Wall Street Journal Reports on ImpeachPAC
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Today the Wall Street Journal broke the Corporate Media taboo on ImpeachPAC. The article is generally fair, but ignores the main distinction between the impeachments of Clinton and Bush - only a rightwing minority of 26% wanted to impeach Clinton, while a mainstream majority of 52%-53% wants to impeach Bush. And the polls on Bush's impeachment were taken before the Dubai deal and the Katrina tapes, which have pushed Bush's disapproval ratings up to 60%.
Impeachment Proves Risky Political Issue
Some Democratic Activists Push Removing Bush From Office, But Mainstream Steers Clear
By JEANNE CUMMINGS
Wall Street Journal, March 6, 2006
If Democratic candidate Tony Trupiano wins a Michigan House seat this fall, he pledges that one of his first acts will be to introduce articles of impeachment against President Bush.
That has earned Mr. Trupiano the endorsement of ImpeachPAC, a group of Democratic activists seeking to remove Mr. Bush from office. ImpeachPAC's Web site lists 14 candidates offering similar commitments, which are reminiscent of the Republican drive to oust former President Bill Clinton after the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
But Mr. Trupiano's pledge hasn't much impressed Democratic Party leaders, who are keeping their distance from impeachment talk. They remember how the effort boomeranged on Republicans in the 1998 midterm elections, when Mr. Clinton's adversaries expected to gain House seats but lost ground instead.
Newt Gingrich's impeachment of President Clinton boomeranged because only 26% of Americans believed Clinton's offense was serious enough to warrant his removal - a small rightwing minority. By contrast, the two most recent polls by AfterDowningStreet.org found 52%-53% of Americans believe Bush should be impeached - a solid mainstream majority.
"If you are looking for a message to take back the House and the Senate or the White House, there are better ways to go about it," says Democratic communications ace Joe Lockhart, a media aide to Mr. Clinton during the Republican impeachment effort.
Is Lockhart aware of the poll numbers above?
That puts mainstream Democrats, on this issue at least, echoing the Republican National Committee. "Voters elect candidates because they understand the issues rather than engage in leftwing fantasies," says RNC spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt. It also guarantees tension between some of the party's most fervent members and its electoral strategists, who are directing efforts to recapture Capitol Hill.
And who are those strategists exactly? Let's be clear on this: everyone who is paid to be a Democratic strategist is being paid by Democratic donors. And thanks to the McCain-Feingold ban on soft money, Democratic Party funds now come primarily from activists like us. So if these strategists are getting rich on our contributions and then ignoring us - or worse, stabbing us in the back - then the "tension" could get serious in the weeks and months ahead.
Impeachment advocates are undaunted. "Just because you can't win a political battle doesn't mean certain battles shouldn't be fought," says Bob Fertik, a founder of the ImpeachPAC effort. "If we don't hold a president accountable for lying to start a war, we might as well throw out the Constitution of the United States."
Mr. Fertik, 48 years old, founded a group called Democrats.com in 2000 and began organizing protests from his home computer in New York before the first U.S. bombers hit Baghdad.
Fact-check: I co-founded Democrats.com with David Lytel.
Fact-check: I organized the first protest against the invasion of Iraq on 9/12/2002, when George Bush beat the first war-drum at the United Nations. The first U.S. bombers hit Baghdad six months later on 3/19/03.
When the so-called Downing Street Memo emerged in Britain last year, he discerned evidence that the Bush administration had manipulated prewar intelligence.
It didn't take any special gift on my part to "discern" the evidence, since the smoking-gun memos included this famous quote from Sir Richard Dearlove, head of British Intelligence: "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy" of removing Saddam through military action.
An organization he helped found, AfterDowningStreet.org, soon assembled an electronic coalition containing 300,000 email addresses. The group hired independent pollster John Zogby to test support for impeachment in June and found that 42% of likely voters supported that step if it were proved that the president lied about prewar intelligence.
By November, the proportion reached 51% -- prompting an impeachment drumbeat from Mr. Fertik and like-minded activists. He cofounded ImpeachPAC, a political action committee dedicated to recruiting and backing candidates who support an impeachment inquiry.
The $60,000 that ImpeachPAC has raised so far isn't much, but has kept the Internet-based organization afloat. David Swanson, the 36-year-old director, works from his home in Virginia.
