Category Archives: Impeachment

Nancy Pelosi Book Signing: Know Your Power, Just Don’t Speak Truth to It

Crossposted at OpEdNews
 

Inside Nancy Pelosi’s book signing in Philadelphia. Her remarks on Iran, Iraq – impeachment? And, what did this writer ask that caused her to be escorted out of the building? 

Arriving at the steps of the Free Library of Philadelphia Tuesday night where House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was promoting her book, “Know Your Power,” I was promptly scolded by my good friend, activist Joanne O’Neill.

“What? No impeach sign? Here, take a sign,” Jo insisted. “Nope,” I replied. “I’m goin’ in.”

An hour earlier, I swallowed my pride – along with some bitter acid reflux – as I shelled out 17 bucks to purchase a book about “knowing my power” authored by a woman who spent the last few years wielding very little of it when it mattered the most. But, a little heartburn and forgoing a few lattes for the rest of the week was what it would take for me to get close enough to pose a question to the “most powerful woman” in America.

Having learned of the event just the day before, I was relegated to the simulcast room with about 60 others as the auditorium was sold out. I spotted one friendly in the crowd, but he was clearly in plotting mode so I decided to crack the binding of my new book while I waited for the Speaker to arrive. It was a quick read at just over 170 pages laced with anecdotes, some touching, some inspiring – okay, not so much.

It did offer some unique insights. A few grabbed my attention, though I am sure not in a way intended by the author. The reader is invited back 60 years to her father’s Mayoral inauguration. Nancy and her brothers were sent to a room to wait quietly before the ceremony.

When a man walked in and engaged them, Nancy upheld the family rule of not speaking to strangers. Her brothers determined it was okay to say hello. When they discovered the man was the outgoing mayor and it was his office, they quickly found themselves in a standoff.

Pelosi recalled, Joey said to me that he was going to tell Mommy that I was not polite to the Mayor. “If you do,” I said calmly, “I will tell Mommy that you talked to a stranger.” I had just turned seven, and Joey was nine. I didn’t squeal on him, and because I’d earned his respect, he didn’t squeal on me.

Anyone with a sibling can easily recall such a moment. It was Pelosi’s assessment, however, that gave me pause. She writes of the occasion, “I had just built my first strategic alliance.”

A common explanation for why the House Speaker took impeachment off the table is that the table could easily be turned on her because of her prior knowledge of and complicity in some of the most egregious offenses by the Bush administration. Perhaps she determined this was one of those times where it would be in her best interest not to “squeal.”

Another charge made against Pelosi and other Democratic leaders is their insistence of putting Party before all else. In “Know Your Power,” Nancy Pelosi recounts the assassination of Bobby Kennedy and the tone of the 1968 Democratic Convention.

She writes, “Hubert Humphrey won the nomination, but the Democratic Party was still divided, particularly because Vice President Humphrey did not disassociate himself from Johnson’s Vietnam War Policy. I, too, opposed the war, but, wanting to get a Democrat in the White House, I stuffed many ‘Humphrey for President’ leaflets under apartment doors that fall.” Need I remind anyone we ended up with Nixon?

In her book, Nancy Pelosi tells us how much she admires “disrupters.” Yes, disrupters. “Sometimes,” she explains “it is necessary to disrupt the status quo. That is the tradition of our country. Our Founders were disrupters – magnificent disrupters. Martin Luther King Jr. was a disrupter, as were the suffragettes. It is the American way. The change that resulted from these leaders has made our country greater. How can we follow their lead?”

Funny, I don’t recall in the time that Ms. Pelosi has served as House Speaker her appreciating our nation’s wave of disrupters all that much.

I would learn first hand later that evening in a not so subtle way by the Speaker and her security detail that not only does she not appreciate disrupters, she doesn’t take kindly to anyone like myself who would dare…ask a question.

I was deep in thought about Nancy and the Disrupters and it was beginning to give me a headache when suddenly the energy in the room changed. The women around me perked up, inched to the edge of their seats, and leaned forward in eager anticipation. Nancy Pelosi was about to make her entrance.

Tamala Edwards, morning show anchor for 6abc Action News was selected to moderate the evening. Did I mention she was with ABC? As Ms. Edwards sat with a small pile of index cards, Madame Speaker made it clear who was going to guide the discussion. She regaled the audience with vignettes from her book and they ate it up and swallowed it whole. Tamala allowed the Speaker to take her monologue as far and away from it’s starting point as she cared. Occasionally, when Pelosi’s voice tapered off and she allowed for an opening, Tamala would inject an innocuous question like, “Do you ever get scared?”

To this, Ms. Pelosi offered sage advice worth repeating here. “People always ask aren’t you scared and I say just strike that word from your vocabulary. This is not for the faint of heart. You can’t be afraid. You have a vision, knowledge, a plan. You have support. This is what you believe in. If you show one cent of being afraid, your options are destroyed. So you have to believe in what you are doing and you may not win every fight, but you will advance the cause.”

She used the phrase “not for the faint of heart” earlier as it related to success and failure. “We have to understand,” she said “the challenges of success as well as the lessons of failure. Organize, don’t agonize.  Politics is not for the faint of heart. Don’t let me give you this impression that people are waiting with open arms to pull you into power. Nobody. Nobody ever in the history of the world has given away power.”

That Nancy Pelosi would be acutely aware that it is not in human nature to give away power makes her avoidance of accountability over the Bush/Cheney power grab all the more frustrating. That she would expect the current administration or future presidents to willingly and readily relinquish these newfound powers is ludicrous. Only now we know that she already understands that they won’t.

In her presentation, she fashioned herself as a DC outsider. “Let me say that Washington DC is a city that is wedded to the status quo. Change is not what they are about and as a leader I say you must be kidding…the city is wedded to the special interests because they all make a living perpetuating the status quo. It’s the special interests, not the people’s interest and that is why it was so important – if I may have a moment of partisan enjoyment – that we won the last election. I have become the Speaker of the House not because I mastered the inside of things, but because I am an outsider and I want change to happen here.”

At this, I was compelled to survey the room for reactions. No one batted an eye. Instead of smirking, there was enthusiastic head nodding. Didn’t anyone remember that change was what was promised in that last election and that the Dems didn’t deliver? Now it was being repackaged and they were falling for it hook, line and stinker. For a moment my mind drifted and I imagined one of the pod people turning and pointing their finger at me with my smirking face and I would be descended upon and forced out. But that would come later.

I snapped out of it and sat at attention when Nancy invoked the Disrupters. “We need disruption. We need disruption,” she insisted. “We’ll throw you a crumb and we’ll keep the status quo? That is not the American way. Our Founders in this city where it all started – they were disrupters. Sometimes you wonder why you have to go to such lengths to convince people of the obvious about the future.”  Who you tellin’, I thought. Apparently, my inner-voice now had a Philly accent.

At last, Tamala announced that it would be time for 30 minutes of audience questions as she reached for another batch of index cards. The Speaker smoothly declared that she was going to tell one more story – one very long story. She amused the audience with a tale of being one of three congresswomen outnumbered by a loud group of congressmen who spoke over each other, steered the conversation to their own liking and never asked the opinion of anyone else. Nancy had clearly mastered this technique and was evidencing it at that very moment, but that nuance was somehow lost on the audience members who were instead laughing and clapping.

Pelosi, having already cut into the 30 minutes with her just-one-more story, finally fielded her first question. It was from a 14-year-old boy who asked about off-shore drilling. She gave, what I thought, was a satisfactory answer that could have been summed up in less than five minutes. Instead, she rambled for about 15.

The second question from the audience was very direct and right up my alley. Tamala announced, “We have a foreign policy question. The actual question is – do you think we should blockade Iran?”

Rather than leave it at that and allow the question to be answered, Ms. ABC quickly added “I think we should ask a broader question. Do you think there is a desire and a plan on the part of this administration to engage Iran?” Here, this woman who could barely ask her own questions, was now screwing around with the audience questions.

“Engage?” asked Pelosi. Edwards explained, “Engage – as in militarily.” Pelosi went on to state that she believed there was a debate going on in the administration as to whether we should – interesting choice of words here – “continue a military strike into Iran.” She explained how most of the military opposes it and that it was not a good idea – a military strike, that is. The blockade question vanished down the rabbit hole.

She added for good measure, “Iran keeps insisting that they want to proceed on developing nuclear power, they say, for domestic use. We suspect they have other motives. They cannot be allowed to do this.”

She spoke at length about the dangers of nuclear proliferation. That when discussing WMD’s you had to think of four things: Do they have the technology, the scientific know-how, the delivery system and the intention. The first – technology – was quickly checked off as she described that Iran has received “a lot of technology from China, from Pakistan, probably from Russia and other places and that should never have happened.” As for the three remaining questions, the Speaker said simply, “I hope for the best in terms of Iran. I suspect the worst.”

She balked at an attack on Iran not because they are believed not to have nuclear weapons and not because it would be yet another preemptive, illegal and immoral action.

Her reasons were more closely aligned with talking points that have come from Washington think tanks like WINEP who in June released a report entitled “The Last Resort: Consequences of Preventive Military Action against Iran.” Authors Patrick Clawson and Michael Eisenstadt clearly push for such an action, but address the following conditions as obstacles to be dealt with: “Fears that it would prompt a ‘rally round the flag’ effect in Iran,” the potential for a “parallel clandestine nuclear program,” “world opinion,” and whether the “U.S. is respected for its commitment to multilateral diplomacy.”

 

The House Speaker explained, “But, I don’t think anything can be accomplished by going into Iran to stop them from developing weapons of mass destruction because that would only galvanize the country around the leadership – that’s A. B. We may not accomplish our goal. They may have parallel program where we think we got it, but we didn’t get it or we got part of it and we didn’t get the rest. And, what have we accomplished in terms of world opinion at the same time.”

Pelosi continued, “What we should be doing, and they’re trying to do this more, but we should have been doing it more robust and sooner is to say to Iran ‘don’t even think about having a weapon of mass destruction’ and we’re galvanizing world, international, global forces diplomatically, economically, culturally, financially, economically to pass sanctions to tighten and tighten and tighten if you proceed down this course.”

“The President of Iran has said, ‘I have friends.’ Well, if those friends want to be friends with Iran, then we can’t have them be friends of ours because our foreign policy is that we cannot permit proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.”

