Is Impeachment a Waste?

By Conniff, Ruth | The Progressive, September 2007 | Go to article overview

Is Impeachment a Waste?


Conniff, Ruth, The Progressive


The blogosphere was aquiver with the news that Cindy Sheehan will challenge House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as an independent, since Pelosi has refused to renounce her position that impeachment is "off the table." After making her announcement, Sheehan promptly got herself arrested in the office of Representative John Conyers, who heads the House Judiciary Committee.

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"The Democrats will not hold this Administration accountable, so we have to hold the Democrats accountable," Sheehan said. She and a group of other pro-impeachment activists were arrested in Conyers's office after a meeting at which Conyers told the activists that he lacked the votes for impeachment. Sheehan's group began a sit-in, demanding that Conyers sign on to Representative Dennis Kucinich's impeachment bill. Conyers eventually called the Capitol Police to arrest the protesters and drag them away.

The group After-DowningStreet.org and the political newsletter Counterpunch attacked Conyers, who marched with Rosa Parks for civil rights, as a hypocrite. Sheehan also expressed her disgust and dismay. A fight broke out online between supporters of the Democrats and leftwing activists.

I asked John Nichols, whose book The Genius of Impeachment: The Founders' Cure for Royalism hit the top twenty on Amazon, what he made of the whole Sheehan/Conyers imbroglio.

The internal strife on the left probably doesn't make much difference to the chances for impeachment, he says. That's because, he explains, no one leader in the House can make impeachment happen.

"John Conyers would be absolutely-delighted if he were forced to take up impeachment," Nichols says. "He wrote a book on it last year. He moved the proposal to set up a special committee to do it. But Pelosi has made it clear she doesn't want to do it."

Nichols says activists are going to have to go member by member. "The way Jefferson and Madison set it up, it's supposed to be an organic process," he says. "It comes from people slowly convincing individual members to step up."

To date, some fifteen members have signed on to the proposal to impeach Cheney, and twenty have spoken out in favor of impeachment generally. It would take fifty to pose a real threat. But as more and more voters and their representatives take an interest, the chances for impeachment grow.

The day before the arrests in Conyers's office, Senator Russ Feingold, Democrat of Wisconsin, renewed his call of a year ago to censure the President. (Only a House member, not a Senator, can begin the impeachment process.) In 2006, Feingold called for censure because of revelations about the Administration's illegal wiretapping program and the cover-up that ensued. His current pair of resolutions, which he announced on Meet the Press with Tim Russert on July 22, cite the Administration for its continuing misleading statements on the Iraq War and what Feingold calls Bush's "attack on the rule of law" and the U.S. Constitution, as well as the use of torture.

That same Sunday, on CBS's Face the Nation, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he wouldn't be joining the censure drive. Echoing the White House response to the censure effort, Reid cited all the other work the Senate needs to do, adding: "He's the worst President we've ever had, and I don't think we need a censure resolution in the Senate to prove that."

Russert hit on the same theme, suggesting that Feingold's censure idea is "hyper-partisan," i. …

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