Friday, August 31, 2007

For (small d) democrats Impeachment Is the Issue of the Day

Why should you care? Well, because in a democracy the People are sovereign. Think about that. It means that there is no king, queen, nobility, or anyone who has a greater authority to say what kind of nation we will be. You are as equally in control of this country as any other voter. Sure your control is "diluted" in ratio to the number of voters, but it is still your control.

It is the apathy and disorganized mental condition that propaganda creates that allows people like George Bush and Nancy Pelosi to take your sovereign control from you, because you are isolated in your thinking processes. We are only one election away from a change in any direction! If overnight, a majority got tuned-in to the same thought waves and voted for real change, real honesty, real compassion, then the country would change. But fear prevents it, and the fear is created by the propaganda system that is maintained and supported by both the Republicans and the Democratic parties.

The Democratic leadership, like Pelosi, need to be spanked. It is not that they "don't get it." They get it quite nicely, thank you. They get it that they can keep in power by distraction, by pretense, so they never have to deliver the goods. If they keep the big bad Republicans as the fall guy then they can keep the show going. And the political show they perform is no more real than professional wrestling. Sure they get real bruises, but it is all choreographed with the gentleman's agreement that at the end of the day the system won't be changed so that the program can continue next week.

Here is a hopeful sign that the grassroots are awakening. Dave Lindorff in his Counterpunch column titled "Excuse Us, Nancy Pelosi" passed along a letter from Kathy Ember, a Democratic Committee member in Pennsylvania, and president of the Kutztown Democratic Club.

I am the president of a very active grassroots Democratic club just outside Philadelphia in PA. Recently, I got an email from Nancy Pelosi, asking all of us to help build the grassroots.

EXCUSE me Nancy, but we have been working our butts off out here for years trying to do just that. WE are the ones that put that Democrats back in power in Congress. We've been there for you, but you have let us down by not holding the current administration responsible for their crimes.

Not only are you losing are making it impossible for us to "build the grassroots". Do you know how people look at you now when you ask them to join the Democrats? They laugh in your face. Why, they want to know, should we join or support a party that has done nothing toward getting out of Iraq or impeaching this president?

I am in contact with other Democratic clubs across PA. Some have recently changed the word "Democrats" in their name to a lower case "d". Others have abandoned their association with the Democrats altogether and have formed instead "citizen action groups."

When will the Democrats in Washington wake up and realize that it's not impeachment that will hurt the is the lack of it.

That's clear enough. But the Democratic leadership still believes it can ride the tiger's tail and not be accountable to the grassroots.

Look at the numbers. After being elected in sea change of party control, the Democratic leadership has now steered Congress into an historically low approval rating!

August 21, 2007
Congress Approval Rating Matches Historical Low
Just 18% approve of job Congress is doing

by Jeffrey M. Jones


PRINCETON, NJ -- A new Gallup Poll finds Congress' approval rating the lowest it has been since Gallup first tracked public opinion of Congress with this measure in 1974. Just 18% of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing, while 76% disapprove, according to the August 13-16, 2007, Gallup Poll.

We have to assume the Democratic Party leadership is not "stupid." So why don't they "seem" to care? As I see it, their tunnel vision fixation on maintaining the two-party power sharing system with the Republicans means that they will not dare to do anything that would rock the structural boat. Of course, as the Clinton impeachment showed, the Republicans have no such qualms when it comes to exercising power. In fact the Republicans relish in such power plays because they know that as long as they can maintain that they are acting on their principles, that their base won't abandon them. They know that like a battered wife, the Democrats are too frightened to pull the plug on the two-party marriage of convenience. The Democrats on the other hand do not have any clear "principles" and would not assert them if they did because to do so would threaten the marriage.

So why should you care? Because if you don't care you are letting your country be ruled by people who don't care about your freedom. When the principle of the rule of law becomes a mere political expedient, then every other principle is a mere sham. If you don't care, then you are supporting the two-party dictatorship that has usurped the sovereignty of the people every bit as much as the one-party dictatorships do. Because in the end, while the two-party dictatorship allows for more "play" or "slack" in the totalitarian control, it maintains the limits of that control just as rigorously.

So when the grassroots can be manipulated to put the Democrats into majority in Congress, still the Democrats will do nothing to support the principles of democracy held by the grassroots if it looks like to do so would rock the boat of political bureaucracy. To say it another way, the Clinton impeachment achieved its purpose to hamstring Clinton without hamstringing the money behind the presidency and Congress. If Bush were to be impeached, the situation is different, because that would threaten the money behind the Congress and the presidency. It would threaten the war profits, the oil profits, and the political profits that profit the Democrats just as much as the Republicans.

