This insightful and poignant statement by Charles J. Morgan, Jr. accompanied an October 24, 1973 letter and pamphlet by the ACLU to the citizens of the U.S. urging the impeachment of Richard M. Nixon. In 2003, Nixon’s former chief counsel, John Dean himself declared the deeds of the Bush administration to be ‘worse than Watergate,’ so where is the ACLU today? We are told by David Swanson, cofounder of AfterDowningStreet.org, a national impeachment coalition that on Friday, November 2, he expects Nicole Sandler of Supertalk940.com in Miami to ask ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero and ACLU Florida Executive Director Howard Simon on air why in the world the ACLU is not backing impeachment the way it did in 1973.
Until then, let us look at recent comments made by ACLU President, Nadine Strossen. Strossen argues that because the Democrats in Congress are, in part, responsible for allowing the President to go unchecked and in some cases actively approved his illegal actions, she is opposed to impeachment. In a recent interview by David Shankbone for Wikinews, Strossen declared that, “it would be a terrible idea to impeach him.” She went on to say that any attempt at impeachment would “deflect the responsibility from the Democrats. It makes it too much of a partisan issue. There is a bipartisan responsibility here. For that reason I strongly oppose it.”
What Ms. Strossen fails to understand about the impeachment movement is that the people are not looking to impeach a President who is a Republican, but a President who has, in her words, “Lied to Congress, the American People, to the media . . . He’s had a view that as Commander-in-Chief he can do whatever he wants, that he’s above the law, that he doesn’t have to abide by the laws that are duly passed by Congress.” I don’t recall in the six times that impeachment is mentioned in the Constitution, a disclaimer that despite strong grounds for impeachment if it even has the appearance of partisanship then it’s a no-go. In fact, I don’t recall ‘party’ being mentioned. In fact, I recall it reading that “Congress shall impeach.”
Perhaps Strossen’s concerns about it being a ‘partisan’ issue stem from a perceived image that the group has fought to stave off for years. The ACLUs decision in 1973 to take out full page ads demanding Nixon’s impeachment resulted in an outpouring of financial support and temporarily increased their membership rolls by tens of thousands. But, they were, according to a publication by the New England School of Law, often accused of “privileging leftist politics over civil liberties.” The article goes on to say that, “In early 1998, the ACLU launched the first sustained advertising campaign in its history, taking out monthly newspaper ads on various civil liberties issues in an effort finally to put to rest the public perception that it was a partisan, ‘liberal left’ organization.” Surely a principled organization like the ACLU would not put public relations ahead of justice – would it? Mr. Shankbone remarks, “You just don’t think it [impeachment] would be productive.” Strossen responded, “I don’t think it would advance civil liberties.”
As Ms. Strossen, herself, claimed regarding new laws, “In one breath he is signing them, and in another breath he is saying he doesn’t have to follow them.” How she, in turn, can come to the conclusion that impeachment would “not advance civil liberties” is beyond comprehension.Strossen explains that, “I’m not speaking for the ACLU, I know some people in the ACLU would like to see it.” Are these “people” the ones responsible for a powerful New York Times ad. The ad shows an image of a solemn and defeated Nixon followed by the words “He lied to the American people and broke the law.” Below it, a smug George Bush accompanied by the simple words “So did he.” The word, impeachment, is not necessary as it is read implicitly into the statement that follows, “What should we do when the U.S. President lies to us and breaks the law? The creators of this ad understood what Ms. Strossen and many critics of impeachment fail to discern. They close the ad with these lines, “Because it’s not about promoting a political agenda. It’s about preserving American democracy.” Interestingly, this ad premiered on December 29, 2005, only 11 days after Rep. John Conyers introduced H. Res 635 – a resolution that would create a select committee to investigate and make recommendations regarding grounds for impeachment.
MoveOn routinely polls its members, sometimes specific to impeachment, yet fails to disclose the results of those polls. One might conclude they fear backlash as the genesis of the organization was insisting that the nation “move on” from the impeachment circus that enveloped the Clinton presidency. ACLU President, Nadine Strossen suggests that because the Democrats are complicit that the President and Vice President can be let off the hook . And, make no mistake about it that is exactly what is happening. There can be no accountability short of impeachment with a President that has already demonstrated time and time again that he is above the law.
The ACLU of 2007, need not overstep it’s bounds. They do not need to, nor should they, demand a conviction. What they should demand, though, is the truth and the full truth will only be discovered within the impeachment process. The ACLU of 1973, understood that as well, “Neither I nor the American Civil Liberties Union ask for Mr. Nixon’s conviction. We merely ask that he be impeached and brought to trial before the Senate, so that the nature of his offenses, if any, and his innocence or his guilt may be determined. We seek his trial so that another American President will not be able to say ‘They all do it,’ for with no trial we can predict a later President will do it and the next time there may be no watchman in the night to provide us another chance. We must thrust upon the members of the House of Representatives – our employees – the depth of our feeling and the rightness of our position. The public evidence is so clear that the least educated of their constituents know it, yet our Representatives dawdle in inquiry.”
Mr. Morgan concludes his letter with this: “Only you can answer our Declaration which cries out to free men everywhere: In every stage of these Oppressions we have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble Terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose Character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the Ruler of a free People. It is testing time in America and it is your very soul which is on trial.” ACLU, take heed. Fellow citizens, contact your local ACLU affiliate and ask to meet with them to discuss your concerns.
Contact the leaders of the ACLU . Visit AfterDowningStreet.org and help maintain the pressure. As the 1973 ACLU stated, “Only you can make your Representative understand the importance of the issue and the extent to which he or she will be held responsible for the 1974 elections for his or her actions. It cannot be stressed strongly enough or often enough that Representatives who do not move to impeach, and who thereby fail to bring President Nixon to trial, are accomplices in a cover-up. They are either in favor of bringing 100% of the truth to the People or they are helping to cover it up.” The same goes, I say, for the ACLU of today.For the complete text of the ACLU pamphlet detailed above, visit Strike08.com .
Many thanks to Mr. Morgan and the ACLU of 1973 for having the foresight and generosity to declare within their material the statement that, “None of the material herein is copyrighted. It is for the free use of a free people. Mr. Morgan’s letter herein expresses his personal views. That letter and all other documents herein may be extracted from, reprinted or otherwise freely used and plagiarized. The interest of the authors and the American Civil Liberties Union in this cause is neither parochial nor organizational. Decent people, whatever their beliefs, are equally concerned with the safety of their country. We join them in their struggle.”