Media

Impeachment Talk Reaches the Mainstream

From the <i>Wall Street Journal</i> to MSNBC, talk of impeachment is no longer on the fringe.
The groundswell for President Bush's impeachment is growing, and last week the establishment media finally took notice.

The Wall Street Journal ran a story analyzing how a planned impeachment of President Bush will play out as an "election issue," including a helpful pie chart showing 51 percent of Americans support Congress in considering Bush's impeachment if he "didn't tell the truth about the reasons for the Iraq war."

The Washington Post published a commentary acknowledging that support for impeachment is now "reaching beyond the usual suspects," and the Associated Press covered the spike in pro-impeachment resolutions from local officials across the country. Resolutions recently passed in Vermont and California, and this weekend Democratic Party officials in Michigan voted to urge local officials to pass another. Meanwhile, 14 Democratic candidates for Congress have announced their support for impeachment.

These local efforts are beginning to advance impeachment at the national level. The resolution by Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., to investigate impeachment is slowly but steadily gaining co-sponsors, including three this month. It now has 29 co-sponsors -- roughly one out of every seven Democrats in the U.S. House -- a promising start that ensures that the legislation attracts more votes when it reaches the floor.

These activist and legislative efforts helped finally push the "i-word" on to the notoriously conservative cable news last week. On Wednesday, Joe Scarborough aired an impeachment debate on MSNBC -- one of the first times the subject has been debated this year on cable. Scarborough's producers invited me to make the case for impeachment after learning of the new book I co-authored, "Articles of Impeachment Against George W. Bush."

Since impeachment rarely receives any consideration on television, I took the opportunity to explain our case, even if it meant going on Joe Scarborough's turf. Scarborough, a former Republican congressman who opposes impeaching President Bush, said during the show that he was "fascinated" by some arguments for impeachment. He accurately described the groundswell:
There's a movement out there right now calling for George W. Bush to be impeached. Just take a look at how many cities and towns across America have either drafted resolutions calling for the president's impeachment or are considering doing so. Not only that, but 11 candidates for the House of Representatives and three for the U.S. Senate are all running on the impeachment platform. Why do they want the president gone? Well, here are the common reasons cited. The war in Iraq, which they say Bush lied to get us into; warrantless eavesdropping, authorized by the president; the torturing of prisoners; and the president`s response to Hurricane Katrina.
It is significant that impeachment activists have received Scarborough's attention. When we debated the topic, Scarborough even conceded that the arguments for impeachment in our book were "intellectually honest." That's because it's easy to make an intellectually honest case for impeachment: President Bush has publicly admitted to breaking the law. Here is how I explained the clearest example of the president's multifaceted illegal conduct -- spying on Americans:
the fact is that the law provides a clear-cut way that the president has to do these things. He has to go to the FISA court. He knowingly violated that law. And the law says -- there are two laws, in fact, that say that when you do that, you are guilty of a crime. There it is. That is one of the high crimes and misdemeanors.
Pat Buchanan was quick to argue that even Senate Democrats weren't supporting impeachment. While many Washington Democrats appear to be spineless these days, a growing number of House Democrats are supporting a resolution to investigate impeachment. This debate is the start of many to come. Impeachment is finally out of the bottle, and it is not going away. C-SPAN plans to televise a discussion of our impeachment book, moderated by Amy Goodman in New York on March 28, and our attorneys are receiving more requests to explain the legal case for impeachment from grassroots groups and reporters.

This week the Senate will also consider censuring President Bush for illegal wiretapping, a rare move that shows even the conservative upper house may be realizing that President Bush is out of control. But we must remember that a censure resolution won't remove a single wiretap from Americans' phones. Congress and the American people must take real action to address President Bush's illegal policies in wiretapping, Iraq, torture and undermining the constitutional principle of separation of powers.

President Bush has repeatedly broken the law and brazenly promised to continue to betray his oath of office and our Constitution -- clear impeachable offenses. We must grow the impeachment movement across the country and in the halls of Congress to catalyze a substantive debate over illegal conduct, not politics.
William Goodman is the Legal Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights where he supervises an active docket of over 80 cases, including representing the Guantánamo detainees before the Supreme Court, challenging the NSA domestic spying program, filing the first case to challenge the Bush Administration's " extraordinary rendition," and representing Muslim and Arab men caught up in the post-9/11 immigration dragnet.
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