That statement was hauntingly similar to one made by President George W. Bush in November 2001. “You’re either with us or against us,” the president announced as we entered the new “war on terror.” Despite the harsh criticism the president received over that remark, Pelosi’s fans nodded along with her more childish sounding “you can’t be friends with me if you’re friends with them” declaration.

She then shifted to Iraq and declared, “And, let me just say this war in Iraq has been a horrendous dilemna, a grotesque mistake.” Cheers rose from the audience even though the Democratically controlled Congress continues to fund said grotesque mistake.

“They went into that war knowing full well there was no intelligence to support the imminent threat that this administration was contending. I was a senior Democrat on the Intelligence Committee at the time. It’s called the ‘gang of four,’ the top Democrats and the top Republicans in the House and in the Senate and we saw all of the intelligence and there was no intelligence to say that there was an imminent threat of weapons of mass destruction from Iraq. It was clear. I voted against the war. I had all the intelligence and I knew the threat wasn’t there. So, this administration knew all this faulty intelligence stuff, they knew it wasn’t there.”

Yet, Rep. Pelosi’s House floor statement on October 10, 2002, opposing the resolution authorizing military force against Iraq suggests her main reason for opposing was that unilateral use of force would harm the ‘War on Terrorism.’ There was no concern voiced that Iraq was not an imminent threat or that there was no evidence to support the presence of weapons of mass destruction. In fact, she began her speech with, “I applaud the President’s focusing on this issue, and on taking the lead to disarm Saddam Hussein.” Also, in her speech she said when referring to Hussein, “Yes, he has chemical weapons, he has biological weapons, and he is trying to get nuclear weapons.”

This raises the question if she was briefed as one of the “gang of four” and determined, as she stated Tuesday, that there was no imminent threat of WMDs, that the intelligence was faulty and she knew it and the President knew it, why did she cast a no vote urging her colleagues to follow suit, but on the grounds of other reasons? Did she not know her power?

Finally…the most anticipated question of the evening was clutched in the hand of Tamala Edwards. She began quietly in an almost muted voice, “I would imagine it’s those feelings in Iraq that led to this next question. Are you going to allow a motion to impeach President Bush to come to the floor?” Loud cheers exploded in the auditorium and for the first time in the simulcast room.

Then, I’ll be damned if she didn’t do it again. Tamala Edwards gave Pelosi (and Bush for that matter) an out. Edwards began sputtering something about things coming out before the 2004 elections. The impeachment question was transformed into “And, this all occurs before the election in 2004. Where was the outrage? Why do you think the Democrats lost in 2004?”

Thus began another rambling reply by Nancy Pelosi starting with John Kerry and how even though he was an excellent candidate, he didn’t realize how vicious the attacks would become and slowly she turned it into a one-woman strategy session on the upcoming presidential election. She once again invoked “our Founders” taunting those of us who advocate so strongly for the Constitution and she brings them up knowing full well the original question was about impeachment. She talked about optimism and faith and future and the American dream and how that dream needs to be restored. She concluded,

“The search is for truth. The search is for truth to take our country in the direction of our Founders with their magnificent disruption. We have to continue in the tradition of the magnificent disruption and one way for that to happen is for women to know their power.”

At that, I grabbed my book and got in line brimming with power fueled by knowledge and outrage. I had a swell time in the long line with comedian/reporter, Gregg Gethard, and I could feel my blood pressure that had been teetering at stroke levels ease up. Gregg toyed with what he might say to the one who sits third in line to the throne. He concluded he would shower Nancy with ridiculously absurd praise and perhaps, in the process, hit on her. I began to wonder which of us would upset her more.

It was almost my turn. Two women in front of me were chatting away with the House Speaker, taking their time, laughing and fawning. There was no indication that a time limit would be applied. They eventually stepped aside and the assistant handed Nancy Pelosi my book to be signed.

She smiled and I leaned in and said in a calm voice, “You were briefed about torture and the wiretapping years before the public found out. Why didn’t you use your power to stop it?”

Pelosi was indignant, “We didn’t know.”

In an instant, I felt a very firm grip being placed on my right arm. I chose to ignore the fact that it was beginning to tighten and that the man in the suit who belonged to the hand was now leaning into me and trying to pull me aside.

I looked straight ahead at Pelosi and said, “You knew. You were informed.”

Then my left arm was seized by another guy and Pelosi countered, “No, I was not.”

I dug my feet in and continued, “You were briefed as a member of the gang of four about torture in 2002 and as the gang of eight about wiretapping.”

Pelosi was pushing my book across the table and attempting to turn her attention to Gregg when she replied, “We stopped it.” I was incensed. “What? Uh, no you didn’t.”

Two more goons stepped in, one in front of me and one behind and they pulled me off to the side. I pointed out that other people were having long chats and asking all sorts of questions of the Speaker. “Not these kind of questions. We’re not taking these kinds of questions. You’re done,” was the response.

At that point, Pelosi probably wasn’t listening any longer, but fixated on the word power, I managed to squeeze in “Why don’t you use the power the Constitution granted you to stop a president who abuses his powers?!

They began to escort me out and I wasn’t resisting, but walking slowly as I shouted out, “Know your power Nancy! Stop the torture!” I had had enough and didn’t need their escort anymore and began to leave on my own volition. I glanced over at the long line of people and I realized the incessant chatter had ended all at once like a group of startled crickets. Not one person would make eye contact with me. As I turned the corner under the watchful eye of the security detail, the chatter returned as if nothing had happened.

Outside on the sidewalk, I breathed in the night air – choked a little on the pollution – and began the walk to my car. Then I remembered my new friend, Gregg. Why wasn’t he outside yet I wondered. I pictured him jacked up against the library wall by security, his boyish face pressed into the plaster rendering him unable to speak. All because he decided to hit on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Then the front doors flew open and there was a triumphant Gregg with a mischievous grin (no signs of trauma) and a skip in his step. We walked together to our cars as he delighted me with his story of his newfound love for Nancy Pelosi. Read Gregg’s (way shorter) report on Pelosi’s response to him here. For the record, if you think Gregg’s behavior was sexist, I’m pretty sure he would have done the same with Dick Cheney.

Know your power.

 

 

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The Democratic Majority: Enabling a Rogue Presidency and Stonewalling the American People

Tomorrow, Rep. Conyers will hold a hearing entitled, “Executive Power and its Constitutional Limitations.” This article is a reprint from March 2008. It illustrates Conyers’ impeachment rhetoric since ’06 and details the failed attempts at accountability by the Democratic majority of the Bush/Cheney crimes. Let them know our country deserves better.

 

Lawless. Imperial. Rogue.

These labels have been attached to the Bush administration for the last three Take Back America (TBA) conferences. The annual conference hosted by the Campaign for America’s Future, does a bang up job each year highlighting the dark deeds of President Bush and Vice President Cheney. And, what better man for the job than House Judiciary Chair John Conyers. Turns out, the better man for the job may be the pre-House Judiciary Chair John Conyers.

TBA 2006: Challenging Lawlessness

In June 2006, Congressman Conyers was on fire at the TBA session “Challenging a Lawless President.” Still in the House minority, the great congressman from Michigan was hot on the trail of a lawless President Bush and his unbridled sidekick, Vice President Cheney.

Six months earlier, the congressman issued a report declaring, “We have found that there is substantial evidence the president, the vice-president and other high ranking members of the Bush administration misled Congress and the American people regarding the decision to go to war in Iraq; misstated and manipulated intelligence information regarding the justification for such war; countenanced torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in Iraq; and permitted inappropriate retaliation against critics of their administration.”

Just before the conference, Representative Nancy Pelosi fearful of emboldening the Republicans during a critical election season, declared impeachment to be “off the table.” But when Representative Conyers approached the podium, he brought the TBA participants to their feet as he announced his next course of action. In brief, he introduced a resolution (H. Res. 635) that would create a select committee with subpoena authority to investigate the misconduct of the Bush administration with regard to the Iraq war and report on possible impeachable offenses.

Inspired and hopeful, progressives hit the streets to help the Democrats take back the House and restore order in the government.

By August, Mr. Conyers had released the final version of the “Constitution in Crisis.” He described the report as “some 350 pages in length and is supported by more than 1,400 footnotes, compiles the accumulated evidence that the Bush administration has thumbed its nose at our nation’s laws, and the Constitution itself. Approximately 26 laws and regulations may have been violated by this administration’s conduct.” Certainly enough to begin impeachment hearings when one considers President Nixon’s were prompted by a simple burglary.

Mr. Conyers went on to say that “The administration also appears to have used the war on terror as an excuse to eviscerate the basic protections afforded to us in the Constitution. There have been warrantless wiretaps of law-abiding Americans, in clear contravention of federal law, not to mention the creation of a huge unchecked database on the phone records of innocent Americans.”

He lamented that “All the while, the Republican Congress sits idly by. Rather than performing its constitutional duty as a coequal branch. It has chosen to stymie any and all efforts at oversight. After six long years of deception, attacks and yes, outright lies, I am convinced the American people have had enough.”

Indeed the American people had had enough and three months later they handed the Democrats both the House and the Senate.

TBA 2007: Curbing Imperialism

Fast forward to June 2007, when the Take Back America crowd descended once again on the Washington Hilton. This time Congressman Conyers was to discuss Curbing an Imperial Presidency.” Senior staff member to John Conyers, Burt Wides, delivered a prepared speech while the congressman tended to business on the Hill.

“Since the last election we have begun to shrink Bush’s imperial presidency,” Wides read. In what manner the “imperial presidency” was shrinking remained unclear. “President Bush has subverted the checks and balances that are the cornerstone of our freedoms. In most instances, the Republican Congress just went along with those abuses. The founding fathers must be spinning in their graves, not merely at Bush’s blatant erosion of their system, but also and perhaps more at Congress’ supine failure to protect the Constitution. Now that Democrats control Congress, we have a very clear and heavy responsibility to take back the Constitution.”

It wasn’t enough that the American people elected a Democratic majority that promised to rein in Bush and Cheney and hold them accountable. They were now charged with a new task. These efforts, according to Conyers, would only succeed with support of citizen groups committed to the Constitution. These groups had already been popping up across the country for years. Many were part of a broad coalition that makes up the organization AfterDowningStreet.org.  

 

AfterDowningStreet, led by activist David Swanson, sprang to life in May 2005 to pressure both Congress and the media to investigate whether President Bush had committed impeachable offenses. The coalition borrowed its name from the incriminating Downing Street Memos that emerged in May and June of 2005.

