Why is impeachment important?
David Swanson is the creator of ImpeachCheney.org, the Washington Director of Democrats.com and co-founder of the AfterDowningStreet.org coalition, a board member of Progressive Democrats of America, of the Backbone Campaign, and of Voters for Peace. He serves on a working group of United for Peace and Justice. He has worked as a newspaper reporter and as a communications director, with jobs including Press Secretary for Dennis Kucinich's 2004 presidential campaign.
Congressman Robert Wexler is serving his sixth term as the Representative of Florida's 19th district. He serves on the Committee on Foreign Affairs, the Judiciary Committee, and the Committee on Financial Services.
Bruce Fein is the founder of the American Freedom Agenda that works to restore constitutional checks and balances. He served in the U.S. Justice Department under President Reagan and has been an adjunct scholar with the American Enterprise Institute, a resident scholar at the Heritage Foundation, a lecturer at the Brookings Institute, and an adjunct professor at George Washington University.
ZAA NKWETA, PRESENTER: Should President Bush or Vice President Cheney be tried on impeachment? This is a question that Democrats are struggling to answer. In April 2007, Congressman Dennis Kucinich introduced articles of impeachment on the floor of Congress, articles that have been sitting on the shelf of the House and the Judiciary Committee ever since. Just last Tuesday, on the floor of Congress, Representative Robert Wexler delivered a petition with nearly 200,000 signatures that called for impeachment hearings.
January 15, 2008
ROBERT WEXLER, US CONGRESSMAN: On November 7, 2007, this house voted to refer Congressman Kucinich’s resolution of impeachment of Vice President Cheney to the House Judiciary Committee. As a member of the Judiciary Committee, I now ask that we immediately begin impeachment hearings. Did the vice president manipulate intelligence to push this nation into war based on false pretense? Did the vice president unmask a covert CIA agent for political purposes? Did the vice president order the illegal surveillance of Americans and the illegal use of torture? These questions must be answered. Hold hearings, which will put the evidence on the table, and the evidence alone must determine the outcome.
Democratic speaker Nancy Pelosi has repeatedly voiced her opposition to impeachment proceedings, arguing that it would take time away from passing important legislation. Analysts also say that the Democratic leadership fears a possible political backlash from holding impeachment hearings during a presidential election. The Real News spoke with David Swanson of ImpeachCheney.org and US Representative Wexler.
DAVID SWANSON: It’s not legal; it’s political. And it doesn’t have to be a crime, but it can be. And I say that not wanting to trivialize impeachment or degrade it in the way that it was during the Clinton administration. But the definition in the Constitution is treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors, which is an old British phrase and intended to be broad and encompassing of any major abuses of power. So you shoot your hunting buddy in the face, that is not impeachable. You cheat on your taxes, which came up with Nixon—it’s not impeachable. That’s something you or I could do. And it’s a crime, but it’s not impeachable. But you lie to the public about important matters of state, it’s not a crime, but it is an impeachable offense. Now, with Bush and Cheney we have a laundry list of crimes, of felonies, some of them openly confessed to, such as violating FISA. Many of them are impeachable offenses.
VOICE OF MATTHEW PALEVSKY, JOURNALIST, TRNN: Is the leadership of the Democratic party—and Nancy Pelosi’s come out against impeachment a number of times—are they hesitant because of the elections?
WEXLER: I respectfully differ with the view that the Democratic leadership has taken, but I think their argument and their belief is that Democrats were elected to solve the problems of the American people, whether it is health care, whether it is climate change, whether it is education, whether it is bringing back the troops from Iraq, and that was their number one order of business; and that beginning impeachment hearings or doing an impeachment process would take away from that opportunity. But the—.
VOICE OF PALEVSKY: So is that your job now, to convince them that that’s not the case?
WEXLER: Oh, certainly. Yeah, that is certainly part of my job. No question. And I would make the argument that we tried that strategy. We’ve tried it for a year. And, unfortunately, we’ve been faced with a stubborn, resolute president who has been unwilling to meet us halfway or even partial-way in terms of the war, health care, education, the environment, and a whole host of issues. So, unfortunately, we have been stymied, the Democratic majority has, in many of our pursuits by the president.
SWANSON: If you look at 230 years of history, and the party that impeaches wins. And when the Democrats let Reagan off the hook using the same sort of thinking they’re using now, they lost and gave us the Bush dynasty. When they win after Nixon, they won the biggest victories in recent memory. But the thinking coming out of the Democratic leadership, which John Conyers is following, is that, no, it’s not smart politically, and politics is all-important, and we must avoid impeachment in order to win an election.
VOICE OF BRUCE FEIN: You’ll notice that everyone in the Congress of the United States, every officer of the United States, under Article 6 of our Constitution, takes an oath—an oath—to defend and protect the Constitution of the United States, which includes a clause that says the president and vice president shall be removed from office for high crimes and misdemeanors—impeachable offenses. The Constitution says nothing about loyalty to the Democratic Party, like worrying about the Democratic retention of power in Congress. The Constitution is silent. There’s no obligation, certainly no unflagging obligation to subordinate the Constitution to these other more Progue objectives. And the idea that the constitutional enforcement and protection in defense of the document is a diversion is preposterous on its face. Without the Constitution, all these other issues would be meaningless and we wouldn’t have a rule of law. We would be returning a monarch-like executive, [inaudible] government by executive edict. And these comments and slighting of impeachment show how far we’ve gone in our constitutional ignorance and failure to recognize what keeps a country free and democratic.
Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.