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Forget Her "Pledge" Not to Impeach, She Took an Oath to Defend the Constitution

Why Nancy Pelosi is Wrong

by DAVE LINDORFF

House minority leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), in an interview with Lesley Stahl of CBS News, said impeachment would be "off the table" if Democrats take over the House of Representatives in November, calling it a "waste of time."

She couldn’t be more wrong, and most Americans know it.

While Pelosi was responding to a loaded question from Stahl, who couched impeachment in terms of Democrats’ supposed desire to seek revenge if they retake Congress, Pelosi, who would become majority leader in a Democratic House, bought into Stahl’s argument, saying that she’d be "satisfied" to see the president and vice president spending the remaining two years of their second term as "lame ducks."

What Stahl should have asked Pelosi was whether she thought that President Bush had violated the law and the Constitution, and whether she believed he has committed impeachable offenses.

The answer to that is clearly yes.

Rep. Pelosi must know most of the president’s crimes are not partisan at all. They are crimes against Americans of all stripes, and against liberty and the Constitution.

Just take the president’s order to the National Security Administration to spy on Americans without first seeking a warrant. A federal judge in Detroit has already found that the president violated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act–a felony–and the Fourth Amendment. That is an impeachable act, and one which Democrats and Republicans alike would punish if they understood the the implications of what the president has done. Given that the secret FISA court has only rejected a handful of warrant requests out of over 70,000 made since 1978, the only reason Bush could have decided to violate the law is that he is doing something so outrageous he knew the hand-picked, top-security-cleared FISA judges would have rejected it out of hand.

Or take the signing statements. This president has used so-called "signing statements" to render inoperative over 800 laws or parts of laws passed by Congress, claiming that he has the authority to do so because he is a commander in chief in time of war (the so-called "War" on Terror). Rep. Pelosi claims that if she becomes House leader, Democrats will want to pursue a positive, progressive political agenda, yet this will be clearly impossible if the president is allowed to simply continue issuing signing statements invalidating any laws passed by a Democratic Congress. Signing statements cannot be overridden, and if Democrats were to attempt to pass legislation outlawing them, Bush could veto that legislation–or render it inoperative with another signing statement. The only way to stop this unconstitutional usurpation of the founding principle of tripartite government is to impeach the president for blatant abuse of power.

This too, is an issue that Republicans and Democrats should agree on, for if this president is permitted to ignore laws passed by the Congress, then subsequent presidents (perhaps a President Hillary Clinton or Barak Obama?) could also do it, citing the continuing "War" on Terror, and the Bush precedent.

Does Nancy Pelosi believe that the president’s lies and deceptions and the conspiracy by his administration to trick the nation into a disastrous invasion of Iraq is not grounds for impeachment? Nearly 3000 Americans have died as a result of that deceit, and nearly 40,000 have suffered grievous wounds, while the US military has been stretched to the breaking point, leaving the country unable to respond to genuine threats. Surely the author of this ongoing national nightmare must be punished, so that future presidents will not attempt to do the same thing.

These are only some of this administration’s crimes. Others include:

* Bush’s role in attacking, and then covering up the attack on former ambassador Joseph Wilson and his CIA agent wife, Valerie Plame–a crime that was committed to discredit Wilson and discourage reporters from probing more deeply into his revelation that the documents used to claim Iraq was trying to buy uranium ore from Niger were obvious forgeries, and into who was behind those forgeries in the first place.

* Bush’s authorization of torture as a policy for captives in Afghanistan, Iraq and in the nebulous, endless and borderless "War" on Terror. The president, in an act of desperation, has gotten the currently Republican Congress to ram through a bill granting retroactive immunity to all those, including himself, who authorized or engaged in torture, but this should not deter a Democratic Congress from seeking impeachment for an action that remains a violation of international law, that places American troops at greater risk, and that has destroyed America’s image around the globe.

* Bush’s criminally negligent handling of the Katrina disaster in New Orleans.

* The rot of corruption in the administration, highlighted by the Abramoff lobbying scandals, which clearly reach right into the Oval Office, despite the president’s initial lie that he didn’t know Jack Abramoff.

* Bush’s refusal to testify under oath and on the record before the 9-11 Commission, and his refusal to provide officials and documents demanded by the commission regarding what the administration knew before the attacks and how it responded to what it knew. This obstructionism by the White House has been called close to an act of treason by former Sen. Bob Graham, who until the end of 2002 was the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and who has said if he were currently in the House would be the subject of a bill of impeachment.

Rep. Pelosi may think Americans don’t want impeachment, but, like many Democratic leaders, ‘ simply out of touch. Indeed, the congresswoman will find a resolution on impeachment on her own ballot when she goes home to San Francisco to vote this November (a resolution that is likely to pass handily). Meanwhile, a new Newsweek magazine poll finds that fully 51 percent of all Americans believe that the president should be impeached–more than half of them saying this should be a priority. That same poll finds that 20 percent of Republicans think the president should be impeached, with one in four of those saying it should be a priority for the next Congress.

These are astonishing figures when you consider that support for impeachment of President Bill Clinton never got higher than 36 percent, even at the height of his impeachment process.

Maybe Rep. Pelosi should start listening to the voters, instead of to her campaign strategists.

More importantly, she and other Democratic-and Republican–members of the House should recall that oath they took when they assumed office, which commits them to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic."

The Constitution these days is under relentless assault by an enemy in the White House. Defending it is not a "waste of time" Ms. Pelosi; it is your sworn duty.

DAVE LINDORFF is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. His new book of CounterPunch columns titled "This Can’t be Happening!" is published by Common Courage Press. Lindorff’s new book is "The Case for Impeachment",
co-authored by Barbara Olshansky.

He can be reached at: dlindorff@yahoo.com