Despite the subject matter, impeachment was never offered as a viable solution to “curbing the imperial presidency” by the TBA panelists. It was, however, on the minds of the audience and questions on impeachment dominated the Q&A session.

After all questions on impeachment were shot down by the panelists, Bob Fertik of Democrats.com addressed the panel. To a cheering audience, Fertik asserted “I think you’re completely misreading the politics in the country. All of the polls report that the majority of Americans support impeachment hearings, a solid majority of Americans and it’s not even being discussed. The American people were way ahead of Congress on Iraq and the American people are way ahead of Congress on impeachment. It’s just time to stop with the ridiculous excuses. The American people know the only way to hold Bush accountable is through impeachment.”

Grassroots Action

Determined to restore the Constitution and rule of law, groups made up of ordinary citizens, veterans, and constitutional experts forged ahead on their own. John Conyers had called for this and the people responded. Five weeks later, on July 23, an impeachment petition containing more than one million signatures was delivered directly to the congressman. When he told the participants that there were “not enough votes for” impeachment, a peaceful sit-in was held in his office. The group was promptly arrested and hauled off to be processed.

The following month, Congressman Conyers traveled to Newark, New Jersey to promote his national health care bill, H.R. 676 at the People’s March for Peace, Equality, Jobs and Justice. He found himself facing a diverse crowd of a few thousand calling for impeachment. The article, Dancing With Conyers, describes what happened next.

“In what has become routine now, Conyers fed into the momentum asking ‘What should we do?’ ‘Impeach!’ cried the crowd. ‘What should we do?’ ‘Impeach’ and so it was repeated. The congressman went on to declare that we needed to bring back Rumsfeld and put him on trial and the big question was to decide who ought to go first.‘Cheney!’ shouted the crowd enthusiastically.”

To settle the crowd, Conyers offered to meet with activists afterwards. Leaders from the New Jersey Impeach Groups asked the congressman to initiate impeachment hearings. They were told to “work hard” and get one representative from New Jersey to sign onto Representative Kucinich’s resolution (H. Res. 333) to impeach Vice President Cheney. They explained that Congressman Donald Payne, who was on his way to the rally, had signed on a few weeks earlier.

The chair of the House Judiciary Committee grew solemn telling the group the risk of failing was too great. It was too risky to use powers granted by the Constitution to remove a few rogue leaders regardless of the consequences of not removing them. This type of exchange was becoming familiar to activists. A few weeks earlier at a meeting with progressive democrats in San Diego, Conyers told the group to get just three more members of Congress to back impeachment. At the time, there were 14 sponsors. Since the offer, 13 more members of Congress cosponsored H. Res. 333 with no movement within the House Judiciary Committee.

During the summer of 2007, Congressman Conyers crisscrossed the country. At every turn he was met with citizens who implored him to move on impeachment. In response, he coined a new phrase. At an August 28 town hall meeting in his home district in Michigan, constituents clamored for impeachment. Conyers announced, “Nancy Pelosi has impeachment ‘off the table,’ but that’s off her table, it is not off John Conyers’ table.” The crowd erupted in applause.The same day in a telephone interview, the congressman discussed impeachment with journalist Amy Goodman. From the Democracy Now website:

‘”I’ve got the constitution in one hand and a calculator in the other,” House Judiciary Chair John Conyers (D–MI) said today on Democracy Now! when asked about the possibility of impeachment. Conyers said hearings could “make the record clear that there has been a great deal of violation of the sworn oath of office, abuses of power…but there isn’t the time for it.’ He also said he doesn’t think there are enough votes in the House and Senate to support impeachment.’

Clearly, rogue administrations aren’t the only ones adept at stonewalling.

Failed Strategies

Members of Congress have inexplicably chosen not to harness their duly granted powers to take on a criminal administration. Instead, they cling to previously failed efforts.

The Letters

A very small sampling finds letters about “fixed” intelligence, letters spanning two years from John Conyers to Fred Fielding requesting information and documents concerning warrantless wiretapping, and a letter from John Conyers to President Bush requesting the release of the Hadley memo related to claims of uranium from Africa and the “16 words.”

There were several letters regarding the president’s signing statements including one from Senator Dick Durbin requesting confirmation from President Bush that he would indeed enforce legislation that was just enacted. Two years ago, Senator Leahy sent a letter to the president urging him to “cease and desist” from his unconstitutional use of presidential signing statements. GOP Senator Susan Collins sent President Bush a letter about opening letters.

 

The chair of the House Oversight Committee, Henry Waxman, sent letters to Fred Fielding on the mystery of the missing White House e-mails. Recently, there was a letter to Attorney General Michael Mukasey from 46 House Democrats asking how he will ensure the President follows Congress’ ban on permanent bases in Iraq. Congress is now relegated to asking an uncooperative Attorney General to make sure the President takes care that the laws be faithfully executed.

The Subpoenas

When a few years of polite inquiries fail to produce results, Congress moves onto subpoenas. When used within the context of a healthy government, subpoenas prove to be quite effective. Why Democrats think that an overreaching, unaccountable administration would readily respond or cooperate fully is mind boggling.

Last April, House Democrats issued five subpoenas in a single morning related to the U.S. attorney firings, the use of RNC email accounts, and the claim that Iraq sought uranium from Niger for a nuclear weapons program. According to the Washington Post, “The White House signaled that it will continue to resist efforts to secure testimony from Rice, Rove and other aides.” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stated that she was “not inclined” to appear. To date, none of these issues have been resolved to the satisfaction of the House Democrats.

Contempt

In February, eight months after issuing subpoenas to Harriet Miers and Josh Bolten, the House moved to initiate civil contempt proceedings. John Bresnahan of Politico.com reported, “Pelosi noted that Conyers had sent nine different letters to current White House Counsel Fred Fielding seeking a compromise that would allow Bolten and Miers to appear, but Fielding refused to allow either aide, or former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, to testify in public or under oath.”

 

Two weeks later, the Attorney General wrote a letter to Pelosi stating he would not refer congressional contempt citations to a grand jury or take any other action on the matter.

The Lawsuits

When all else fails, take ‘em to court. In 2006, John Conyers announced he was “Taking the President to Court. After a battle over a Republican budget bill, the president despite being warned by Democrats, signed a Senate version that Democrats claimed had not been passed by the House. The purpose of the lawsuit? To seek confirmation from the court that a bill not passed by the House and Senate is not a law. The lawsuit never made it to court. Perhaps he never sung along with School House Rock.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced last May that she would sue the President if he attached a signing statement to Congress’s Iraq funding bill. Of course, a simple and effective solution would be for the House Speaker to turn to Article II, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution then quickly drop down to Section 4. [Note: There is no clause about the 2008 elections, time left or predetermining votes.]

 

This month after Mukasey refused to enforce Congressional subpoenas, House Democrats filed a lawsuit against White House chief of staff Joshua Bolten and former White House counsel Harriet Miers. And thus, the cycle continues.

New Legislation

In response to the Bush administration’s assertion that it did not require congressional approval for establishing any long-term security agreement with Iraq, the Congressional Progressive Caucus announced they were introducing new legislation to combat the situation. The legislation seeks to “reassert the constitutional powers of Congress in the shaping and conduct of U.S. foreign policy.”

A move like this is not without inherent risk. If the legislation fails to pass, it can serve to bolster the administration’s arguments. If it does pass, we’re right back to the signing statement which is what brought this whole issue out in the open in the first place. If Congress starts making a habit of creating new legislation to reinforce already established laws the country is headed down another dangerous path.

With a Heavy Heart

Whether a principled response to the administration’s lack of cooperation with Congress or a growing concern that a Democratic President might be equally uncooperative, Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), railed against the Bush administration last month. Rohrabacher whose aggressive support of rendition and lack of compassion for Iraqi refugees has upset many, has spoken out strongly against the administration for its “contemptuous disregard for Congress.”

 

In a lengthy speech the Republican member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee said, I have come to the sad conclusion that this administration has intentionally obstructed Congress’ rightful and constitutional duties.” Rohrabacher offers “When I hear my friends on the other side of the aisle accusing this administration of stonewalling, of coverups, or thwarting investigations, I sadly must concur with them.” He concludes, “We should not be setting precedents that the President of the United States has the lion’s share of the power in this great democracy of ours.” Are you listening, Nancy?

The Pelosi Factor

“I have said it before and I will say it again: Impeachment is off the table.”

When all efforts to effect checks and balances are thwarted and there is no other recourse to restore order in an administration gone wild, taking impeachment “off the table” really boils down to a matter of obstruction of justice. This begs the question why would the House Speaker obstruct justice?

Rarely discussed in the corporate media since initial reports is the fact that two of the most abhorrent impeachable offenses in the eyes of the American people were disclosed to Nancy Pelosi several years before they went public.

As the Washington Post reported late last year, in September 2002, along with three other members of Congress, Nancy Pelosi was briefed on “overseas detention sites and the harsh techniques interrogators had devised to try to make their prisoners talk. Among the techniques described, said two officials present, was water boarding.” The Washington Post reported that Pelosi did not raise any objections at the time.

In a 2006 oped, Nancy Pelosi remarked that the president’s admission that he authorized the electronic surveillance on Americans is a “wake-up call for intensive congressional oversight of intelligence activities.” With no expression of constitutional responsibility, she acknowledges that she, herself, had been informed of the president’s authorization. She went on to excuse herself by stating “But when the administration notifies Congress in this manner, it is not seeking approval.”

 

Former CIA analyst, Ray McGovern, raises another unsettling question. According to the former head of Qwest Communications, the NSA sought assistance with surveillance in February 2001, challenging the repeated claim that 9/11 “changed everything.” The question then, isWhat Did Pelosi Know about NSA, and When Did She Know It?

An Impeachment Groundswell

Despite the lack of cooperation from the Congress, the movement to impeach continues to gain traction in communities throughout the country.

According to AfterDowningStreet.org, impeachment resolutions have passed in Vermont’s state legislature (introduced in 11 other states), 26 statewide and national political committees, 19 state legislative districts, 91 cities, towns and counties, 54 local political groups/parties/jurisdictions, and several unions, seven ACLU chapters, with dozens more pending or in the works. Organizations well versed in constitutional law like the National Lawyers Guild and the Center for Constitutional Rights have also called for impeachment.

In addition, indictment resolutions against the president and vice president have been introduced in three jurisdictions including Kennebunkport, Maine, summer home of the Bush family. In Brattleboro, Vermont, the votes were cast and the president and vice President may be wise not to tread on that town any time soon.