The movement can point to some small successes. Radio celebrity Garrison Keillor posted an article for the online magazine Salon calling for Mr. Bush's impeachment. Three California cities -- San Francisco, Santa Cruz and Arcata -- have passed resolutions backing impeachment, and municipalities in North Carolina and Vermont are considering such steps.
The impeachment movement can claim many more successes than these:
- Resolutions by party committees at the national, state, and local levels
- A strong pro-impeachment march in DC on 9/24/05
- Town Hall meetings on impeachment in over 160 locations on 1/7/06
- Hundreds of thousands of signatures on petitions
- In-depth cover stories advocating impeachment in The Nation (by Elizabeth Holtzman) and Harper's Magazine (by Lewis Lapham)
But the Democratic National Committee, chaired by 2004 campaign firebrand Howard Dean has declined to chime in. A House resolution offered by Rep. John Conyers of Michigan seeking an initial impeachment inquiry has attracted support from just 26 of 201 House Democrats. Even Mr. Conyers, the ranking Judiciary Committee Democrat, allows, "This isn't something we have to do right away."
I begged Mr. Conyers to introduce Articles of Impeachment immediately two nights ago, and many of you joined me in that appeal.
Democratic strategists remember the fallout Republicans suffered among swing voters in 1998 amid their bid to oust Mr. Clinton. The National Republican Congressional Committee sank $10 million into a last-minute advertising blitz focused on Mr. Clinton's character, only to lose five seats and see House Speaker Newt Gingrich pressured to resign.
As I wrote above, the numbers tell the story - most Americans did not want to impeach President Clinton, while most Americans do want to impeach George Bush. (This article compares the "likely voter" results from 1998 and 2005, so the numbers are slightly different from the "registered voter" results that we use.)
A Bush impeachment drive could only move forward if Democrats regained control of the House from the president's party.
I disagree. If one or several Democrats introduced Articles of Impeachment, Congress would have to debate them and vote on them. I believe the American people would rally behind those Articles and could possibly put enough pressure on Republicans in swing districts to get a majority in the House.
But even then it would be an uphill fight.
"At most, they could show a mistake in judgment, it seems to me," says the Rev. Robert F. Drinan of the Georgetown University Law Center, a former Democratic House member who backed seeking the impeachment of Richard Nixon in 1974 over Watergate. Michael Gerhardt, an impeachment expert at the University of North Carolina law school, says there could be a "credible basis for an inquiry," but additional facts would have to be established before anyone could "demonstrate an impeachable offense occurred."
This quick analysis of the legal merits is ludicrous for a dozen reasons. Let me cite the main ones:
- Articles of Impeachment could be presented for numerous High Crimes. The most obvious ones are: lying about Iraq to Congress, torturing prisoners, wiretapping Americans, and claiming dictatorial powers.
- One of these counts - illegal wiretapping - is a "slam dunk" because Bush admits he ignored the FISA law. The "defense" offered by Attorney General Gonzales before the Senate Judiciary Committee did not persuade any serious lawyers.
Mr. Trupiano, a 45-year-old radio talk-show host, doesn't need convincing. Members of both parties must "exercise oversight," he says, "and once and for all, let's settle some of these discrepancies" about prewar intelligence.
He is seeking the Detroit-area House seat held by Rep. Thaddeus McCotter, a two-term Republican incumbent who hasn't decided if he will seek re-election. He predicts his impeachment stance will become an issue, since Republicans "are going to try to define me as something of a radical."
"From our side of the fence, people are very supportive of the president," says Mr. McCotter's spokesman Bob Jackson. He adds that Mr. McCotter, who won re-election in 2004 with 57% of the vote, hasn't heard complaints about inadequate congressional oversight of the Bush administration.
I'm sure Bob Jackson is lying. I'm sure McCotter has heard from many Democrats, Independents, and even Republicans who want a thorough investigation of Bush's Iraq War lies and his illegal wiretapping. I'm sure that's one reason why McCotter hasn't decided whether to seek re-election.
Mr. Trupiano acknowledges that the economy is the No. 1 concern of the suburban electorate he is courting. And on the stump, he usually avoids using the word "impeachment," opting instead to call for holding the administration "accountable" for its handling of prewar intelligence and its warrantless wiretaps of some Americans' telephone calls as part of the war against terrorism.
"I'm not afraid of the word," says Mr. Trupiano. "But some people are uncomfortable with it."
That's true - because no prominent Democrat has been willing to go on TV and make the case for impeachment. As soon as that happens, the 52% majority of Americans who support impeachment will pick up their pitchforks and demand Bush's impeachment - immediately!