Viewpoint: Impeachment moving toward center stage

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Rhode Island is a small state, but its voice could become very loud. Across the country there is a groundswell of Americans favoring the immediate impeachment of President George W. Bush and his crew.

A recent Zogby poll showed U.S. citizens favor impeachment by 52 to 43 percent. Rhode Island may turn out to be the state that launches a national drive to replace our government. Already, one candidate in the primary race for a Senate seat reports his billboard has drawn very strong reaction. The billboard states: “Be Patriotic Impeach Bush.”

Carl Sheeler, the third Democrat in the primary contest, says the billboard has drawn thousands of e-mails, phone calls, letters and contributions. Sheeler is an ex-Marine who twice has called on the Rhode Island congressional delegation to join with Michigan Congressman John Conyers in the effort to impeach Bush. He wants his state’s federal legislators to support Conyers “not because he’s a Democrat, but because it’s the right thing to do.”

Sheeler also is calling on the Rhode Island General Assembly to launch impeachment proceedings by sending Congress charges in a joint resolution. Sheeler, several times, has accused the president of lying on many issues, including reasons for the war in Iraq.

He urged both federal and state lawmakers to “show the leadership that over two-thirds of our citizens want.” Under U.S. House rules, the Rhode Island assembly could initiate impeachment proceedings by sending charges to Congress.

Sheeler challenged other Democrats in the state to join him in urging congressmen James Langevin and Patrick Kennedy to co-sponsor the bill introduced by Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich. They would be in concert with 24 other House Democrats in sharing sponsorship of House Bill 635, which creates a committee to probe impeachable charges against President Bush.

Sheeler, who served in the first Gulf War, is demanding withdrawal of American troops from Iraq and had called on Democratic leaders to block the nomination of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court because of his support for unlimited imperial powers for the White House.

The quotes Sheeler as saying: “In just the past two weeks, there has been additional testimony concerning the Bush administration’s lying about its knowledge of the levees breaking and mishandling of the Katrina aftermath.

“Republican leadership acknowledges President Bush lied about wiretapping; CIA executives have stated Bush lied about the reasons for declaring war in Iraq. The president lied when he implied he had no association with lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

“Bush lied about being strong on defense … his military spending short-changes combat troops and veterans while enriching cronies and contractors. Bush lied that his tax cuts for the wealthy would not endanger our budget surplus, but now we’re over $8 trillion in debt, costing every taxpayer … and unfairly burdening our children.” Sheeler added: “I am running for the U.S. Senate in the name of truth. Our citizens need a clear and unequivocal voice with the courage and conviction to say: ‘The President lied.’”

The growing clamor for impeachment ratcheted up after the president’s warrentless wiretap program was made public. Those in favor of impeachment said they favor immediate action against Bush “if he wiretapped American citizens without a judge’s approval.” Bush has admitted he did so and said he will continue to do so.

Scripps Howard News Service reported the president approved these warrantless wiretaps in 2002. Two years later, the news service said, in a campaign stop in Buffalo, N.Y., Bush denied doing any such thing.

National news media have largely ignored the calls for impeachment. Such neglect is not a partisan issue. Many Republicans, like Sen. John McCain of Arizona, have been critical of Bush’s wiretapping without court approval as law-breaking.

Conservative legal analyst Bruce Fein, a former member of the Reagan Justice Department, wrote in The Washington Times, that Bush should face “possible impeachment” if the illegal wiretaps are not halted.

This president’s circumvention of Congress and the Constitution and his contempt for the law are driving the mounting public cry for impeachment. More than 50 percent of the American public now opposes the war in Iraq.

Lewis Lapham, editor of Harper’s magazine, has written a searing call for the impeachment of George W. Bush. The conclusion of his article says: “It is the business of Congress to prevent the President from doing more damage than he’s already done to the people, interests, health, well-being, safety, good name, and reputation of the United States—to cauterize the wound and stem the flows of money, stupidity and blood.”

In his book Gag Rule, Lapham asserted that dissent has been all but stifled in this country. “Never before,” he wrote, “have voices of protest been so locked out of the mainstream conversation, so marginalized and muted by a government that recklessly disregards civil liberties, and by an ever more concentrated and profit-driven media in which the safe and the salable sweep all uncomfortable truths from view.”

The editor is not alone in assailing the actions of this administration and calling for the ouster of Bush and Cheney. The American Civil Liberties Union also is calling for impeachment.

Laurence Tribe, professor of constitutional law at Harvard University, said: “If the political alignment in the country were otherwise, impeachment would be a no-brainer.”

The ACLU took its stance after The New York Times revealed last December that the president had authorized warrantless wiretaps of U.S. citizens. The program supposedly is centered on international calls where one party is suspected of terrorist connections.

The program is at the center of a political firestorm that blew up when the wiretaps became public knowledge. There is debate over whether Bush’s actions have violated the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

Bush has asserted he has the inherent power to carry out such a program. Professor Tribe dismisses that idea. He said wiretapping is not an inherent power of the presidency. “That free- flowing inherent power is the very thing we fought a revolution against,” he said.

Last week, a group of 30 protesters gathered in Market Square in Portsmouth, N.H., to push for impeachment and point out that nobody is above the law—not even the president.

The protest was one of 270 national protests to put attention on President Bush’s spying program. It was sponsored by Move On, a political action group. Protest organizer Andrew Wallace declared: “Congress needs to hold the president accountable. This is a direct call to action, not just random criticism.”

From the March 1-7, 2006, issue

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