These actions stand in stark contrast with John Conyers’ assertion in his prepared speech at last year’s Take Back America conference that “Too many Americans, however, feel that Bush’s assault on civil liberties are not really their concern.”

Congressional Rebuffs

Refusal by many members of Congress to support impeachment has little to do with whether or not they believe serious offenses have been committed as evidenced by letters to constituents.

 

Steve Rothman (D-NJ) is “outraged” over the president’s “overreaching intelligence gathering measures” and for “misleading the American people about the basis for going to war in Iraq.” He’s just not sure there is enough evidence. Perhaps John Conyers can lend him a copy of the “Constitution in Crisis.”

Representative Joe Sestak (D-PA) wrote “we have witnessed our government ignore the freedoms established in the Constitution on countless occasions and flaunted national security as justification.” While Sestak lays out numerous “egregious” abuses that “strike at the heart of our democracy,” he contends that congressional oversight will do the trick. One after another, members of Congress outline assaults on the Constitution by the president and vice president, but choose to ride out the next 10 months with little regard to the consequences.

Jerrold Nadler, chair of the Subcommittee on the Constitution has, in essence, altered the Constitution by ruling out impeachment as a viable tool for this and future administrations. By doing so, he opens the door to certain abuse of power. Impeachment, he says, “Doesn’t work. It doesn’t work because essentially the framers of the Constitution did not foresee political parties.” It’s a wonder George Mason, himself, hasn’t risen up to demand that Nadler step down from his chairmanship.

“No point,” said Mason, “is of more importance than that the right of impeachment should be continued.”Upholding the Oath

Conservative Bruce Fein, a constitutional lawyer who served as associate deputy attorney general under President Ronald Reagan had a message for the Democratic leadership in a radio interview with Rob Kall of OpEdNews.com.

“It is quite clear,” Fein remarked, “that they will not move because they think collectively that it will not be advantageous politically for the Democratic Party. I have retorted, you have taken an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States which includes the impeachment clause.”

His voice rising, he stressed “That’s the only oath that you have taken. You have taken not an oath to support the Democratic Party. You’ve not taken an oath to support your political ambitions. The only unflagging obligation that you have is to defend and protect the Constitution of the United States. You are violating your oath when the reason for not going forward is not because they are not impeachable offenses, but you make a political calculation that it wouldn’t be healthy for your party – even if it would be healthy for the government of the United States and for the American people.”

When Kall commented that some worried that impeachment proceedings would hurt the candidates, Fein was even more blunt than before. “I think that is nauseating. When you think about all the risks that the founding fathers took, death, their fortunes, [ . . . ] and these people say ‘yea there are impeachable offenses, but if we have to choose between the Constitution which so many have died to preserve and our party’s gains at the next election so let’s throw the Constitution out the window’ – that is nauseating. That kind of attitude would have left us a colony of Great Britain and it’s not American.”

Congressional Courage

There are members of Congress who are undeterred by the Democratic leadership stance. In April 2007, Representative Dennis Kucinich introduced House Resolution 333 that, if passed, would impeach Vice President Dick Cheney. Each time an old offense was exposed or a new one committed, representatives would add their support.

 

In November 2007, when public pressure failed to move the resolution out of the House Judiciary where it languished, Kucinich introduced a privileged resolution to force a vote. After an afternoon of partisan politicking, the resolution landed back in the House Judiciary Committee with a new title, H. Res. 799. To date, there are 27 sponsors of H. Res. 799. Six of the 27 also serve on the House Judiciary Committee.

Moved by pressure from his constituents and a strong allegiance to the Constitution, Representative Robert Wexler (D-FL) rose up to lead the charge for impeachment hearings. In December, he authored an oped “A Case for Hearings” along with Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) also members of the House Judiciary Committee.

 

In addition, he setup the website WexlerWantsHearings.com where he asked the public to lend their support. His long-term goal was 50,000 online signatures. Within the first 24 hours, 30,000 Americans had added their names. Currently, there are more than 233,000 supporters.Wexler, along with 19 House members – five on the House Judiciary Committee – have written to chairman John Conyers urging support for impeachment hearings. In a New Year’s Eve post, The Nation named Robert Wexler, “The Most Valuable Congressman” stating, “If he keeps this up in 2008, Wexler could yet force the House to be what the founders intended: a check and balance on executive lawlessness.”

TBA 2008: The Republic Against the Rogue Presidency

Based on the reports from last week’s Take Back America conference, it appears that John Conyers has turned back the clock two years. It’s all about winning the elections.

One blogger writes that the reason Conyers gave for not pursuing impeachment now is that “it would jeopardize the chance of a young, excellent man running for the White House,” referring to Senator Barack Obama. Sam Stein reports that “Conyers offered a strong suggestion that he intends to consider legal action against Bush and Company once they leave office.” Stein quotes Conyers as saying “We can win this thing and go get these guys after [they leave office].”

Conyers, like Senator Joe Biden (D-DE), offered that if Bush attacks Iran he should be impeached. It is disturbing to watch seasoned leaders, who have already witnessed this president wage a war on a country preemptively and on false pretenses, decide to “wait and see” rather than preventing more carngage by removing the rogue president for crimes already committed.

Activist David Swanson pulls no punches, “The congress that we elected in 2006 to end the occupation and hold Bush and Cheney accountable immediately decided to pretend to attempt to do its job for two years in hopes of winning more seats in 2008 by opposing the occupation and Bush and Cheney.”

“That this would mean hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths, two years off the clock on global warming, our nation and others in ever greater danger of attack, and the continued erosion of our rights – these things didn’t faze Reid or Pelosi,” charged the activist. “The pretenses they’ve put up have included hearings, letters, subpoenas, contempt citations, and bills recriminalizing already illegal and unconstitutional actions. They’ve also pretended to try to pass all sorts of other legislation, such as a children’s health care bill, knowing full well that they would be vetoed or signing statemented. It’s a two-year election campaign at taxpayer expense.”

Regarding impeachment and the elections, Swanson contends “Forcing John McCain to choose between the Constitution and the least popular president and vice president ever would be a gold mine immediately apparent to any entity capable of playing offense. The Democratic Party only plays defense.”

Conyers and Nixon

Congressman Conyers might well be served, and the nation in turn, by recalling his 1974 article published in The Black Scholar entitled “Why Nixon Should Have Been Impeached.”

The 45-year-old Conyers wrote, “In calling him to account, we also reestablish the proper parameters of presidential conduct. It is essential, therefore, that the record of our inquiry be complete so that no future president may infer that we have implicitly sanctioned what we have not explicitly condemned.”

He closed by remarking, “Impeachment is difficult and it is painful, but the courage to do what must be done is the price of remaining free.”

 

 

 

Seven Republican Members of the House Judiciary Call for Impeachment out of Duty to the Constitution?

 

GOP Reps. Smith, Sensenbrenner, Coble, Gallegly, Goodlatte, Chabot, and Cannon after much deliberation put the Constitution and rule of law before politics. Rep. Lamar Smith stated, “As much as one might wish to avoid this process, we must resist the temptation to close our eyes and pass by. The president’s actions must be evaluated for one simple reason: the truth counts.”

Please read entire article for context. Short on time? Skim ’til the end.

Hon. Lamar Smith (TX) Phone 202-225-4236 . Fax: 202-225-8628

We should not underestimate the gravity of the case against the president. When he put his hand on the Bible and recited his oath of office, he swore to faithfully uphold the laws of the United States – not some laws, all laws.

 

 

 

 

As to the uniqueness of the office the president holds, he is a person in a position of immense authority and influence. He influences the lives of millions of Americans. When he took the oath of office, he swore to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States and to take care that the laws be faithfully executed. 

When someone is elected president, they receive the greatest gift possible from the American people, their trust. To violate that trust is to raise questions about fitness for office. My constituents often remind me that if anyone else in a position of authority – for example, a business executive, a military officer of a professional educator – had acted as the evidence indicates the president did, their career would be over. The rules under which President Nixon would have been tried for impeachment had he not resigned contain this statement: “The office of the president is such that it calls for a higher level of conduct than the average citizen in the United States.”

 

This will not be an easy task. In fact, it is a difficult ordeal for all Americans, but we will get through it. We are a great nation and a strong people. Our country will endure because our Constitution works and has worked for over 200 years. As much as one might wish to avoid this process, we must resist the temptation to close our eyes and pass by. The president’s actions must be evaluated for one simple reason: the truth counts.

 

As the process goes forward, some good lessons can be reaffirmed. No one is above the law, actions have consequences, always tell the truth. We the people should insist on these high ideals. That the president has fallen short of the standard doesn’t mean we should lower it. If we keep excusing away the president’s actions we as a nation will never climb upwards because there will be no firm rungs.

 

Hon. James Sensenbrenner (WI) Phone (202) 225-5101

 

…being a poor example isn’t grounds for impeachment; undermining the rule of law is.

 

When Americans come to Washington, they see the words “equal justice under law” carved in the facade of the Supreme Court building. Those words mean that the weak and the poor have an equal right to justice, as do the rich and the powerful.

 

The framers of the Constitution devised an elaborate system of checks and balances to ensure our liberty by making sure that no person, institution or branch of government became so powerful that a tyranny could be established in the United States of America. Impeachment is one of the checks the framers gave the Congress to prevent the executive or judicial branches from becoming corrupt or tyrannical.

 

I do so with no joy but without apologies, just as those on this committee who voted to impeach President Nixon, 24 years ago, did. Watergate and the Nixon impeachment reversed the results of an overwhelming election and were extremely divisive to our country, but America emerged from that national nightmare a much stronger country and will do so again after this sad part of our history is over. What is on trial here is the truth and the rule of law.

