinton severely constrained his Administration, and cost Al Gore critically needed votes in states like Ohio, West Virginia, New Hampshire and of course Florida. A win in any of these close states would have put Gore in the White House. The Republican drive for impeachment helped them retain the Congress and regain the White House. Similar efforts by Democrats - for the most important and legitimate cause, not for partisan advantage - should yield similar results: retaining the Congress and regaining the White House.
We should bring the case for impeachment to the voters. Even if many of them don't agree impeachment is warranted, millions will learn about the depth of Republican criminality and vote to end Republican control of the Executive Branch in 2008. It's a no-lose proposition for progressives. Most Americans saw through the Republican scam impeaching Clinton over a fib about sex. Even so, the Republicans paid no price for shutting down and undermining the government over partisan spite. Where's the downside to demanding accountability? Worst case, exposing Bush/Cheney misfeasance and malfeasance will curtail their lawlessness. Best case, we'll do to the Republicans what they've done to us - engage them in conversations they don't want to have forcing them to defend crimes and abuses. While they're defending, they won't be free to attack us. Even if this were just "payback" for the Clinton impeachment - and it's not - we should pursue this for partisan advantage. The argument that pushing for justice will hurt us makes no sense in any regard.
The real parallels are Iran Contra and Watergate, not Monicagate. In the latter, partisan Republican smoke screens turned into "where there's smoke there's fire" blanket attacks on all things Clinton. The Lewinsky affair was only one of many partisan, usually very personal attacks. By contrast, legitimate investigations into Reagan's and Nixon's misdeeds helped Democrats win seats in Congress. Most Americans already support accountability for the Bush/Cheney abuses. Polling shows most Americans would support impeachment if they understood that Bush lied us into war. A poll conducted for Newsweek in late October found wide support for impeachment, as the magazine reported:
"[Regarding] calls to impeach Bush: 47 percent of Democrats say that should be a 'top priority,' but only 28 percent of all Americans say it should be, 23 percent say it should be a lower priority and nearly half, 44 percent, say it should not be done. (Five percent of Republicans say it should be a top priority and 15 percent of Republicans say it should be a lower priority; 78 percent oppose impeachment."
Unspinning this commentary and doing simple math, we see 28% of ALL Americans believe impeachment should be a "top priority" and 51% of ALL Americans agree it should be a priority. One out of five - 20% - of REPUBLICANS agree impeachment should be a priority! See: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15357623/site/newsweek/page/2/
Impeachment is a bipartisan priority supported by a majority of Americans already. After even cursory investigations reveal the Bush / Cheney criminality to the public, support for impeachment will increase. Most Americans already oppose the war. Americans who know the facts resent the Administration lying us into this disastrous war. The more people know, the more they'll demand accountability for Bush and Cheney. It's time to connect the dots clearly and fairly. With strong leadership, more people will demand accountability for violations of law and public trust.
Unlike the GOP attacks on Clinton, we have facts and gravitas on our side. Ignoring crimes and abuses committed by an unpopular Republican President and a reviled Republican Vice President when trying to affix a "Culture of Corruption" label to the Republican Party makes no sense. Democrats in office can tie demands for investigation and accountability to indictments and convictions of Tom DeLay, Randall "Duke" Cunningham, Enron Executives, Irving "Scooter" Libby, and Jack Abramoff. Tying together all these Republican crooks and presenting theirs as the faces of their party makes perfect sense.
We the people are ahead of the Democratic consultants (the second place club) and too many of the Democratic pols. Some think they can sneak by and avoid getting hammered by Republicans if they tiptoe quietly to November. Ask Max Cleland if Republicans hold off on attacking Democrats. It's too late for that hope in any case. Republican attacks are ALREADY here! Republicans are attacking Democrats because a few found the courage to support Conyers' and Feingold's mild efforts.
It's too late to avoid any of the real or imagined risks in pushing for accountability, but stories in the media mock spineless Democrats who refuse to back these efforts. Refusing to embrace courageous Democrats and ignoring the polls and the base, the Democratic "Leadership" is choosing the worst of both worlds. Democrats cannot stop the Republicans and their allies in the media from attacking - dishonestly - for extremism no matter what they do, so trying to appease the right wing will only encourage the media and our base to attack them - correctly - for timidity.
Bush is puffing himself up, daring Democrats to "bring it on." He's looking strong as the leading Democrats look weak. Sound familiar? Think of John Kerry and many Congressional Democrats going along with Bush, not standing up or speaking out against the War or the "Patriot Act," but suffering attacks for weakness and flip-flopping. Think of the lost opportunities in 2002 and 2004. Think of the wins in 2006 and the expectations that Democrats will be much different from the corrupt Republicans. The naïve expectation that Democrats can shun their base, repudiate accountability and win is ludicrous. If there ever were any harm in pushing for investigations which could lead to impeachment, then that harm is already upon us. It's better to face facts as they are and embrace the mantle as Bush's political opponents than try to sneak into office.
The Republican impeachment strategy was pure politics. No one imagines they would or did investigate wrongdoing by Reagan, Bush I, Bush II or other Republican crooks. Still, they created "Clinton fatigue" with their relentless attacks and their partisan strategy helped put them in charge of 100% of the federal government with 50% of the votes! A courageous accountability strategy based on real, serious crimes and abuses will help Democrats rebalance the scales - but only if they face up and act courageously. For better or worse, the impeachment strategy is out there already. The media and the Republicans know all about it, and didn't wait to start talking about it. They're using it against Democrats now, saying the Democrats will impeach Bush now that they've regained the Congress. This is already an issue. We the base are using it against Bush to great advantage, raising awareness and raising money. Time to spread the wealth.
The media already report on Democrats' partisan "attacks" against Bush and mock Democrats as wimps. As the song says, "Let's give 'em something to talk about" - the full scope and horror of Bush's abuses of power. The only people who aren't facing reality - who are running away once again - are timid Democrats who want to take accountability "off the table." They tried this strategy with the War in 2002 and 2004. We can ask Speaker Gephardt, Senate Majority Leader Daschle and President Kerry how that worked. If Democrats once again hope they can slink to victory, that's a groundless hope born of fear. Timidity will fail every time because voters want real leadership.
Democrats will face inaccurate attacks from Republican no matter what they do. If they hide from their Constitutional and politically-mandated responsibilities to oppose Bush, Cheney and the Republicans, Democrats will suffer unkind but accurate characterizations as weak and cowardly - unfit to lead. They will lose and they will deserve to lose in 2008. FDR - a Democrat who knew how to lead - assured us there's nothing to fear but fear itself. There's nothing to this fear from the "I" word. Democrats must hammer Republicans for corruption and abuse of power and demand accountability. They have no other option. There is no down side to standing up for what's right.
You can help. Read what incoming House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers wrote about this effort: http://www.thenation.com/doc/20060109/motion_for_censure
Write to your own Representative and other members of the House and demand they support Conyers' House Resolution 635