Now let's look at how this factors into the excuses that John Conyers says publicly. I believe that Conyers, if left to decide for himself, would put impeachment on the table, but I also believe that Conyers is,if nothing else, a loyal person and his loyalty extends directly to the Democratic Party leadership who has stated clearly that impeachment is off the table. In that situation, Conyers won't contradict Pelosi, and instead he provides her with excuses.

So what does Conyers say? In his recent interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!, Conyers offers up once again the usual lame excuses.

We also are trying to make sure that we don’t bring resolutions or hearings that would put the election in jeopardy.

This is their key strategy point. They actually argue that the Democrats have a better chance in the 2008 elections if they do not pursue impeachment. I think Ember's letter and the Gallup Poll approval ratings demonstrate how hollow that strategy is.

We could close down the Congress -- I have been in more impeachment hearings than anybody in the House or the Senate. And our legislative attempts to reverse so many things would come to a stop.

Well, actually, until the Iraq war is closed down, the Congress too should be closed down for other business. That's not hyperbole. We are in the midst of perpetrating an ongoing criminal enterprise in Iraq. It is bad enough that we are stealing their resources and high jacking their vehicle of democratic self-determination, but we, by our presence as a hostile invading and occupying force, are the primary proximate cause of the thousands of thousands of civilian deaths, whether or not our troops are pulling the trigger.

Instead of reversing the war, the Democrats have continued to fund the war. Instead of reversing the Patriot Act Democrats have supported continuing unAmerican surveillance of citizens. Instead of reversing the flight of business, Democrats have supported enhanced trade with China. The list goes on and on. One wonders what the Democrats are crowing about when they claim to have reversed anything?

AMY GOODMAN: Why would impeachment hearings put the election in jeopardy?

REP. JOHN CONYERS: Well, because unless I’ve got the Constitution in one hand and a calculator in the other, so I’ve got any kind of hearings on removing both the President and the Vice President -- or putting it in reverse, remove the Vice President and then the President -- within the months remaining, would require 218 votes in the House of Representatives. That’s my calculator giving me this information. And then, in the Senate we need two-thirds to convict. Notwithstanding all of my progressive friends that would love to see me start impeachment hearings, those votes I do not think exist in the House of Representatives or in the US Senate.

This question about counting votes prior to impeachment investigation has not been clarified by Conyers. Is he actually talking about the 218 votes necessary to simply refer the matter of impeachment to his committee or is he talking about the 218 votes needed to adopt articles of impeachment after they might be recommended by the committee?

If the latter then it is a red herring at best, because then Conyers is pretending that the Nixon precedent has no educational value. Impeachment proceedings led to Nixon's resignation without the House ever voting on the bill of impeachment. Why? Because it was the hearings themselves that became convincing. More recently, we have seen Rove and Gonzales resign when the heat of investigations got too close. Impeachment hearings would shed light on the facts and create the opportunity for people to see the truth and identify why impeachment is warranted.

In our system of impeachment, the impeachment investigation is not supposed to start out with 218 votes in favor of impeachment itself. If Conyers is using this line of "not having 218 votes" as not having 218 votes in favor of impeachment, then Conyers is deliberately misleading the American people about the fundamental purpose of impeachment hearings which are to hear and decide whether to recommend or dismiss any action on impeachment to the full House.

The committee hearings should begin when there is simply enough probable cause to believe the president might have committed "high crimes and misdemeanors."

Under usual House Practice (see Section 6, page 540):
In most cases, impeachment proceedings in the House have been initiated either by introducing resolutions of impeachment by placing them in the hopper, or by offering charges in a resolution on the floor of the House under a question of constitutional privilege. Deschler Ch.14 Sec.5.

The House website on how bills work describes the usual hopper method in this way:
Introduction and Referral to Committee

Any Member in the House of Representatives may introduce a bill at any time while the House is in session by simply placing it in the "hopper" provided for the purpose at the side of the Clerk's desk in the House Chamber. The sponsor's signature must appear on the bill. A public bill may have an unlimited number of co-sponsoring Members. The bill is assigned its legislative number by the Clerk and referred to the appropriate committee by the Speaker, with the assistance of the Parliamentarian. (Emphasis added)

So, Putting those two sources together, it looks like impeachment would need to get an initial 218 votes for referral to committee only if the hopper method was not used. According to the House website, the hopper method is a routine referral to committee, if the Speaker approves the referral.

