By W. David Jenkins III
“We are not required to impeach the president simply because he’s committed an impeachable offense……We have to decide whether it’s in the best interest of the country to go through that process.” – Sen. Russ Feingold (D) November 20, 2006
“Who will show me any Constitutional injunction which makes it the duty of the American people to surrender everything valuable in life, and even life, itself, whenever the purposes of an ambitious and mischievous government may require it?” – Daniel Webster in an address to the House of Representatives December 9, 1814
The recently empowered Democrats have begun their sprint by running in the wrong direction. The above statement by Feingold coupled with the pre and post election statements by Nancy Pelosi show that the Democrats, whether they are in the minority or the majority, are willing to shirk their responsibilities in order to maintain a good face with the American people.
But what these and other Democrats fail to realize is that the American people gave them majority status in hopes of returning accountability and responsibility back into government. That the Democrats would place the fear of losing power over what is best for the reinstitution of the very foundations this country was founded upon would be beyond disgraceful. Already there are people on the left who have pitifully shied away from even mentioning the “I” word for fear of being portrayed as petty or vindictive. Even in these days of impending power in Congress, the Democrats have shown that their spaghetti has yet to evolve into a spine.
The Democrats stand on the brink of making the same mistake that Bush and the Republicans have made these last years; that the American people just don’t get it. That somehow, things are “too complex” for average Americans to understand whether it be Iraq or torture or domestic spying or impeachment, hence we are expected to just trust them because they know what they’re doing. This mindset in DeeCeeVille begs the question, “Do any of these dopes know what a newspaper is? Have they fired up their computers lately?”
Over the last two years, small towns and major cities have not only been using the “I” word, but they’ve either voted for impeachment or voted to support resolutions to initiate investigations into Bush Co. that would certainly lead to impeachment. From Hanover, New Hampshire to Fort Worth, Texas to Seattle, Washington and everywhere in between, Americans are talking about impeachment. We want accountability and we want to make sure that the abuse of executive power which has been the trademark of this administration is never allowed to happen again.
Recent Zogby polls show a majority of Americans support impeachment when they consider illegal wiretapping or lying about Iraq, so why are the Democrats so afraid to even discuss assuming their responsibilities when it comes to impeachment?
One of the most popular excuses I’ve heard is that there are “more pressing issues” that need to be addressed by the incoming majority. Raising the minimum wage and reducing interest rates on college tuition are usually the first two examples cited when Democrats are asked about their agenda. While these are admirable goals I have to wonder whether these people can walk and chew gum at the same time. Surely, there must be more than “other priorities” to explain the Democrats rejection of holding Bush and Cheney accountable. Unfortunately, I think the answer would require a history lesson, the healing of decades old wounds and a two by four upside their heads.
Republican Abuse of Power
President Nixon fled the White House when the evidence of his abuse of executive power became so clear that even Republican members in Congress were willing to vote for articles of impeachment against him. The political scarring Nixon left on his party and the nation was part of the “Teflon” that would protect Ronald Reagan over ten years later during the Iran-Contra scandal. Reagan’s successor, Bush Sr., would later pardon top level officials for selling weapons to Iran in order to illegally fund the anti-communist Contras.
Although impeachable offenses occurred during the Reagan “Error,” the resulting investigations and Senate hearings produced little more than a market for Oliver North action figures and Fawn Hall jokes. Criminals were pardoned and the whole thing was laid to rest because Reagan’s people and the media convinced almost everyone that the president was “so likable” and besides, America didn’t want to relive that “impeachment thing” again. And the Democrats left it alone.
Two years after Clinton rescued the country from the Reagan/Bush Error, Newt Gingrich had his bullhorn moment after the Republicans took over the Congress. Gingrich vowed that the new Republican Congress would use its power to “investigate the corruption inside the Clinton Administration” while Virginia Thomas (Clarence’s wife) compiled an “assault book” describing seventy five different alleged scandals with which they would target the Clinton White House.
The bitter political war which followed investigation after empty investigation resulted in the Republican led House abusing the powers of impeachment against Clinton in a pathetic and vindictive attempt to somehow “right the wrongs” bestowed upon Nixon and Reagan by the Democrats. The impeachment of President Clinton was little more than an exercise in losing a Tom DeLay popularity contest (something I believe most Americans would lose) and it would require cooler heads in the Senate to bring this abuse of power to a halt. The powers of impeachment were reduced by House Republicans to little more than petty “gotcha” politics and now the country is being asked by the Democrats, of all people, to pay the price for their superciliousness!
Serve and Protect
Author John Nichols stated recently that we do not “impeach a man” and that the question of impeachment should not be centered on George W. Bush or Dick Cheney. Rather impeachment is a tool to insure the balance of powers and to hold those who abuse those powers accountable and it is the Congress’ responsibility to serve in the country’s best interest by protecting and upholding that balance.
Twenty years ago, we allowed a president to circumvent the legislative body by illegally funding a war that Congress had cut funding for. Top government officials sold arms to a member of the so called “axis of evil” in order to fund terrorist rebels and then lied to Congress about it. The members of Congress and the media convinced the country to allow a dangerous precedent to be set by taking no action against this grab for power and rejection of accountability in order to “protect” the citizenry from having to endure another Watergate. The inaction against those involved with Iran/Contra was a coup for people like Dick Cheney who would later strive for even more executive powers never intended for such leaders.
And now, twenty years later, this country faces an abuse of executive powers like never before, the likes of which the founding fathers feared to such a degree that they instituted the very same powers of impeachment that the Democrats now cower away from. The American people see this – we do “get it.” That’s one of the reasons why Democrats find themselves back in power.
Impeachment is not about Republicans and Democrats. Impeachment was never meant to be a form of “gotcha politics” or the equivalent of a teacher’s ruler rapping the knuckles of a student. Impeachment is not about vindication, but rather a validation that the principles of the balance of power will remain secure. If the crimes and abuses of power by the president and the vice president are allowed to continue with no accountability, then where might we find ourselves twenty years from now?
As Nichols also said, “What a shame it would be for this country to look back on the Bush years as the good old days.”
How’s that for a two by four upside the head?