 

Hon. Howard Coble (NC) Phone (202) 225-3065 . Fax: (202) 225-8611

Much has been made about the absence of bipartisanship on this issue, and I want to reiterate my position on that. Do not point accusatory fingers at Republicans or Democrats because there is disagreement. Assuming we vote our consciences and exercise sound judgment, little else can be asked.
…I take umbrage to charges that some are out to get the president…I take umbrage as well to those who claim that some approach this arduous task in a gleeful manner. I take no joy in discharging this duty before us, but it remains our duty nonetheless.
…I can’t see that this is going to shut down the government or tie it up, assuming it does advance to the Senate.
Hon. Elton Gallegly (CA) Phone (202) 225-5811 . Fax (202) 225-1100

This has been a very trying time. In a democracy, there are few more serious acts than to consider the possible impeachment of a president. I can tell you in true conscience it has caused me many sleepless nights.
I wanted to hear the evidence that would prove the charges were false. I believed that was the only fair way to proceed, and it was also my solemn constitutional duty and immense responsibility. I waited, I read, and I listened.
Mr. Chairman, I’m not a lawyer — one of the few on this committee — however, everyone that knows me knows I believe in the rule of law — believe the rule of law is fundamental to our society. A society without laws is anarchy. Societies that ignore the laws are condemned to violence and chaos.
That bothers me. My district is considered among the safest communities in the nation. We have fine police officers, which certainly helps, but every officer from the chief to the beat officer will tell you a low crime rate begins with citizens who obey the law. Every citizen must obey the law, every law.

He violated the Constitution. To condone this would be to condemn our society to anarchy. Mr. Chairman, I cannot and will not condone such action.

 

Hon. Bob Goodlatte (VA) Phone (202) 225-5431 . Fax (202) 225-9681

Mr. Chairman, this is a somber occasion. I am here because it is my constitutional duty, as it is the constitutional duty of every member of this committee, to follow the truth wherever it may lead. Our Founding Fathers established this nation on a fundamental yet at the time untested idea that a nation should be governed not by the whims of any man but by the rule of law. Implicit in that idea is the principle that no one is above the law, including the chief executive
Since it is the rule of law that guides us, we must ask ourselves what happens to our nation if the rule of law is ignored, cheapened or violated, especially at the highest level of government. Consider the words of former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, who was particularly insightful on this point. “In a government of laws, the existence of the government will be imperiled if it fails to observe the law scrupulously. For good or for ill, it teaches the whole people by its example. If government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for the law. It invites every man to become a law unto himself.”
Mr. Chairman, we must ask ourselves what our failure to uphold the rule of law will say to the nation, and most especially to our children, who must trust us to leave them a civilized nation where justice is respected.
If we truly respect the presidency, we cannot allow the president to be above the law. Millions of law-abiding Americans from all walks of life, including my constituents, put in an honest day’s work, follow the rules and struggle to teach their children respect for the law and the importance of integrity. When a factory worker or a medical doctor or a retiree breaks the law, they do so with the knowledge that they are not above the law.

 

This same principle must also apply to the most powerful and privileged in our nation, including the president of the United States. To lose this principle devastates a legacy entrusted to us by our founding fathers and protected for us by generations of American families.

 

I have a constitutional duty to follow the truth wherever it leads. The truth in this case leads me to believe that the president knowingly engaged in a calculated pattern of lies, deceit and delay in order to mislead the American people…

 

The precious legacy entrusted to us by our founders and our constituents is a nation dedicated to the ideal of freedom and equality for all her people. This committee must decide whether we will maintain our commitment to the rule of law and pass this precious legacy to our children and grandchildren, or whether we will bow to the political pressure for the sake of convenience or expediency.

 
 (OH) Phone (202) 225-2216 (202) 225-3012

 

Thank you. Mr. Chairman, every member of our committee recognizes that this is likely the most important vote we will ever cast, and all of us would prefer that the president’s actions had not led us down this fateful path. However, we have sworn an oath to uphold the Constitution and we must fully accept that responsibility.
Back in 1974, Congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman, who served on the judiciary committee during Watergate, said that she would vote to impeach President Nixon, in part, because — and I quote — “the presidential cover-up is continuing even through today.”
The historic record, the law, and the Constitution tell us that the charges against the president do indeed rise to the level of impeachable offenses. They constitute serious violations of criminal law and fall squarely within our Founding Fathers’ definition of “high crimes and misdemeanors.”
Mr. Chairman, impeaching the president is an extremely serious matter. Throughout these proceedings, I’ve tried to keep an open mind, giving the president every opportunity to refute the facts that have been laid before our committee, but now all of the evidence is in and a decision is at hand.

 

It has become apparent to me that impeachment is the only remedy that adequately addresses this president’s illegal and unethical acts. Allowing the president’s actions to go unpunished would gravely damage the Office of the President, our judicial system and our country.

 

I have not reached this decision lightly. I have done my share of soul searching, I have listened carefully to the views of my constituents, and I’ve reviewed the evidence in excruciating detail. And much of it wasn’t particularly pleasant, I can assure you. And I’ve been guided by our Constitution.

 

 

When we cast our votes, we are not voting as Republicans or Democrats, we are voting as Americans. Our allegiance does not lie with any one president but with our country. Our charge is not handed down from any one political party but from the Constitution. Every member of this body is duty-bound to put politics aside, follow our conscience, and uphold our oath of office.
Hon. Chris Cannon (UT) Phone (202) 225-7751 . Fax (202) 225-5629 We are at a defining moment in our history. What we do here will set the standard for what is acceptable for this and future presidents.

I believe profoundly that the behavior of this president is unacceptable because I agree with John Jay, one of our Founding Fathers, who said, “When oaths cease to be sacred, our dearest and most valuable rights become insecure.”

 

[Quoting President John F. Kennedy], “I think you gentlemen should recognize the responsibility of the president of the United States. His responsibility is different from what your responsibility may be. In this country, I carry out and execute the laws of the United States. I also have the obligation of implementing the orders of the courts of the United States. And I can assure you that who’s ever president of the United States, he will do the same, because if he did not, he would begin to unwind this most extraordinary constitutional system of ours. So I believe strongly in fulfilling my oath in that regard.” And that regard means if he didn’t fulfill his oath, the system would begin to unwind. It’s inexorable.

 

I submit that in the spirit of our Founding Fathers and John F. Kennedy, that our first duty is to provide for the security of the fundamental rights of Americans.

 

To properly perform that duty, we must vote to impeach the president. Thank you.

 

 

The statements above are excerpts from transcripts of the House Judiciary Committee’s impeachment hearings. December 10-11, 1998. Each congressman is a current member of the House Judiciary Committee.
 
 
 

 

 

 

The Democratic Majority: Enabling a Rogue Presidency and Stonewalling the American People

Lawless. Imperial. Rogue.

These labels have been attached to the Bush administration for the last three Take Back America (TBA) conferences. The annual conference hosted by the Campaign for America’s Future, does a bang up job each year highlighting the dark deeds of President Bush and Vice President Cheney. And, what better man for the job than House Judiciary Chair John Conyers. Turns out, the better man for the job may be the pre-House Judiciary Chair John Conyers.

TBA 2006: Challenging Lawlessness

In June 2006, Congressman Conyers was on fire at the TBA session “Challenging a Lawless President.” Still in the House minority, the great congressman from Michigan was hot on the trail of a lawless President Bush and his unbridled sidekick, Vice President Cheney.

Six months earlier, the congressman issued a report declaring, “We have found that there is substantial evidence the president, the vice-president and other high ranking members of the Bush administration misled Congress and the American people regarding the decision to go to war in Iraq; misstated and manipulated intelligence information regarding the justification for such war; countenanced torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in Iraq; and permitted inappropriate retaliation against critics of their administration.”

Just before the conference, Representative Nancy Pelosi fearful of emboldening the Republicans during a critical election season, declared impeachment to be “off the table.” But when Representative Conyers approached the podium, he brought the TBA participants to their feet as he announced his next course of action. In brief, he introduced a resolution (H. Res. 635) that would create a select committee with subpoena authority to investigate the misconduct of the Bush administration with regard to the Iraq war and report on possible impeachable offenses. Inspired and hopeful, progressives hit the streets to help the Democrats take back the House and restore order in the government.

By August, Mr. Conyers had released the final version of the “Constitution in Crisis.” He described the report as “some 350 pages in length and is supported by more than 1,400 footnotes, compiles the accumulated evidence that the Bush administration has thumbed its nose at our nation’s laws, and the Constitution itself. Approximately 26 laws and regulations may have been violated by this administration’s conduct.” Certainly enough to begin impeachment hearings when one considers President Nixon’s were prompted by a simple burglary.

Mr. Conyers went on to say that “The administration also appears to have used the war on terror as an excuse to eviscerate the basic protections afforded to us in the Constitution. There have been warrantless wiretaps of law-abiding Americans, in clear contravention of federal law, not to mention the creation of a huge unchecked database on the phone records of innocent Americans.”

He lamented that “All the while, the Republican Congress sits idly by. Rather than performing its constitutional duty as a coequal branch. It has chosen to stymie any and all efforts at oversight. After six long years of deception, attacks and yes, outright lies, I am convinced the American people have had enough.”

Indeed the American people had had enough and three months later they handed the Democrats both the House and the Senate.

TBA 2007: Curbing Imperialism

Fast forward to June 2007, when the Take Back America crowd descended once again on the Washington Hilton. This time Congressman Conyers was to discuss Curbing an Imperial Presidency.” Senior staff member to John Conyers, Burt Wides, delivered a prepared speech while the congressman tended to business on the Hill. “Since the last election we have begun to shrink Bush’s imperial presidency,” Wides read. In what manner the “imperial presidency” was shrinking remained unclear.

“President Bush has subverted the checks and balances that are the cornerstone of our freedoms. In most instances, the Republican Congress just went along with those abuses. The founding fathers must be spinning in their graves, not merely at Bush’s blatant erosion of their system, but also and perhaps more at Congress’ supine failure to protect the Constitution. Now that Democrats control Congress, we have a very clear and heavy responsibility to take back the Constitution.”

It wasn’t enough that the American people elected a Democratic majority that promised to rein in Bush and Cheney and hold them accountable. They were now charged with a new task. These efforts, according to Conyers, would only succeed with support of citizen groups committed to the Constitution. These groups had already been popping up across the country for years. Many were part of a broad coalition that makes up the organization AfterDowningStreet.org.  

AfterDowningStreet, led by activist David Swanson, sprang to life in May 2005 to pressure both Congress and the media to investigate whether President Bush had committed impeachable offenses. The coalition borrowed its name from the incriminating Downing Street Memos that emerged in May and June of 2005.

Despite the subject matter, impeachment was never offered as a viable solution to “curbing the imperial presidency” by the TBA panelists. It was, however, on the minds of the audience and questions on impeachment dominated the Q&A session.

