From other people on the anti-Bushite blogosphere, hearing the idea that it’s time to impeach Bush and Cheney would hardly be noteworthy. A great many commentators have been saying that for some time.
I think they’ve been mistaken– till now.
While I’ve agreed that Bush and Cheney deserve impeachment –have said, indeed, that no one in American history has deserved it more– I’ve never considered that to be a sufficient basis for making such a judgment about what should be done. My approach has always been more strategic than that. I’m concerned not only with the rightness of an action, but with its impact. And a premature effort to move toward impeachment, I thought, might actually have strengthened the Bushites by weaking their opponents.
When many were condemning Nancy Pelosi for declaring impeachment to be “off the table,” I did not join in the criticism. I thought it a politically prudent statement to make, given the apparent skittishness of the American electorate at that time about impeachment and, more generally, about so-called “partisanship.” For that time, it was probably reassuring to many in the public and it in no way impaired the ability to put impeachment back onto the table when circumstances changed.
Well, now they’ve changed. And now it is time to begin the drumbeat and the march toward impeachment. (Pelosi’s situation does remain delicate, however: if Bush and Cheney are both impeached, guess who is next in the line of succession.)
There have been three important changes since last November’s election.
First, in the first half year of this Congress, after years of virtually no congressional oversight, the investigative hearings conducted by the Democratic Congress have brought a whole stream of administration wrong-doing to the attention of the American people.
Second, and likely at least partially as a result of the first, the proportion of the American public now favoring movement toward impeachment has reached a stunning level. Almost half of the public (46%) favors the impeachment of the president, and more than half (54%) favors the impeachment of the vice president.
These are already numbers that greatly limit the political risk to the Democrats in pressing forward with impeachment. And it can be assumed that the actual impeachment process –if it is conducted with reasonable political and prosecutorial skill- would raise those numbers considerably.
It looks as though about 30% of the public will support Bush regardless of any facts presented about any high crimes he has committed, but there remains an additional quarter of the public whose support might still be won over to supporting impeachment.
Then there’s the third important change –and in some respects it might be the most important one. And that is that the Bushites –by their arrogance, their stonewalling, their imperial usurpations– have quite blatantly and publicly blocked every other recourse.
Just in the past months:
**Their indefensible assertions of “executive privilege” are thwarting the other, lesser forms of congressional investigation into the wrongdoings of the Bush presidency. Battling these issues out in the courts would drag on for so long as to give this lawless regime a victory by default.
**Meanwhile the vice president’s machinations have compounded the message of contempt for the public’s right to oversee what is being done by their elected leaders with the power entrusted to them.
**The president’s commutation of Scooter Libby’s sentence has made a mockery of the ability of the justice system to deal with criminal activity on the part of this cabal and, moreover, has blocked the ability of prosecutors to get to the root of the crimes committed.
With all these maneuvers, the Bush administration has laid down the gauntlet. It has precipitated the ultimate in constitutional crises: will America be ruled by an all-powerful president, accountable neither to Congress nor to the courts nor to the American public?
The answer to that question must be “No!” For the sake of future generations, American cannot afford to allow this profound constitutional challenge to go unmet.
Andit is the Bushite regime, by blocking every other recourse –for oversight, for accountability, for checks and balances– that has made impeachment the sole remaining way to defend the integrity of America’s constitutional system and the rule of law.
So, the impeachment solution is now necessary. The polls show that, while inevitably risk, that course of action should be politically viable. And so it is now up to the American body politic –the public, the Congress, the media– to summon up the will.
AT LAST, IT’S CRYSTAL CLEAR WHAT OUR MOVEMENT MUST DO
Now that the Bushites have made it clear that the only way to defend the Constitution and the rule of law is to impeach them , one other thing has become clearer than it has ever been before: what the anti-Bushite movement must do.
It is time to organize to apply maximum pressure on Congress to move it to impeach the leaders of this lawless administration.
From one angle, it’s unfortunate that Congress must be pressured to do this. One would wish that they would fulfill their oath to defend the Constitution on their own.
But from another angle, this is the best way for the impeachment process to unfold. A mass movement by which the people demand that Congress impeach these lawless rulers not only pushes the Democratic majority in Congress, it also provides them political safety.
The Democrats have been inhibited by the fear that any move to impeach these would-be tyrants would be interpreted –by the media and the public– as mere partisan politics– just a move to wrest power from their opponents.
But if enough people demand that Congress defend the Constitution by impeaching this lawless leadership, it will be clear that this is not a matter of power but a matter of answering the people’s impassioned call to fulfill their oath of office. What could be more defensible than that?
What protects the proponents of impeachment also undercuts those who would defend this lawless regime. In America, the will of the people is difficult to argue with. This is our country, and whereas the American people may not be qualified to make strategic policy we are fully entitled to demand that our birthright of a constitutional democracy be protected. “You took an oath, now fulfill it. Impeach those who are stealing OUR country!”
Already, according to the polls, about half the American people favor the impeachment of Bush and of Cheney. Such public sentiment is unprecedented in American history, and such numbers demonstrate the potential for an unprecedentedly massive social movement. If we can combine a clear and powerful message with putting our movement in our millions into the streets, the force on Congress would be irresistible.
That’s our job now: to organize to accomplish it.
HOW TO ORGANIZE
I do not claim to know how this movement should organize itself, but I do have some thoughts.