It appears that Speaker Pelosi is personally preventing the usual hopper method for referral to committee and that is what she means by "not on the table." Why has Conyers or the reporters interviewing him not made this clear? Thus it requires a resolution under constitutional privilege and 218 votes to refer impeachment to the committee only in order to get around Speaker Pelosi's apparent block at the hopper.

To get past Pelosi's block, the question is not about 218 votes to impeach, but about 218 votes to refer to committee for hearings on a recommendation or dismissal of impeachment charges. Any Representative who doesn't vote to refer the question to the committee is voting against impeachment even before the committee is allowed to put evidence on the record. That is a very hard vote to justify, because it is saying there should be no impeachment no matter what evidence is presented or what he has done. For example, the vote to refer to committee the impeachment charges against Nixon was 410 to 4. But after the hearings and the evidence only 6 of the committee's 17 Republicans voted to recommend articles of impeachment to the full House. Thus 11 Republicans still voted against. But only 4 voted against referral. So that shows that even though they were against impeachment when it mattered, they wouldn't vote against impeachment merely being referred to committee.

A representative who voted against even considering the evidence would be voting against a fair process and a hearing on the charges, not against articles of impeachment themselves. If that's the way they want to vote, then let them try to justify that to their constituents. Which way would Conyers and Pelosi vote?

If the chips were down and 218 would not support even a referral to committee, then those who didn't would really have their reelections put into jeopardy by impeachment becoming the central issue of their reelection. That is presumably the real reason that Pelosi doesn't want to put even the referral vote to the House.

After the evidence is in, a Representative can say he or she has reviewed the evidence and does or doesn't believe impeachment is warranted. But realistically, before even one item of evidence is considered, how many Representatives are not going to vote simply to refer the matter to the committee? As long as the Democratic leadership prevents the vote then we, the People, will never know. We will not have the Representative's vote as a matter of public record, no matter what Conyers' calculator is secretly whispering in his ear.

The committee hearings develop the evidence that should lead to the votes, not the other way around. After referral to the Judiciary Committee, the committee votes on the articles first, and then presents them to the full House. It is the presentation to the Judiciary Committee that organizes the evidence and forms the basis for writing the specific language for the articles of impeachment that then require a majority vote of the committee in order to put them before the full House.

By claiming to require 218 votes before he even allows the vote to refer to committee to be considered, Conyers is acting to close off an investigation before it can be started. It is not hard to think of a law enforcement metaphor that prevents an investigation. For example this is like the policemen who believes no jury would convict the perpetrator because he is an important member of the community, so the cop doesn't investigate and never hands over a report to the DA. If a majority of the House of Representatives is so bold as to vote against the basic idea of having a committee review whether there is enough evidence for impeachment or not, then the People need to know their names.

It appears that Conyers and the Democratic Party leadership are preventing a vote even on referral to committee in order to allow those who are against even considering impeachment from being exposed to public scrutiny and accountability.

If after the presentation of the evidence, there are not 218 votes to pass a bill of Impeachment to the Senate, then the Constitution has done its job, i.e., the prosecutor has reviewed the evidence and found it wanting. But until hearings are done and an actual bill containing articles of impeachment is up for a vote before the House, constituents throughout the nation just do not have the basis or avenue for lobbying their individual Representatives to vote for or against impeachment.

The Democrats and Conyers have established a shell game of excuses. Conyers is standing in the way of the voters and preventing us from weighing in on impeachment through our representatives by keeping impeachment off the table so our representatives can rebuff us by saying Conyers won't let it get on the table. Until there is a vote, each representative can hide behind the screen of obscurity. If there are not 218 Representatives who would even vote to refer impeachment to the Judiciary Committee, then that would end the matter quickly, the People would know who they are, and the People could decide if they should be reelected in 2008.

AMY GOODMAN: What would be the reasons you would list for impeachment, if you weren’t holding your calculator, just holding the Constitution?

REP. JOHN CONYERS: Oh, OK. Well, to me, we can accomplish probably as much as we would need to to make the record clear that there has been a great deal of violation of the sworn oath of office, abuses of power, through the hearings and inquiries that we can conduct. But it isn’t that -- and no one has ever heard me suggest that we don’t think that there is conduct that could be proven to be impeachable.

