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When the people lead 

How many North Coast Journal readers received an e-mail link to the transcript of the July 13 edition of Bill Moyers Journal, a weekly PBS show that appears on KEET? I received several, from different directions, so I thought I’d better read it. The topic was impeachment.

When Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi took oath of office, she said impeachment was “off the table.” At the time, I was greatly relieved. I liked her roll-up-our-sleeves attitude: Let’s work on things we can change that need changing. Besides, let’s be honest, my fellow Humboldt County Democrats: Ignoring impeachment makes us look good, like nice guys taking the high road by not going after Bush for partisan reasons. Besides, he is continuing to self-destruct all on his own. In addition, we have not one, but several good candidates to replace him in 2008, and the Republicans seem to have none. Barring another 9/11, it should be a romp, no?

Moyers’ July 13 show changed my mind regarding impeachment. His guests were Bruce Fein, a constitutional scholar associated with conservative think tanks who wrote the article of impeachment (for perjury) against Bill Clinton, and John Nichols, author of The Genius of Impeachment: The Founders’ Cure for Royalism. Fair warning: This show transcript is long and contains boring stuff like discussions of the intent of Federalist Papers and the Constitutional Convention ... you know, checks and balances, stuff you slept through in 9th grade. Nichols tells us to pay particular attention to the words of James Madison and George Mason, who anticipated that we “would need the power to impeach particularly as regards to pardons and commutations, because a president might try to take the burden of the law off members of his administration to prevent them from cooperating with Congress in order to expose wrongdoings by the president himself.” (Scooter Libby, Harriet Myers.)

The calls for impeachment are not just coming from a fringe element, like some Journal readers. Moyers reports that, according to the American Research Group, 45 percent of the American people now favor impeachment hearings for President Bush and 54 percent favor hearings for Vice President Dick Cheney. Fein and Nichols both argue that Congress, traumatized by 9/11, failed and continues to fail to do its job: to counterbalance Bush’s executive power grab. Suspension of habeas corpus, flouting the Foreign Intelligence Act, use of extraordinary renditions, tacit approval of torture, spying on citizens — these are all serious attacks on the Constitution and our system of law. Bush’s basic message to Congress in that foreign policy is the purview of the executive branch. So keep out.

Nichols calls Congress spineless and complicit, saying if nothing else they continue to fund this war. But he rips the media as well: “The founders anticipated that presidents would overreach. And they anticipated that at times politics would cause Congress to be a weaker player, or a dysfunctional player. But they always assumed that the press would alert the people. ... Our media, in the last few years, has done an absolutely miserable job of highlighting the Constitutional issues that are in play. You know, you can’t have torture and extraordinary rendition. You cannot have spying. You cannot have ... lying to Congress. You cannot have what happened to Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame.”

Fein (conservative think tanks, remember?) says, “Politics has become debased so that it’s a matter of one party against another, and jockeying and maneuvering. There is no longer any statesmanship.”

Nichols and Fein argue that it’s not enough to just wait until 2008 to get the country back on course because these new, vastly expanded presidential powers Bush has seized, these illegalities, will be in “the toolbox” for whoever gets elected, Republican or Democrat. They fervently hope a statesman will emerge who will say, “I cherish my country more than my party and more than the next election,” and that person would have to be a Democrat in the House, capable of speaking truth to power — specifically, to Nancy Pelosi.

Dear Rep. Mike Thompson:

In case you missed it, as I did, the link to
Bill Moyers Journal is: pbs.org/moyers/journal, and the date of the show is July 13, 2007.

In it, Bruce Fein says, “We cannot entrust the reins of power, unchecked power, with these people. They’re untrustworthy. They’re asserting theories of government that are monarchical. We don’t want them to exercise it. We don’t want Hilary Clinton or Rudy Giulani or anyone in the future to exercise that.”

Mike, is it possible that you could be the one to speak to the speaker? John Nichols suggests these words: “You know, Nancy, I respect you. I respect you greatly, Mrs. Speaker. But the country is more important. So you can ... you can get mad at me. You can, you know, push back internally and whatever. But I’m going to the American people and I’m going to talk to them like Bruce Fein just did.”

Sincerely, Judy Hodgson


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Judy Hodgson

Bio:
Judy Hodgson is the publisher of the North Coast Journal.

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