One thought is that this movement should develop itself into a coherent force as quickly as possible. The Bushites have thrown down the gauntlet, and it is good to rise while its latest usurpations –trying to render Congress irrelevant with its claims of executive privilege, trying to render the judiciary irrelevant with the commutation of Scooter Libby’s verdict, etc.– are still fresh in people’s minds. Also, of course, there remain only a year and a half in the administration’s term, time enough for them to continue to wreak havoc but not so much that we can dawdle on the process of reining in the lawlessness.
Another is that it should organize itself in a manner that optimizes the benefits of having both good top-down leadership and effective bottom-up grassroots participation.
Toward that end, I propose moving simultaneously toward three preliminary goals:
1) A leadership group should be formed. I propose that the people comprising this leadership group should meet the following main criteria: a) They should be effective and credible spokesmen for the idea that this impeachment is a vital necessity for the nation; b) They should have the knowledge of the American system, and the connections, to be effective in making that system work for the movement; c) They should be regarded as people of integrity by the American people; d) They should make it easier, or at least not harder, for Americans who are politically moderate or conservative to join and support the movement.
Among the people I propose for possible membership in this leadership group are these: Bill Moyers, Bruce Fein, Walter Cronkite, and Jimmy Carter. I also propose that these legally trained people who have been doing excellent work on these matters be included –either as members of the leadership group or in some other capacity: John Dean, Elizabeth de la Vega, and Glenn Greenwald.
2) The diverse organizations and individuals who have already been working for such purposes should be brought together behind this collective, coherent effort. We are not nearly so likely to win this battle as an uncoordinated collection of many diverse squads doing our own thing on the political landscape as with one cohesive movement with well-chosen spokespeople.
3) At the same time that this leadership group is being formed, and as the far-flung participants in the anti-Bushite movement are being brought together, I propose that a website be established –or, if a suitable one already exists, adopted– to provide a platform for this movement to assemble itself and to conduct its business.
On this website, the movement could post its major statements –e.g. pieces from the leadership and others, messages to Congress, a draft bill of impeachment, etc.– and it could also create discussion forums, conduct votes, plan events, and so forth.
In addition to having such capabilities, the website should be under auspices dedicated to the impeachment, and not otherwise associated with any other political causes. In order to be hospitable to Americans across the political spectrum, it should not bear the kind of partisan or ideological trappings that would repel people who agree about impeachment but disagree on other matters.
These several levels of the movement –the leadership group, the various already existing organizations and prominent voices, and the grassroots– should work together swiftly to create a good interface among them. The purpose of that interface would be both to allow the leadership to lead and coordinate and to allow the grassroots to have an effective voice to influence the leadership.
Other goals that I propose be pursued as soon as the leadership and the website are inaugurated:
1) Creating grassroots outreach programs –via email, door-to-door, etc.– to enlist as many Americans as possible to participate in the effort to demonstrate that impeachment is the will of the people. That half the people already favor impeachment suggests the possibility of creating a movement like nothing seen in America before.
2) Planning a day of massive demonstrations, to show how widespread is the popular demand for impeachment. Perhaps the main one of which should fill the Mall in Washington, D.C. with a magnitude and a passion comparable to the “I have a dream” demonstration of 1963. Getting our movement in its millions out into the streets should be accomplished as soon as is feasible.
By such means, the movement should be able to compel the kind of headlines that will convince Congress both that it is politically safe to impeach the Bushites AND that it is politically unsafe NOT to do so.
WHY THIS MISSION IS THE RIGHT ONE
Pressing Congress toward impeachment is the right mission for our movement not only because it is timely but also for these other reasons:
1) This is the most fundamental. There’s a reason that the defense of the Constitution is what our office-holders are required to take an oath to do. Maintaining our democracy is more urgent and basic than any of the other particular issues raised by this destructive regime, including even the war.
2) This is key. Holding these law-breakers accountable for their high crimes is also the best next step for addressing all the other issues of major concern, including the war.
3) This is simple. “Impeach them now! Defend the Constitution” is a straight-foward stance — free of great policy complications that require examining a wide range of positions– and is therefore ideally suited to the strengths of a social movement.
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Dr. Andrew Bard Schmookler is a prize-winning author, radio commentator and public policy analyst. He is the creator and author of the website None So Blind, which is devoted to understanding the roots of America's present moral crisis and the means by this present challenge can be met. He can be reached
at email@example.com. Schmookler does regular talk radio shows -in both red
and blue states -- discussing the questions of meaning and value that we face in our lives.
Schmookler's commentaries on social and political issues appear regularly in The Christian Science Monitor, the Baltimore Sun, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Albuquerque Tribune.
Dr. Schmookler served during the 1990s as a member of the "Global Problems
and Opportunities Group" at the Center for Strategic and International
Studies in Washington, D.C., helping to prepare for the Congress and the
President an assessment of international issues and contingencies for which
American policy-makers should prepare.
In 1984, Dr. Schmookler was awarded the Erik H. Erikson Prize by the
International Society for Political Psychology. And in 1985, he was
selected by Esquire Magazine as "one of the men and women under forty who
are changing the nation."
Among Schmookler's books are several bearing on the problem of war and
peace, including the prize-winning book “The Parable of the Tribes: The
Problem of Power in Social Evolution”, “Out of Weakness: Healing the Wounds that Drive Us to War”, and “Sowings and Reapings: The Cycling
of Good and Evil in the Human System”.
He has written two books on the problematic relationship between economic forces and human needs: “The Illusion of Choice: How the Market Economy Shapes Our Destiny” and “Fool's Gold: The Fate of Values in a World of Goods”.
Dr. Schmookler's most recent book is “Debating the Good Society: A Quest to Bridge America's Moral Divide”, which explores some of the basic issues that underly this country's current polarization.