Editor's note: This contribution by the late journalist I.F. Stone first appeared in our January 1975 magazine.
When the history of the Bush Administration is finally written, the date of August 6, 2007, should stand out.
That was the day that a pair of identical resolutions were introduced in the Senate and in the House to censure George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Alberto Gonzales for a catalogue of sins, which could easily be turned into an impeachment bill of particulars.
One resolution deals with the Iraq War, the other with various assaults on the Constitution.
Together, the charges include:
Misleading the nation into the Iraq War.
Authorizing the NSA to illegally spy on Americans.
Allowing the torture of detainees, and denying them due process rights.
Misleading Congress and the American people about the firings of the U.S. attorneys, and obstructing investigations into this scandal.
And undermining acts of Congress by flagrant use of signing statements.
Senator Russ Feingold introduced the two measures in the Senate.
“Congress cannot stay silent when the American people are demanding that this Administration be held accountable for its blatant misconduct regarding Iraq and its attack on the rule of law,” Feingold said.
Representative Maurice Hinchey introduced the two censure motions in the House.
“The White House has continuously misled and deceived the American people while disregarding the rule of law that guides our democracy,” Hinchey said. Censure is necessary, he added, “to let the historical record show that an equal branch of government found the actions of this Administration undeniably reprehensible.”
Hinchey got 19 co-sponsors:
Representatives Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Michael Capuano (D-MA), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Danny Davis (D-IL), Sam Farr (D-CA), Bob Filner (D-CA), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), John Hall (D-NY), Michael Honda (D-CA), Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), James Moran (D-VA), Ed Pastor (D-AZ), Steve Rothman (D-NJ), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Carol Shea Porter (D-NH), and Diane Watson (D-CA).
But Feingold got only one-and-a-half sponsors. Tom Harkin signed on to both the resolution on Iraq and the one dealing with constitutional violations. Barbara Boxer signed the Iraq motion only.
Where are the other Democratic Senators?
Where is Biden?
Where is Byrd?
Where is Clinton?
Where is Dodd?
Where is Kennedy?
Where is Leahy?
Where is Obama?
Where is Reid?
Let’s face it: Censure is just a public spanking. It carries no penalty. Certainly not removal from office, which is what a conviction for impeachment—which is what Bush, Cheney, and Gonzales deserve—would require.
We’ve been hearing all these noises coming from the Democratic leadership that impeachment would be a distraction and would tie up the business of the Congress. I don’t buy that. What is more important than standing up for democracy? But censure wouldn’t tie up Congress. And still the Democratic honchos are sitting this one out. So what’s their excuse?
It can’t be that they don’t believe in censure. After all, 29 Democratic Senators were on record in favor of censuring the President—when his name was Bill Clinton.
Dianne Feinstein introduced the bill to censure Clinton back in 1999. I don’t see her signing on to Feingold’s bill, even though the Clinton’s besmirching of his office does not compare to the grievous soiling of the Constitution that Bush, Cheney, and Gonzales have been engaged in.
Here are the names of some of the Democratic co-sponsors of Feinstein’s bill who are still in the Senate:
And yes, Harry Reid.
Where are they now?
They’re nowhere to be seen.
One footnote on the Clinton censure: even 9 Republicans were in favor, including Pete Domenici, Mitch McConnell, and Olympia Snowe.
So don’t let any of them—Democrat or Republican—say that censure is somehow unthinkable or unconstitutional.
Back in 1999, they not only thought about it; they did it.
But now, in 2007, when Bush, Cheney, and Gonzales are assaulting our very democracy, all of these Senators have gone into hiding.
They are letting Bush, Cheney, and Gonzales carry on, with impunity, like some Argentine junta.
And they are setting a terrible precedent for future reprehensible lawlessness at the highest end of the executive branch.