After all questions on impeachment were shot down by the panelists, Bob Fertik of Democrats.com addressed the panel. To a cheering audience, Fertik asserted “I think you’re completely misreading the politics in the country. All of the polls report that the majority of Americans support impeachment hearings, a solid majority of Americans and it’s not even being discussed. The American people were way ahead of Congress on Iraq and the American people are way ahead of Congress on impeachment. It’s just time to stop with the ridiculous excuses. The American people know the only way to hold Bush accountable is through impeachment.”

Grassroots Action

Determined to restore the Constitution and rule of law, groups made up of ordinary citizens, veterans, and constitutional experts forged ahead on their own. John Conyers had called for this and the people responded. Five weeks later, on July 23, an impeachment petition containing more than one million signatures was delivered directly to the congressman. When he told the participants that there were “not enough votes for” impeachment, a peaceful sit-in was held in his office. The group was promptly arrested and hauled off to be processed.

The following month, Congressman Conyers traveled to Newark, New Jersey to promote his national health care bill, H.R. 676 at the People’s March for Peace, Equality, Jobs and Justice. He found himself facing a diverse crowd of a few thousand calling for impeachment. The article, Dancing With Conyers, describes what happened next. “In what has become routine now, Conyers fed into the momentum asking ‘What should we do?’ ‘Impeach!’ cried the crowd. ‘What should we do?’ ‘Impeach’ and so it was repeated. The congressman went on to declare that we needed to bring back Rumsfeld and put him on trial and the big question was to decide who ought to go first.‘Cheney!’ shouted the crowd enthusiastically.”

To settle the crowd, Conyers offered to meet with activists afterwards. Leaders from the New Jersey Impeach Groups asked the congressman to initiate impeachment hearings. They were told to “work hard” and get one representative from New Jersey to sign onto Representative Kucinich’s resolution (H. Res. 333) to impeach Vice President Cheney. They explained that Congressman Donald Payne, who was on his way to the rally, had signed on a few weeks earlier.

The chair of the House Judiciary Committee grew solemn telling the group the risk of failing was too great. It was too risky to use powers granted by the Constitution to remove a few rogue leaders regardless of the consequences of not removing them. This type of exchange was becoming familiar to activists. A few weeks earlier at a meeting with progressive democrats in San Diego, Conyers told the group to get just three more members of Congress to back impeachment. At the time, there were 14 sponsors. Since the offer, 13 more members of Congress cosponsored H. Res. 333 with no movement within the House Judiciary Committee.

During the summer of 2007, Congressman Conyers crisscrossed the country. At every turn he was met with citizens who implored him to move on impeachment. In response, he coined a new phrase. At an August 28 town hall meeting in his home district in Michigan, constituents clamored for impeachment. Conyers announced, “Nancy Pelosi has impeachment ‘off the table,’ but that’s off her table, it is not off John Conyers’ table.” The crowd erupted in applause.

The same day in a telephone interview, the congressman discussed impeachment with journalist Amy Goodman. From the Democracy Now website:

‘”I’ve got the constitution in one hand and a calculator in the other,” House Judiciary Chair John Conyers (D–MI) said today on Democracy Now! when asked about the possibility of impeachment. Conyers said hearings could “make the record clear that there has been a great deal of violation of the sworn oath of office, abuses of power…but there isn’t the time for it.’ He also said he doesn’t think there are enough votes in the House and Senate to support impeachment.’

Clearly, rogue administrations aren’t the only ones adept at stonewalling.

Failed Strategies

Members of Congress have inexplicably chosen not to harness their duly granted powers to take on a criminal administration. Instead, they cling to previously failed efforts.

The Letters

A very small sampling finds letters about fixed” intelligence, letters spanning two years from John Conyers to Fred Fielding requesting information and documents concerning warrantless wiretapping, and a letter from John Conyers to President Bush requesting the release of the Hadley memo related to claims of uranium from Africa and the “16 words.”

There were several letters regarding the president’s signing statements including one from Senator Dick Durbin requesting confirmation from President Bush that he would indeed enforce legislation that was just enacted. Two years ago, Senator Leahy sent a letter to the president urging him to “cease and desist” from his unconstitutional use of presidential signing statements. GOP Senator Susan Collins sent President Bush a letter about opening letters.

The chair of the House Oversight Committee, Henry Waxman, sent letters to Fred Fielding on the mystery of the missing White House e-mails. Recently, there was a letter to Attorney General Michael Mukasey from 46 House Democrats asking how he will ensure the President follows Congress’ ban on permanent bases in Iraq. Congress is now relegated to asking an uncooperative Attorney General to make sure the President takes care that the laws be faithfully executed.

The Subpoenas

When a few years of polite inquiries fail to produce results, Congress moves onto subpoenas. When used within the context of a healthy government, subpoenas prove to be quite effective. Why Democrats think that an overreaching, unaccountable administration would readily respond or cooperate fully is mind boggling.

Last April, House Democrats issued five subpoenas in a single morning related to the U.S. attorney firings, the use of RNC email accounts, and the claim that Iraq sought uranium from Niger for a nuclear weapons program. According to the Washington Post, “The White House signaled that it will continue to resist efforts to secure testimony from Rice, Rove and other aides.”  Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stated that she was “not inclined” to appear. To date, none of these issues have been resolved to the satisfaction of the House Democrats.  

Contempt

In February, eight months after issuing subpoenas to Harriet Miers and Josh Bolten, the House moved to initiate civil contempt proceedings. John Bresnahan of Politico.com reported, “Pelosi noted that Conyers had sent nine different letters to current White House Counsel Fred Fielding seeking a compromise that would allow Bolten and Miers to appear, but Fielding refused to allow either aide, or former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, to testify in public or under oath.”

Two weeks later, the Attorney General wrote a letter to Pelosi stating he would not refer congressional contempt citations to a grand jury or take any other action on the matter.

The Lawsuits

When all else fails, take ‘em to court. In 2006, John Conyers announced he was “Taking the President to Court. After a battle over a Republican budget bill, the president despite being warned by Democrats, signed a Senate version that Democrats claimed had not been passed by the House. The purpose of the lawsuit? To seek confirmation from the court that a bill not passed by the House and Senate is not a law. The lawsuit never made it to court. Perhaps he never sung along with School House Rock.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced last May that she would sue the President if he attached a signing statement to Congress’s Iraq funding bill. Of course, a simple and effective solution would be for the House Speaker to turn to Article II, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution then quickly drop down to Section 4. [Note: There is no clause about the 2008 elections, time left or predetermining votes.]

This month after Mukasey refused to enforce Congressional subpoenas, House Democrats filed a lawsuit against White House chief of staff Joshua Bolten and former White House counsel Harriet Miers. And thus, the cycle continues.

New Legislation

In response to the Bush administration’s assertion that it did not require congressional approval for establishing any long-term security agreement with Iraq, the Congressional Progressive Caucus announced they were introducing new legislation to combat the situation. The legislation seeks to “reassert the constitutional powers of Congress in the shaping and conduct of U.S. foreign policy.”

A move like this is not without inherent risk. If the legislation fails to pass, it can serve to bolster the administration’s arguments. If it does pass, we’re right back to the signing statement which is what brought this whole issue out in the open in the first place. If Congress starts making a habit of creating new legislation to reinforce already established laws the country is headed down another dangerous path.

With a Heavy Heart

Whether a principled response to the administration’s lack of cooperation with Congress or a growing concern that a Democratic President might be equally uncooperative, Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), railed against the Bush administration last month. Rohrabacher whose aggressive support of rendition and lack of compassion for Iraqi refugees has upset many, has spoken out strongly against the administration for its “contemptuous disregard for Congress.”

In a lengthy speech the Republican member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee said, I have come to the sad conclusion that this administration has intentionally obstructed Congress’ rightful and constitutional duties.” Rohrabacher offers “When I hear my friends on the other side of the aisle accusing this administration of stonewalling, of coverups, or thwarting investigations, I sadly must concur with them.” He concludes, “We should not be setting precedents that the President of the United States has the lion’s share of the power in this great democracy of ours.” Are you listening, Nancy?

The Pelosi Factor

“I have said it before and I will say it again: Impeachment is off the table.”

When all efforts to effect checks and balances are thwarted and there is no other recourse to restore order in an administration gone wild, taking impeachment “off the table” really boils down to a matter of obstruction of justice. This begs the question why would the House Speaker obstruct justice?

Rarely discussed in the corporate media since initial reports is the fact that two of the most abhorrent impeachable offenses in the eyes of the American people were disclosed to Nancy Pelosi several years before they went public.

As the Washington Post reported late last year, in September 2002, along with three other members of Congress, Nancy Pelosi was briefed on “overseas detention sites and the harsh techniques interrogators had devised to try to make their prisoners talk. Among the techniques described, said two officials present, was water boarding.” The Washington Post reported that Pelosi did not raise any objections at the time.

In a 2006 oped, Nancy Pelosi remarked that the president’s admission that he authorized the electronic surveillance on Americans is a “wake-up call for intensive congressional oversight of intelligence activities.” With no expression of constitutional responsibility, she acknowledges that she, herself, had been informed of the president’s authorization. She went on to excuse herself by stating “But when the administration notifies Congress in this manner, it is not seeking approval.”

Former CIA analyst, Ray McGovern, raises another unsettling question. According to the former head of Qwest Communications, the NSA sought assistance with surveillance in February 2001, challenging the repeated claim that 9/11 “changed everything.” The question then, isWhat Did Pelosi Know about NSA, and When Did She Know It?

An Impeachment Groundswell

Despite the lack of cooperation from the Congress, the movement to impeach continues to gain traction in communities throughout the country.

According to AfterDowningStreet.org, impeachment resolutions have passed in Vermont’s state legislature (introduced in 11 other states), 26 statewide and national political committees, 19 state legislative districts, 91 cities, towns and counties, 54 local political groups/parties/jurisdictions, and several unions, seven ACLU chapters, with dozens more pending or in the works. Organizations well versed in constitutional law like the National Lawyers Guild and the Center for Constitutional Rights have also called for impeachment.

In addition, indictment resolutions against the president and vice president have been introduced in three jurisdictions including Kennebunkport, Maine, summer home of the Bush family. In Brattleboro, Vermont, the votes were cast and the president and vice President may be wise not to tread on that town any time soon.

These actions stand in stark contrast with John Conyers’ assertion in his prepared speech at last year’s Take Back America conference that “Too many Americans, however, feel that Bush’s assault on civil liberties are not really their concern.”

