Congressman DeFazio: Please Impeach Cheney
10 June 2007
Dear Congressman DeFazio,
Thank you for your letter of May 21 st in response to my inquiry re: H.R. 333, Congressman Kucinich’s bill of Articles of Impeachment for V.P. Dick Cheney.
In the past two weeks, we have seen (with the immigration fiasco) how well the Republicans can sabotage efforts at bipartisan progress and make it look like the Democrats’ fault. In my opinion, we can expect nothing but more of the same in the months ahead and it’s very likely that putting off impeachment in order to avoid wasting the available time needed to focus on bipartisan projects will yield little fruit, if any.
I would like you to know that I have been a longtime supporter of yours and will very likely continue in that vein, however I believe that, with regards to the Impeachment issue, you are succumbing to inside-the-beltway Democratic group-think.
I am sorry to note that the Hon. Congressional Reps. Clarke, Lee and Woolsey have joined Kucinich’s ranks ahead of you as the 4 th, 5 th and 6 th co-sponsors of the Impeachment bill, but hasten to add that it is not too late for you to become the 7 th co-sponsor.
I wrote the following piece very shortly after receiving your first response, but wanted to think about it more before sending it to you and others. In the past two weeks, I’ve become, if anything, more emphatic about the necessity of pursuing impeachment at this time in our nation’s history. I hope you’ll read what I’ve written below and reply again, more specifically, to the points I’ve raised.
By the way, I have refused to sign petitions asking for people to give a vote of “no confidence” on Gonzales because that would truly be a symbolic, non-binding waste of time that could be better spent actually impeaching him as well. Indeed, the more that comes out about Gonzales, the more it seems like his impeachment would be a slam-dunk and possibly just the small step Congress needs to take to flex its atrophied impeachment muscles and get in shape for the main event(s) ahead.
I hope that you will reconsider your position in light of recent events and look forward to continuing our dialog on this matter.
Sincerely and with very best regards,
Why Doesn’t DeFazio Want to Impeach?
By Marc Baber
After Congressman Kucinich introduced articles of impeachment for Cheney, I started calling DeFazio’s office to ask, “Why haven’t you co-sponsored H.R. 333 yet?” When Reps. Lacy (MO) and Schakowsky (IL) co-sponsored on May first1, I contacted DeFazio again, saying “It’s too late to be number two or three, but you can still be number four”. When Rep. Russell (MD) co-sponsored on May 10, I left the message s “It’s too late to be number four, but you can still be number five”.
I recently received a response from DeFazio about why he hasn’t co-sponsored impeachment. Here is his response, dated May 21, 2007:
Dear Mr. Baber:
Thanks for your message in support of impeaching the president and vice president. I appreciate hearing from you.
I know we share many of the same concerns about President Bush and others in his administration. I have repeatedly used my voice and my vote to oppose the administration’s misguided policies, and will continue to do so. I voted against the PATRIOT Act. I voted against the war in Iraq. I voted against legislation to establish military commissions to try suspected terrorists because of my concerns about the stripping of habeas corpus, the immunization of administration officials who authorized torture, and the authorization of the president to indefinitely detain even American citizens as “enemy combatants.” And, I voted against legislation authorizing the National Security Agency (NSA) to conduct warrantless wiretaps of American citizens.
Most people who advocate for impeachment do so because of the war in Iraq. However, it is important to keep in mind that a majority of the House and an overwhelming majority in the Senate voted to authorize the war with Iraq. I voted against the war, but it is hard to make the case that a president can be impeached for something Congress authorized him to do. If so, an argument can be made that the 296 members of the House and the 77 members of the Senate who voted in favor of the war should also be removed from office.
While I understand your frustration with the Bush administration, even with the Democratic takeover of both the House and the Senate, there is still no chance that President Bush will be impeached, convicted and removed from office. Conviction and removal requires the vote of 2/3rds of the Senate. Even if all of the Democrats in the Senate voted to convict and remove the president and vice president (an unlikely scenario), that would only be 51 votes, far short of the 67 votes that would be required. Therefore, if the goal of impeachment is to change U.S. policies by removing the current administration from power, that goal will not be achieved with an impeachment strategy.
Rather than an impeachment strategy, we need a strategy to turn the country around, to instill some backbone in Congress so that it exerts itself as a co-equal branch of government, and to investigate the failings and abuses of power of the current administration whether it’s Iraq, warrantless spying on Americans, giving contracts to friends and contributors, or the sanctioning of torture. Given the Democratic takeover, it is certain that Congress will conduct meaningful oversight, hold hearings, and attempt to pass legislation to overturn or revise the Bush administration’s many flawed and failed policies. After all, in the House of Representatives, a majority of Democrats voted against the Iraq war, against the military commissions legislation, and against the NSA warrantless wiretapping program, among other Bush initiatives. If the goal is too [sic] actually change policies and the direction of our country, an oversight and legislative strategy can succeed. An impeachment strategy will fail.