But when Ron Dellums and Shirley Chisholm and Bella Abzug and William Fitts Ryan of New York, when we -- Parren Mitchell -- when we introduced an impeachment resolution, the first one against a sitting president in over seventy-five years, when Richard Nixon was being investigated, it was at the beginning of his term. And although he had been overwhelmingly reelected, there was time for us to have the hearing. This -- the timing of an administration which will go down in history as probably one of the most disappointing, there isn’t the time here for it.

So, why doesn't Conyers remember that Sam Ervin also didn't want to investigate Nixon until he was forced by public pressure? If it took public pressure on Ervin it will take public pressure on Conyers as well.

Now we see Conyers playing the card of desperation by saying, "There isn’t the time here for it." Is that a hoot or what? Of course there is time. And of course he is doing everything in his power to make this a self-fulfilling prophecy by his own delaying tactics. I call this playing a desperation card because it is so lacking in substance. It is nothing more than B.S., i.e.,blowing smoke.

Why isn't there time? According to the History Place article on Nixon's impeachment, Sen. Sam Ervin began the Watergate investigation in February of 1973 for the purpose of investigating all of the events surrounding Watergate and other allegations of political spying and sabotage After a nearly year-long court battle over the release of Nixon's tapes, the three articles of impeachment against Nixon were approved by the House judiciary committee on the three days of July 27, 29, and 30, 1974. Nixon resigned on August 9, 1974. Thus, impeachment achieved its purpose from the beginning of the investigation to resignation in 18 months. There is no foreseeable reason for such a protracted delay of Bush's impeachment investigation in the courts. All the evidence against Bush is already in the public domain. It merely needs to be presented at a judiciary committee in an organized fashion to create the record. There are 17 months left in Bush's presidency and with no need for an original investigation like Watergate to occur we have plenty enough time.

In fact there was no preliminary investigation conducted by the House in Clinton's impeachment. According to the History Place entry on Clinton's impeachment, impeachment proceedings were initiated on October 8, 1998. The House and the Judiciary Committee did not need to conduct original investigations itself and instead relied upon testimony presented at the committee hearings. The Judiciary Committee sent a list of 81 questions to Clinton for him to either admit or deny under oath, and his responses then became the basis for one of the articles of impeachment. The committee voted on articles of impeachment on December 11, 1998, and upon the passage of H. Res. 611, Clinton was impeached on December 19, 1998, by the full House of Representatives. And the Senate trial lasted from January 7, 1999, until February 12, 1999. Thus, the impeachment and trial of Clinton took only four months. We have that much time.

There are books already published with the allegations of Bush's high crimes and misdemeanors. It would only take a relatively short time to present the case for impeachment by the appropriate witnesses. It should take only three or at most four months for the House to vote on articles of impeachment, but even if it took nine months, there would still be enough time for a Senate trial and impeachment would be worth it.

There is also the question of whether or not impeachment would be made moot by the end of Bush's term. In other words, the Constitution may allow impeachment of a president even after he has left office. Certainly it is arguable that if impeachment proceedings are begun while the president is in office, because Article I Section 3 of the Constitution provides that judgement may extend to "disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of Honor, Trust or Profit under the United States" that an impeachment is not made moot simply by the president leaving office, because the judgement disqualifying from future office would still be an effective punishment. I would argue that leaving office would make impeachment moot only if removal from office were the only judgement available. [This is an interesting Constitutional question that I haven't researched yet. If anyone knows references to this question please email me.]

And besides, even if the Republicans could delay a vote on impeachment until January 2009 and that would make impeachment constitutionally moot, impeachment proceedings would still have been the right thing to do and in the name of upholding the rule of law. Conyers acts like he doesn't understand that the rule of law is an even more important legacy than whether or not Bush is able to run out the clock. By putting impeachment on the table now, Conyers would be saying that no matter how close to the end of a term a president is, he or she can't escape the checks and balances of our Constitutional democracy. However, by refusing to allow impeachment proceedings to go forward, it is Conyers who is preventing justice and it is Conyers who is thumbing his nose at our Constitutional system of protections. It is Conyers who is letting a criminal president get away with murder. It is Conyers who is establishing the precedent that a president doesn't have to worry in the least about committing high crimes and misdemeanors if he is near the end of his term.

If the People's sovereignty is not upheld at the very minimum by at least having hearing of the impeachment charges against George Bush, who is arguably the worst criminal president in our history, then Conyers and the Democratic Party are the one's who should be held responsible and accountable for aiding and abetting Bush's crimes. Not only that, they will be laying the foundation for the future crimes of future presidents even yet to be born.

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