Congressional Rebuffs

Refusal by many members of Congress to support impeachment has little to do with whether or not they believe serious offenses have been committed as evidenced by letters to constituents.

Steve Rothman (D-NJ) is “outraged” over the president’s “overreaching intelligence gathering measures” and for “misleading the American people about the basis for going to war in Iraq.” He’s just not sure there is enough evidence. Perhaps John Conyers can lend him a copy of the “Constitution in Crisis.”

Representative Joe Sestak (D-PA) wrote “we have witnessed our government ignore the freedoms established in the Constitution on countless occasions and flaunted national security as justification.” While Sestak lays out numerous “egregious” abuses that “strike at the heart of our democracy,” he contends that congressional oversight will do the trick. One after another, members of Congress outline assaults on the Constitution by the president and vice president, but choose to ride out the next 10 months with little regard to the consequences.

Jerrold Nadler, chair of the Subcommittee on the Constitution has, in essence, altered the Constitution by ruling out impeachment as a viable tool for this and future administrations. By doing so, he opens the door to certain abuse of power. Impeachment, he says, “Doesn’t work. It doesn’t work because essentially the framers of the Constitution did not foresee political parties.” It’s a wonder George Mason, himself, hasn’t risen up to demand that Nadler step down from his chairmanship.

“No point,” said Mason, “is of more importance than that the right of impeachment should be continued.”

Upholding the Oath

Conservative Bruce Fein, a constitutional lawyer who served as associate deputy attorney general under President Ronald Reagan had a message for the Democratic leadership in a radio interview with Rob Kall of OpEdNews.com. “It is quite clear,” Fein remarked, “that they will not move because they think collectively that it will not be advantageous politically for the Democratic Party. I have retorted, you have taken an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States which includes the impeachment clause.”

His voice rising, he stressed “That’s the only oath that you have taken. You have taken not an oath to support the Democratic Party. You’ve not taken an oath to support your political ambitions. The only unflagging obligation that you have is to defend and protect the Constitution of the United States. You are violating your oath when the reason for not going forward is not because they are not impeachable offenses, but you make a political calculation that it wouldn’t be healthy for your party – even if it would be healthy for the government of the United States and for the American people.”

When Kall commented that some worried that impeachment proceedings would hurt the candidates, Fein was even more blunt than before. “I think that is nauseating. When you think about all the risks that the founding fathers took, death, their fortunes, [ . . . ] and these people say ‘yea there are impeachable offenses, but if we have to choose between the Constitution which so many have died to preserve and our party’s gains at the next election so let’s throw the Constitution out the window’ – that is nauseating. That kind of attitude would have left us a colony of Great Britain and it’s not American.”

Congressional Courage

There are members of Congress who are undeterred by the Democratic leadership stance. In April 2007, Representative Dennis Kucinich introduced House Resolution 333 that, if passed, would impeach Vice President Dick Cheney. Each time an old offense was exposed or a new one committed, representatives would add their support.

In November 2007, when public pressure failed to move the resolution out of the House Judiciary where it languished, Kucinich introduced a privileged resolution to force a vote. After an afternoon of partisan politicking, the resolution landed back in the House Judiciary Committee with a new title, H. Res. 799. To date, there are 27 sponsors of H. Res. 799. Six of the 27 also serve on the House Judiciary Committee.

Moved by pressure from his constituents and a strong allegiance to the Constitution, Representative Robert Wexler (D-FL) rose up to lead the charge for impeachment hearings. In December, he authored an oped “A Case for Hearings” along with Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) also members of the House Judiciary Committee. In addition, he setup the website WexlerWantsHearings.com where he asked the public to lend their support. His long-term goal was 50,000 online signatures. Within the first 24 hours, 30,000 Americans had added their names. Currently, there are more than 233,000 supporters.

Wexler, along with 19 House members – five on the House Judiciary Committee – have written to chairman John Conyers urging support for impeachment hearings. In a New Year’s Eve post, The Nation named Robert Wexler, “The Most Valuable Congressman” stating, “If he keeps this up in 2008, Wexler could yet force the House to be what the founders intended: a check and balance on executive lawlessness.”

TBA 2008: The Republic Against the Rogue Presidency

Based on the reports from last week’s Take Back America conference, it appears that John Conyers has turned back the clock two years. It’s all about winning the elections. One blogger writes that the reason Conyers gave for not pursuing impeachment now is that “it would jeopardize the chance of a young, excellent man running for the White House,” referring to Senator Barack Obama. Sam Stein reports that “Conyers offered a strong suggestion that he intends to consider legal action against Bush and Company once they leave office.” Stein quotes Conyers as saying “We can win this thing and go get these guys after [they leave office].”

Conyers, like Senator Joe Biden (D-DE), offered that if Bush attacks Iran he should be impeached. It is disturbing to watch seasoned leaders, who have already witnessed this president wage a war on a country preemptively and on false pretenses, decide to “wait and see” rather than preventing more carngage by removing the rogue president for crimes already committed.

Activist David Swanson pulls no punches, “The congress that we elected in 2006 to end the occupation and hold Bush and Cheney accountable immediately decided to pretend to attempt to do its job for two years in hopes of winning more seats in 2008 by opposing the occupation and Bush and Cheney.”

“That this would mean hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths, two years off the clock on global warming, our nation and others in ever greater danger of attack, and the continued erosion of our rights – these things didn’t faze Reid or Pelosi,” charged the activist. “The pretenses they’ve put up have included hearings, letters, subpoenas, contempt citations, and bills recriminalizing already illegal and unconstitutional actions. They’ve also pretended to try to pass all sorts of other legislation, such as a children’s health care bill, knowing full well that they would be vetoed or signing statemented. It’s a two-year election campaign at taxpayer expense.”

Regarding impeachment and the elections, Swanson contends “Forcing John McCain to choose between the Constitution and the least popular president and vice president ever would be a gold mine immediately apparent to any entity capable of playing offense. The Democratic Party only plays defense.”

Conyers and Nixon

Congressman Conyers might well be served, and the nation in turn, by recalling his 1974 article published in The Black Scholar entitled “Why Nixon Should Have Been Impeached.”

The 45-year-old Conyers wrote, “In calling him to account, we also reestablish the proper parameters of presidential conduct. It is essential, therefore, that the record of our inquiry be complete so that no future president may infer that we have implicitly sanctioned what we have not explicitly condemned.”

He closed by remarking, “Impeachment is difficult and it is painful, but the courage to do what must be done is the price of remaining free.”

 

“When once a republic is corrupted, there is no possibility of remedying any of the growing evils but by removing the corruption and restoring its lost principles; every other correction is either useless or a new evil.” Thomas Jefferson

Nancy’s Choice: Affleck or Nirenberg

Citizen John Nirenberg, awakened from his political slumber by the Bush administration’s assaults on the Constitution and frustrated by the inaction of Congress, made a choice. John decided to pay a visit to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. His mode of transportation? A pair of 60-year-old feet. His path? Route 1 from Faneuil Hall in Boston to Capitol Hill in Washington DC.
Actor Ben Affleck was on a mission too. Ben traveled to Capitol Hill to do some research for his new role in the upcoming movie, “State of Play.” Ben will play a congressman whose mistress is murdered. Naturally, he decided to visit House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Ben’s mode of transportation?  I’ll leave that up to the reader’s imagination.

John, during the course of his 500 mile walk, wanted to be sure that Nancy knew to expect him. He sent a letter on December 15 explaining the reasons for his journey and kindly requesting a meeting upon his arrival. He also phoned, emailed and sent a certified letter. He did so rather frequently. Frequently enough that he soon came to know the staffers by name.

One can only imagine how Ben expressed his intent to meet with Nancy. Perhaps a call from his publicist?

John, while on his trek, was met with cheers and encouragement by locals in the cities and towns he passed through including this writer in the birthplace of the Constitution, Philadelphia, PA as described in the article,  Keeping the Republic . He also met with bad weather, blisters, an injured ankle and aching knees.

Ben was met with adoring fans and those pesky autograph seekers as described in the Indo-Asian News Service.

Sadly, John never received confirmation from the Speaker’s office regarding a meeting. But, he soldiered on with the help of David Swanson of AfterDowningStreet.org who is no stranger to Pelosi’s office. On Wednesday, they arrived at the Cannon House Office Building where Nancy’s district office is housed. Alas, Nancy wasn’t there. Instead, she was very, very busy at her Speaker’s office at the U.S. Capitol with no chance for John to gain access. They would have to settle for a staffer who would never arrive. You can read David’s delightful depiction of their zany adventures in the district office here . This meeting was important to John because our government now condones torture and wars of aggression, has restricted the right to habeas corpus, is threatening preemptive military action against yet another country and has a President and Vice President who have declared themselves to be above the law.

Thank goodness for Ben that Nancy chose him. Yes, Ben was able to meet with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday. His adventures are reported here  by Washington Post writer, Mary Ann Akers. According to Mary Ann, “Among the lucky ladies who got to chat with Affleck was none other than House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.”  Mary Ann goes on to describe how even though Nancy and Ben have met before, she never hosted him in her office! How exciting for both of them. Apparently, this meeting was important to Ben because the makers of the “State of Play” want to recreate the Speaker’s Lobby for the film. Who knew Ben was not only an actor, but a set designer as well?

John, as described in his blog sat in a “small, spare, cramped, ugly green space with virtually no decorations, no photos, and few senior staff.”

Ben, according to Mary Ann “commented that of all the offices he visited, none were as nice as the Speaker’s, which has a palatial balcony and grand view of the National Mall.” John holds out hope that one day House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will stop obstructing impeachment hearings and that the Constitution will be restored and protected.

Ben holds out hope that he won’t have another box office flop and maybe, just maybe, he’ll receive the coveted gold statue. Who knows? He might just  thank Nancy Pelosi in his acceptance speech!

Update: John reports “OMG, Speaker Pelosi’s Office Called!


John Nirenberg at the National Constitution Center (Photo: Cheryl Biren-Wright)

Keeping the Republic

Amid cheers and warm wishes, John Nirenberg, 60, marched into position between the National Constitution Center and Independence Hall in Philadelphia Sunday on his 485-mile walk from Faneuil Hall in Boston to Washington, D.C. Once in DC, he intends to meet with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, to urge her to stop obstructing impeachment hearings.Nirenberg, fresh from viewing a visitor’s film on the Constitution, motioned across the street to Independence Hall and recited the words of Benjamin Franklin who emerged from the same building and was asked, “Well, Doctor, what have we got – a Republic or a Monarchy?” Franklin replied, “A Republic, if you can keep it.”

