Editor's note: This contribution by the late journalist I.F. Stone first appeared in our January 1975 magazine.
December 27, 2005
What sense does it make that some of the same Washington media and political leaders who countenanced the Clinton impeachment over a semen-stained dress, somberly intoning about the "rule of law," consider impeaching Bush beyond the pale?
No sense at all.
The question about impeaching Bush has nothing to do with legal grounds, and everything to do with politics.
But in the last few weeks, the political climate has been changing, so that more people are seriously considering whether Bush has committed one or more impeachable offenses. The revelations about Bush's spying on Americans through the NSA helped change things a bit.
Representatives Johns Conyers and John Lewis and Senator Barbara Boxer are talking, in public, about impeachment now.
Way at the left end of the dial, there's been chatter about impeachment for a long time--at least since the grounds for war in Iraq began to fall apart. Last May, a group called After Downing Street began working on an impeachment drive.
While no member of Congress took up the call to draft articles of impeachment, the group's efforts launched Cindy Sheehan's crusade against Bush's war.
Now these same activists are organizing a grassroots campaign to support Representative John Conyers's bills to investigate Bush's conduct, with an eye toward impeachment (HR635) and censure Bush and Cheney for blocking Congress's access to information on intelligence manipulation, torture, and other misdeeds (HR636 and HR637).
On January 7, there will be town hall meetings around the country to drum up public awareness and support for Conyers's effort, and to publicize a report by the Democratic staff on the Judiciary Committee entitled "The Constitution in Crisis: Deception, Manipulation, Torture, Retribution, and Cover-Ups in the war in Iraq." You can download the whole thing from the web site CensureBush.org.
As more constitutional scholars, members of Congress, pundits, and American citizens talk about the grounds for impeachment, and examine the record, the drumbeat can only get louder.
The only barrier is a sense of despair.
True, since the Republicans control both houses of Congress, it is unlikely that impeachment articles could garner the votes to pass. But some members of Bush's own party were turning against him as Congress adjourned for the holidays, on issues like McCain's anti-torture bill, the Patriot Act, tax breaks. and budget cuts.
And, of course, groups like Progressive Democrats of America, who are pushing impeachment, hope the Dems can pick up enough seats in 2006 to take back the House.
There is even a PAC, called ImpeachPAC, which has raised $40,000 to support any member of Congress willing to support impeachment. The group points to a Zogby poll that shows 53 percent of Americans support impeachment if it can be proved that Bush lied about Iraq.
At the very least, this Administration's abuse of power--the violations of civil liberties, torture of prisoners, and an arrogant insistence that the executive should be above the law when it comes to spying on Americans or launching a war--is subject to serious and open questioning. And that's a good thing.