When it comes to “high crimes and misdemeanors” Bill Clinton didn’t hold a candle to Cheney and Bush. One would therefore think that the Clinton impeachment would have long ago given Democrats the idea; the bar is certainly now low enough for the stare decisis enthusiasts among them. But in the Party of Pusillanimity, the POP, impeachment is off the agenda – even now with Democratic majorities in both the House and the Senate. Had there been a serious effort to impeach Cheney and Bush once it became clear that they had lied the country into war – before the 2004 elections or, at least, before 2006 – then now, when more than 70% of the American people can’t wait to see the back of Cheney and Bush, impeachment would “have legs.” We could even raise the prospect not just of removing Cheney and Bush from office but also of bringing them and those around them to justice. As their ought-to-be indicted co-conspirator George Tenet might say, it would be a “slam dunk.” It’s hard to think of an impeachable offense or, for that matter, of an historical crime for which they are not, all of them, prima facie guilty.
But it was only on April 24 of this year that Dennis Kucinich introduced a resolution [U.S. House Resolution 333] to impeach Cheney [first, one hopes]. The House Judiciary Committee, chaired by John Conyers, has yet to schedule a hearing on it; it probably never will. The House leadership, Nancy Pelosi most conspicuously, is dead set against it, claiming that impeachment would be a “distraction.” [When she first said this, there was at least a promise of a legislative program it might distract from; by now, it is clear that there is no program worth talking about and therefore nothing it would distract from.]
But for Cheney’s gross abuses of power, documented in a series of articles published last week by Barton Gellman and Jo Becker in The Washington Post, the issue would be dead in the water. But thanks to Cheney’s latest, almost comical, efforts to keep everything he does secret, it is still alive, though barely. If only Cheney were a little less outrageous, the Pelosiites would easily have their way. [On the concept of “pelosiism,” see “Pelosiism: the Highest Stage of Clintonism,” May 28.] As it is, they may have to work at it. For this most un-twiggy like figure insists on playing the Ann Coulter role, inadvertently aiding his enemies, much like the Federalist Society’s answer to Twiggy recently did by telling a Fox News Network hack that she wouldn’t mind in the least if John Edwards was killed by a terrorist. The difference is that, unlike Elizabeth Edwards, who (literally) called her on it, Nancy Pelosi and the other Democratic leaders have no backbone; they are determined not to fight back. Still, if Cheney succeeds in inviting enough derision, they may have no choice.
HR Resolution 333 now has ten co-sponsors, along with Kucinich. It should not be necessary to praise them for rising to their constitutional responsibilities, especially after delaying so long and with such ill effect. But it is. Let us therefore offer thanks and praise to William Lacy Clay Jr. (Missouri), Jan Schakowsky (Illinois), Albert Wynn (Maryland), Yvette Clarke (New York), Lyn Woolsey (California), Barbara Lee (California), Maxine Waters (California), Keith Ellison (Minnesota), Hank Johnson (Georgia) and Jim McDermott (Washington). It is noteworthy that three of these co-sponsors, Waters, Ellison and Johnson are on the House Judiciary Committee. But where is John Conyers, the committee’s chairman? Where is the vast majority of the so-called Progressive Caucus with its seventy plus not so very progressive members, some of whom also sit on the Judiciary Committee (Mel Watt, Sheila Jackson Lee, Jerrold Nadler, Danny Davis, and Tammy Baldwin)? Evidently, outside the “progressive wing of the Progressive Caucus” (not to mention “the democratic wing of the Democratic Party” of Paul Wellstone’s imagination), pusillanimity and the will to lose still flourish – along with Pelosiism. We can only hope that Cheney will come to the rescue; that unlike so many of the lesser evilists, he’ll at least be good for something.