Some 220 years and numerous Constitutional violations later, Americans throughout the country are heeding the call to “keep the republic.” Among them is John Nirenberg, a former college dean and professor, and veteran of the Air Force who has decided to take a stand – or should I say, take a walk.


John Nirenberg at National Constitution Center (Cheryl Biren-Wright) 

John readily admits to a lifetime of political complacency, but something happened while sitting comfortably on the sidelines. He witnessed President Bush and Vice President Cheney chip away at the very foundation of our country and he knew it was time to act. With members of Congress failing to abide by their sworn oath to defend the Constitution, Nirenberg has taken to pounding the pavement in a public awareness campaign to save it.

How have we been doing then at the charge of “keeping the republic?” Our republic was formed as a government in which the people have an impact and whose head of state is not a monarch. What exists today is a President who declares, with a stroke of a pen, that he can ignore laws set forth by the legislative branch to do such things as revoke our constitutionally guaranteed right to habeas corpus. A President who claims the right to unilaterally decide what constitutes torture. We have a President who, along with his Vice President, through deceit and contrary to the laws of our land has declared a preemptive war on a sovereign nation. We have a President who informs the public that with executive powers not granted to him by the Constitution and against federal law, he has assumed the right to invade the privacy of American citizens by spying on them without a court order.

To add insult to injury, we find ourselves with a Congress that works in tandem with a power hungry executive branch by not holding it accountable through the tool of impeachment that is mandated and written into the Constitution six times. It has become painfully clear that we have, indeed, failed to keep our republic.

Those that pledge blind loyalty to the purveyors of these acts, loyalty with no cogent argument, who attempt to portray those who would defend their beloved Constitution as traitors, “commies” or terrorists are the antitheses of what it means to be an American. With historic Independence Hall as a backdrop, a handful of these “loyalists” set out last Sunday to bully and drown out a man who has taken up the call to save the Constitution. One wonders what the founders might have done with these henchmen who attack those committed to protecting the very document that was forged, framed and signed just a few steps away.

With these four loyalists screaming nonsensical cries of “hippies go home,” a group of veterans spanning five wars from WWII to the Iraq War, took to the makeshift staging area to lend their support to fellow veteran, John Nirenberg. First up was Vietnam veteran, Bill Perry, executive director of Delaware Valley Veterans for America. Perry talked to the crowd of more than 100 about the oath he took to support and defend the Constitution. With a gruff Philadelphia accent, Perry declared “This oath never expires, this oath most of us take very seriously if we understand what the Constitution is all about. This is the same oath that 100 senators here in America have taken, this is the same oath that 435 representatives here in the United States of America have taken. An oath to protect and defend the document that was written right across the street. This is the same oath that the commander in chief, the treasonous, traitorous commander in chief, George Bush has taken and totally violated.”


Delaware Valley Veterans Defending the Constitution (Cheryl Biren-Wright)

Perry then passed the mic. to a young man who served in the 101st airborne division in both the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars. Sholom Keller made clear his disdain for those who tried to silence his voice that day and shouted, “I know I stand on principle, I know I have my integrity, I know I’ll maintain my loyalties. I fulfilled the oath I took when I enlisted to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic, especially domestic.” Keller added, “While I was in Iraq, I came to the conclusion that the war in Iraq is in violation of the United States Constitution and when I came home, I vowed that I will not turn my back on the oath that I took, that I will continue to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.” The crowd cheered in response.

Author and journalist, Dave Lindorff, laid out just a few of the innumerable offenses of the President and Vice President that amount to treason. Lindorff described how the President held a meeting very shortly after he was inaugurated in January 2001 with his national security council to discuss how to develop a scenario for a war against Iraq and how it evolved into a two-year campaign that led to the Iraq war in 2003.

The torch was then handed over to Air Force veteran, Dr. Mahdi Ibn-Ziyad, an adjunct professor at Rutgers Camden and challenger to incumbent Congressman Rob Andrews (D-NJ). Dr. Ibn-Ziyad spoke of his disappointment in the democratically controlled Congress that has failed to hold to account the Bush/Cheney administration for their grave abuses of power. As the freezing rain began to fall, Stuart Hutchison of NJ Impeach Groups urged those in attendance not to give up the fight.

John Nirenberg visibly moved by the support and inspired by his surroundings told the crowd about the America he stands for and that the President and Vice President has threatened, “Let me tell you, America does not go to war unless attacked. Let me tell you America does not torture.

 
Vet Raymond C. Smith bears witness as John Nirenberg says NO to torture

The President does not have the right to do away with habeas corpus. The President does not have the right to spy on American citizens. The President of the United States is not above the law and let me tell you it is our responsibility to enforce the law. We cannot wait for the elections. The Founders of our Constitution were brilliant enough to give us the tool when abuse of power reached the point where it could no longer be tolerated. That tool is impeachment. So, I ask you my fellow citizens to do something for me while I march in your name. Please. Talk to your neighbors. Tell them what is at stake. Tell your kids, tell their friends, tell everybody you meet not just those who already believe.”

Nirenberg then turned his attention to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “Open hearings now. Nancy, you have nothing to protect in the ratings that Congress now has. They are lower than the President’s. They are lower than the President’s because the people voted for change and have gotten more of the same. We have to change what is happening in Washington and the only way we can do it is by having the courage to open those hearings. Let us see the truth for what it is and let’s hold Bush and Cheney accountable in the only way that is given to us by the Constitution.” As the crowd roared, John Nirenberg did something unexpected, he calmed them and led them on a solemn march to Independence Hall for a moment of reflective silence.

March on John Nirenberg.

To learn more about John’s efforts, visit www.MarchInMyName.org.

To find out more about the impeachment movement go to www.ImpeachCheney.org.

Where do members of Congress stand on impeachment? go to www.Strike08.com

Contact House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (202) 225-0100

Ask the Philadelphia Inquirer why they didn’t send one reporter to cover an event that is so integral to the living history of the city: 215-854-5060, editor@phillynews.com .


Leading a contingent to the offices of the Philadelphia Inquirer

all photos by cheryl biren-wright

for more pics from this day, click here

Et tu, ACLU? Et tu?

Citizens! I have a pamphlet from the ACLU’s national legislative director in hand and it reads as follows: “We seek to provide you a means by which to effect the peaceful overthrow of a tyranny. There should be no mistake about it, a usurper has acquired power in America. He seeks to make it absolute. He and his aides lie to us on television and berate us for our disbelief. He speaks to us flanked by a photograph of family and our flag which he wears on his lapel. He confesses to crimes against the Constitution and believes he speaks of exoneration. He invites all of you to participate in his crimes. He accepts responsibility, but not blame. He relies on Executive Privilege and the institution of the Presidency. He uses lawyers to subvert the law and patriotism to subvert the Constitution. Mr. Nixon asks us to rationalize his way to our own corruption.” Oh, what? Who did you think I was talking about?

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.”

Yet the assault on civil liberties is the reason the ACLU has been so critical of the administration. It is why they are working overtime to end torture and extraordinary rendition, why they are fighting to shut down Guantanamo and restore Habeas Corpus and repair the wiretapping mess. The Bush administration initiated all of these infractions on civil liberties and because some spineless Democrats went along for the ride, the American People and the country must suffer for it? Could it not be argued that if the Congress begins to see more unity and strength among established organizations calling for the impeachment of President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, that they may begin to rethink some of their votes? Repeatedly, this administration has scoffed at the idle threats and subpoenas. All the lobbying in the world will not bring us to the point where President Bush will willingly relinquish his power grab. It just ain’t gonna happen. Even if our Congress were filled with courageous men and women who understood that justice trumps the 2008 elections, this President would continue to issue signing statements designed to place himself above the law as he did when he claimed the power to define torture or declare any one of us enemy combatants.

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 wordsSo 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 its not about promoting a political agenda. Its 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.  

Apparently, the Dems weren’t the only one who were all talk in 2005. Impeachment was broached again by the ACLU in 2006, when an ACLU panel urged impeachment over the spying program. In a February 21, 2006, article by Monisha Bansal (9 months before the 2006 elections), Laurence H. Tribe, professor of constitutional law at Harvard University remarked that “If the political alignment in the country were otherwise, impeachment would be a no-brainer.” John Dean, White House counsel during the Nixon administration, added “There is no question in my mind that this president has already committed one or more impeachable offenses. This is pretty serious stuff. It’s worse than Watergate.” Regarding the wiretapping, Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the ACLU submitted that, “It violates the basic rules of the road of how you operate. No judge, at any level has signed a warrant for this.”
Like House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, the ACLU and other influential groups like MoveOn.org despite their meek and faint whisperings, have thus far helped to keep impeachment “off the table.” The Dems claim impeachment will “take all the oxygen out of the room,” that there is “not enough time,” and they fret about the 2008 elections. MoveOn.org declared months ago that if subpoenas weren’t responded to they would call for impeachment.  Not another word on impeachment from MoveOn, yet the subpoenas go unanswered. Idle threats.

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.

It should be noted that the ACLU of 1973 was equally critical of the Democrats and the House of Representatives as a whole. In his open letter to his fellow citizens, Morgan, writes, “He [Nixon] degrades our institutions by his appointments and causes essentially decent men and women to rationalize and engage in personal cover-ups. In this manner, he seeks to corrupt an entire people whom he invites to participate, with our House of Representatives, in a politicians cover-up.”
Morgan does honor those who have “defended our freedoms with a fervor and impartiality rarely found in the membership of our House of Representatives: Men like Senator Robert Byrd, who asked the questions which brought the facts of the Watergate Affair to your attention. Sam J. Ervin, a 76-year-old Senator who sought facts for the people while others covered up. Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, Washington Post reporters who led the established media which had been bludgeoned into bland fairness by Mr. Nixon’s government, and a 61-year-old law professor, steeped in conservatism. Archibald Cox, the Special Prosecutor who seeks evidence from Mr. Nixon and is ordered to cover-up, says no and is dismissed by Mr. Nixon.”
Mr. Morgan continues, “In contrast, the members of the House of Representatives procrastinate and rationalize. They refuse to act, agreeing only to inquire into the existence of facts publicly known and obvious to almost all Americans. Once again they lack the courage and the sense of personal responsibility which citizens have a right to expect from their leaders. The people have that courage and they search for leaders.” Sound familiar?

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.”