Kucinich: Impeachment Not "Off the Table"
By Christopher Kuttruff,
t r u t h o u t | Report
While Congressional leaders silently opt to table impeachment articles against President Bush, Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) vows to speak out and keep the articles alive and in the public conscience. Kucinich spoke on Tuesday to Truthout about his resolution.
Last week the House voted 251-166 to refer Kucinich's articles of impeachment to committee - an action that most political analysts view as a desire by the Congressional leadership to bury the resolution. Kucinich, however, promised to keep impeachment from being swept "off the table" in order to provide a historical record of the Bush administration's policies.
The 35 articles of impeachment include charges of violating domestic and international laws against torture, misrepresenting intelligence in the lead-up to the war, illegally spying on American citizens, obstructing justice and governmental oversight, and many other violations.
When asked why impeachment has not been seriously considered, Kucinich recalled to Truthout:
"Back in October of 2006 ... the Democratic leaders, expecting that they would be in a position of being in charge of the Congress, when asked about impeachment, said no. So, what happened is the tone was set early on that impeachment would be off the table even before the Democrats took over.
The problem is that such an approach unwittingly licensed misconduct and violations of US and international law. This was not very well thought out by Congressional leaders. Because the inaction has nullified the historical role - the constitutionally mandated role - of separation of powers and checks and balances. Two years ago it was too early ... now it's too late. The only question that should be asked is did he violate the law? The answer to that question is yes."
On MSNBC's Keith Olbermann on June 10, Jonathan Turley, professor of constitutional law at George Washington University, commented on the articles of impeachment. "The framers, I think, would have been astonished by the absolute passivity, if not the collusion, of the Democrats in protecting President Bush from impeachment," Turley stated.
"Frankly some of these claims are not really impeachable offenses. For example, it's not impeachable to be negligent. But there are plenty of crimes there. What's really disturbing for many of us, is that it takes a real effort for Democrats to walk from the floor to their offices and not trip over crimes. They are all over the record. What's amazing is that the president is hiding in plain view. He hasn't really denied the elements of these offenses. So, all that is lacking is political will," Turley noted.
"Speaker Pelosi will continue to lead legislative efforts to find a new direction in Iraq but believes that impeachment would create a divisive battle, be a distraction from Congress' efforts to chart a new course for America's working families and would ultimately fail," Nadeam Elshami, spokesman for Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, said in a statement.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer has questioned the effectiveness of challenging President Bush in the "waning months of this administration's tenure."
With elections approaching, many Congress members dismiss the impeachment resolution as implausible and politically unwise, but few have attempted to dispute the substance of the articles. Sending the resolution to committee, a tactic frequently used to block debate on an issue or piece of legislation, reflects the Congressional leadership's unwillingness to debate the articles.
But while most legislation can go to committee and not be heard from again, impeachment is a privileged resolution, meaning that it has to be initially voted on in a timely manner, and it can be brought up again. Kucinich vowed to do exactly that. He stressed that if the resolution is not acted on by the House Judiciary committee, he will reintroduce the articles. "I'll bring it back," Kucinich emphasized. "The minute I introduced it, someone from the media said 'Well the leadership says this is dead'; and I said 'well, then, I hope they believe in life after death' because I'm bringing this back. And it'll be brought back within about 30 days of when I introduced it. And there'll be more. There'll be 60 items. And I'll read them. And people need to hear exactly what's happened in this government."
Congressman Robert Wexler (D-Florida), Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-California) and Lynn Woolsey (D-California) have come out in support of the resolution, but most Congress members have avoided the issue completely, trying not to marginalize themselves before the 2008 election. Kucinich said that he is talking to other House members to try to get them on board, and that he was also going to speak to Judiciary Chairman John Conyers this week, and provide Conyers more information and evidence supporting the articles.
"I've talked to Republicans who support the resolution, but they're not prepared to come out. There are Democrats who support it, and hopefully they'll put their names to it. But whether they do or not, I feel that this needs to be on the record," Kucinich said.
Asked why the conflicting principles of the Democratic Party and the Bush administration have not resulted in a more defined impasse between the two branches, Kucinich stated, "The Bush administration has promulgated this concept of a unitary executive, which essentially nullifies, again, the Congress. And if the Congress goes along with that, it's essentially engaging in self-negation. We don't have any right to destroy the Constitution any more than the president does. And we have to look at the consequences of our failure to act here."
Kucinich refused to accept the notion that articles of impeachment were an exercise in partisanship that would not result in any action.
"There are hearings that take place, but of what consequence. There are letters being written, but where do they lead? If there's no accountability, hearings and letters are for naught. This impeachment resolution is a document, which should be the basis for hearings.
I am not going to relent in my determination to protect this Constitution and to show the American people that the government that they have had for the last two terms has been based on lies - lies that have separated us from the world..."
Christopher Kuttruff is an editor and reporter for Truthout.