Impeachment: Congress Must Act
May 28, 2006
"Vote for the America you want to live in." That's been the theme of my campaign for U.S. Senate. It gets people thinking about the America they want to live in. It also helps them realize how far we now are from that vision.
We have an Administration seizing power it has no right to seize, openly violating national and international laws and the Constitution, refusing to divulge, even to members of Congress, what it is doing. And we have a complicit Congress sitting there with one eye closed, not doing anything about it.
Over the course of my U.S. Senate campaign, I have repeatedly called on Congress to initiate impeachment proceedings, not just against George W. Bush, but also against Dick Cheney. Over the months, as new evidence has come in, I've added to my list of investigations that we need to do, and repeated that call. The list is now quite long, and I suspect will get longer.
I've publicly supported Rep. John Conyers call for investigations to begin. I've also publicly supported Sen. Russ Feingold's censure resolution. Censure is a milder rebuke of the Administration, but it's the only way the Senate has to call the President on the carpet in lieu of House-initiated Articles of Impeachment.
I am not alone in my concerns over the Constitutional collapse we are witnessing. In Maine, two County Democratic Committees, Kennebec and Hancock, have passed impeachment resolutions, and other such committees are considering them.
In the town of Ogunquit, all voters in the June 13 primary will have on their ballot a resolution that would censure the President, for his approval of a domestic spying program, his "undertaking of a pre-emptive war in Iraq," and his policies that "raised our national debt from roughly $5 trillion to over $8 trillion."
Five town meetings in Vermont passed impeachment resolutions this Spring. The state legislatures of Vermont, Illinois and California have had impeachment resolutions introduced.
Most of the resolutions focus on some or all of the following points:
First, the lies that got us into the Iraq War, along with the fact that the war is illegal, lacks a Congressional Declaration of War, and is in violation of international laws against preemptive military acts of aggression.
The outing of a secret CIA agent by the Vice-President's office, a potentially treasonous offense in and of itself, but one compounded by the apparent silly motivation - political revenge. (And why is it so relevant that Wilson was sent on his mission to Africa by his wife? Is it to emasculate Wilson, implying that Wilson must not be the master of his own home if his wife is the one sending him on such a mission? Or is the message that uppity women in the CIA are expendable?)
Then we get the torture revelations, followed by the anti-torture legislation, followed by George Bush's signing the torture bill into law, but issuing a "signing statement" that says the law doesn't apply to him.
We have the odd concept that people we capture and imprison do not have rights under our Constitution, or under the Geneva Conventions.
We have the news reports of CIA secret prisons in foreign countries, and a firestorm of concern - over how that information was leaked to the media, not over the existence of the prisons.
And we have the revelation that for years the Bush Administration has directed the National Security Agency to violate the 4th Amendment and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act with warrant-less wiretaps on American citizens.
This last offense was followed by Bush's nomination of the head of the NSA, active military General Michael Hayden, to the sudden vacancy at the head of the CIA. It was an in-your-face appointment, a dare to the Senators, to see how they would react to his rewarding - promoting - a key figure in that still-evolving scandal. Last Friday, the U.S. Senate rolled over and confirmed Gen. Hayden in a 78 - 15 vote.
And therein lies the second big part of this problem. The President and Vice-President are trashing our Constitution and violating international law, and Congress is maddeningly complicit.
The Iraq War resolution was not a Declaration of War, but Congress is acting as if it were. The Patriot Act violates basic American freedoms, but oh well, Congress voted for it anyway. Twice last fall the Senate, including Maine's Olympia Snowe, voted to deny habeas corpus rights to Guantanamo Bay detainees. And Snowe is co-author of the pending DeWine/Snowe bill, which would retroactively legalize the warrant-less wiretapping of American citizens by NSA at the direction of the White House.
But it's not just Republicans.
I could not believe my ears when I heard that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said a few weeks ago that the current impeachment talk is just a "pointless distraction" and would be "off the table" if the Democrats manage to regain majority status after the November elections.
A pointless distraction? Every member of Congress swears an oath to protect the Constitution. The carefully crafted balance of powers in the three branches of government is an essential component of that document. That balance is severely out of whack, and the three branches are not functioning according to their assigned tasks.
Correcting that imbalance, setting back into position the balance so eloquently laid out in our Constitution, providing a check on the runaway Executive Branch, has to be done by Congress. Only Congress can impeach, only Congress can remove from office perpetrators of the worse sorts of violence against other human beings and assaults on our Constitutional freedoms and international law.
That process is not a "distraction." It is the duty of every duly-sworn member of Congress.
At the rate that the potential impeachable offenses are adding up, our country cannot wait until the President and Vice-President serve out their terms. This self-declared War President and his administration are grasping powers they are not meant to have under our Constitution - and ones they should not have, for the good of humanity. We are at serious risk of losing our democracy, and, if the present trend continues, our live-able world.
These men must be stopped.