Democrats could put our legislative agenda on hold and pursue an all consuming effort to impeach the president as the Republicans did in the late 1990s. But, I don’t think that makes sense since impeachment and conviction will not succeed and the trade-off would be abandoning a real chance to make a difference in the lives of average working families via a legislative agenda to raise the minimum wage, reduce the price of pharmaceuticals, expand access to health care, reduce the cost of higher education, overhaul failed trade policies and other initiatives.
Thanks again for contacting me. Please keep in touch.
Member of Congress
I would question the assumption that impeachment has no chance of leading to successful removal from office. I admit, it does seem a long shot, but I think Pelosi and the Democratic leadership may be underestimating the ability of rats to leave a sinking ship. There is no way to predict how the vote would go. Republican lock-step unity is already beginning to dissolve. When the breadth and depth of this administration’s illegal activities are exposed on the floors of Congress and on C-SPAN for all America to see, I find it difficult to believe that enough Republicans will still be willing to continue associating themselves with Bush corruption and risk losing re-election to save this administration from impeachment. Republicans were already avoiding having Bush appear with them on the campaign trail in 2004. Why would any politician in their right mind choose to hitch their own fortunes to those of “Mr. 28%” as one DailyKos blogger recently dubbed dubya after a Newsweek poll pegged Bush’s approval rating at that number2.
Congress’s vote for the Iraq War Authorization was based on lies told by the Bush administration and, therefore, Congress isn’t culpable for the resulting war crimes to the same extent that the Bush administration is. In your letter, Mr. DeFazio, you appear not to distinguish between the misled and the misleaders. I don’t have as much insight as you into what Congress was thinking when it passed the Iraq War Authorization. I’d like to believe they wouldn’t pass a bill they knew was based on lies. But if we find out they did, then perhaps the suggestion, that “the 296 members of the House and the 77 members of the Senate who voted in favor of the war should also be removed from office”, is worthy of further consideration (by the voters at least).
This country will not be turned around until Bush and Cheney are out of office. Every day we delay regime change brings another three or four deaths of U.S. troops plus about 500 Iraqis. It seems to me impeachment would be a great exercise of spine. It seems to me impeachment would give oversight and investigation a needed boost of urgency.
A stained blue dress is not on the same thing as an illegal war of aggression based on lies which has lead to the deaths of 3,400 U.S. troops and nearly one million Iraqis, two million displaced refugees, 15,000 U.S. casualties and radioactive contamination of the “cradle of civilization” from our use of depleted uranium (DU) munitions. The American people know the difference between all this and a stained blue dress. Impeachment for a stained blue dress is clearly just “playing politics” whereas impeachment for war crimes is a moral imperative. If this administration’s crimes don’t rise to the level of “treason… high crimes and misdemeanors” then I’d like to know what crimes ever would?
If impeachment does come to a vote, and it passes the House, then all the work would be up to the Senate. The House could go about its business advancing corrective legislation and iron out the wrinkles in the bills before they go to the Senate. The Senate could work a little overtime—pull some swing shift duty and cancel a few fund-raising dinners. It’ll be good for them. I see no reason we shouldn’t be able to both Impeach and make other legislative progress at the same time.
I don’t think we’re advocating impeachment primarily in the hopes of successful convictions anyway. Impeachment is a powerful card to hold in one’s hand even if it is never played. If enough members of Congress co-sponsor H.R. 333, Nancy Pelosi may or may not choose to bring it forward to a vote. But having the card in her hand may make a big difference in future negotiations with the White House.
We want Pelosi to be able to look Bush in the eye over lunch and say, “If you want to veto our Iraq withdrawal timetables again, fine, but I’ve done everything I can to resist impeachment proceedings so far. With another veto, you understand, it will be out of my hands.”
We want Bush to be afraid to attack Iran.
We want the Generals at the Pentagon to know that if they found it necessary to disobey direct orders to start another illegal war, they would not stand alone.
Mr. DeFazio, we want to know “Which side are you on, (boy), which side are you on?” We’re tired of being sold out by DINOs (Democrats In Name Only). We want to know who we can count on. We want to know who really has some spine and who doesn’t. So far, it looks like four (six now) in Congress have passed the test. But, Mr. DeFazio, you can still be number five (seven now).
It need take no more than a half hour to become a co-sponsor. It may never come to a vote; a vote might not pass the House; the Senate might not convict—but at least you’ll have taken the right stand in supporting our nation of laws by showing your own integrity in plainly stating that you believe no one is above the law. Because, when as many different laws are broken as this administration has broken, impeachment is no longer just another procedural option. It becomes the duty of all who would be considered defenders of the Constitution.
- Congressional legislation tracking: thomas.loc.gov
- Newsweek presidential approval rating poll (28%) www.msnbc.msn.com/id/18505030/site/newsweek
Other Impeachment-related links:
High Crimes and Misdemeanors Propel Double Impeachment by Edward Spannaus and Jeffrey Steinberg