The meeting at the Jones Library in Amherst, Massachusetts on July 5, 2007 was anything but routine. Seated before Cong. John Olver (D-MA) were twenty seasoned citizens from over a dozen municipalities in this First Congressional District which embraces the lovely Berkshire Hills.
The subject-impeachment of George W. Bush and Richard B. Cheney.
The request-that Cong. Olver join the impeachment drive in Congress.
More than just opinion was being conveyed to Cong. Olver, a then 70 year old Massachusetts liberal with a Ph.D. in chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. These Americans voted overwhelmingly during formal annual town meetings in 14 towns and two cities in the First District endorsing resolutions to impeach the President and Vice President.
Presented in the form of petitions to be sent to the Congress, the approving citizenry cited at least four “high crimes and misdemeanors.”
They included the initiation of the Iraq war based on defrauding the public and intentionally misleading the Congress, spying on Americans without judicial authorization, committing the torture of prisoners in violation of both federal law and the U.N. Torture Convention and the Geneva Convention, and stripping American citizens of their Constitutional rights by jailing them indefinitely without charges and without access to legal counsel or even an opportunity to challenge their imprisonment in a court of law.
Forty towns in Vermont and the State Senate had already presented their Congressional delegation with similar petitions.
Impeachment advocates reported the results to Cong. Olver from each town meeting. Leverett’s vote was 339-1; Great Barrington was 100-3. No vote in any of the towns or cities was less than a two-third majority “yes” in favor of impeachment, according to long-time activist, Atty. Robert Feuer of Stockbridge, Mass.
With three fourths of reports completed Cong. Olver, who voted against the war, raised his hand and said, “Spare me, I know full well the overwhelming majority of my constituency is in favor of impeachment.” He then told them he would not sign on to any impeachment resolution whether against Bush or against Cheney (H.Res. 333 introduced by Cong. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH)). He was quite adamant.
In taking this unrepresentative position, Rep. Olver’s position was identical to that of the House Democratic leadership and many of his Democratic colleagues.
The Democratic Party line on impeachment is that Bush and Cheney are the most impeachable White House duo in American history (they believe this privately). The Democrats do not want to distract attention from their legislative agenda, and need Republican votes for passage. Moreover, they do not have the votes to obtain the requisite two-thirds of the members present for conviction in the Senate.
Strangely, none of these excuses bothered Republicans when they impeached Bill Clinton in the House for lying under oath about sex and proceeded to a full trial in the Senate where they failed to get the required votes. Can Clinton’s “high crimes and misdemeanors” begin to compare with this White House crime wave?
The last question to Cong. Olver was from a young veteran back from Iraq and Afghanistan. “What could we possibly do to bring you around to our way of thinking,” he asked?
Cong. Olver’s response, after several seconds of silence, was “You have to prove to me that impeachment will not be counterproductive.”
Members of Congress should apply the same standard to themselves that they like to apply to members of the Executive and Judicial branches-namely to honor their oath to uphold and defend the Constitution. That Oath is supposed to transcend political calculations.
Maybe the Democrats think that Bush and Cheney are such wild and crazy guys that a serious impeachment drive in Congress would provoke the two draft-dodgers to launch a military emergency, strike Iran or otherwise generate a crisis, based on their continual fulminations about the “war on terror,” that would engulf the Democrats and throw them on the defensive for 2008.
In short, the Democrats may be viewing Bush and Cheney as being so defiantly, aggressively impeachable on so many counts as to be unimpeachable. That is, with the White House harboring so much political nitroglycerine, don’t even try to remove it.
Such a cowardly position would make quite a precedent for future Presidents who want to illegally elbow out the other two branches of government and our Constitution.
RALPH NADER is the author of The Seventeen Traditions