Holtzman and Sheehan: The Courage to Use the “I” Word

The Courage to Use the “I” Word by Lucinda Marshall

What is the deal with Nancy Pelosi and John Conyers’ impeachment paranoia? We finally get a woman and a black man in positions of power and the first thing they want to do is give Bush a Get Out of Jail Free card? Talk about a cold dash of post-election reality.

Pelosi made it clear right before the election that as far as she was concerned, impeachment was “off the table” and a recent letter from Conyers reiterates that the Democratic leadership has no plans to defend the Constitution. In Conyers’ view, impeachment seems to be some sort of immature act of retribution,

Although we won back control of Congress, none of us should delude ourselves into thinking that running the legislative branch in a nation wracked by years of one party rule will be easy. We need to put aside any thought of anger or payback. Instead we need to focus on identifying and correcting abuses and pass legislation which serves the interests of the American people.

We also need to recapture the White House in 2008 and maintain and expand our majorities in the Congress. In order to achieve these goals we need to be totally united as a Party. It is fine to debate and argue behind closed doors and among ourselves, but at the end of the day, we owe it to the American people to unite and lead.

He goes on:

“As many of you also know, I have agreed with Speaker-to-be Pelosi that impeachment is off the table. Instead, we agree that oversight, accountability and checks and balances…”

In a nutshell, from where Pelosi and Conyers sit, if we want the Dems to win the White House in ’08, we need to be well behaved and not use the “I” word because that might make the Dems look like the bad guys causing them to get their asses kicked right back out the door again.

In an open letter to Pelosi and Conyers however, Cindy Sheehan offers a succinct dissent, explaining why the Dems might want to re-think the official party line on impeachment:

“A sleeping giant has been awakened in this country and we are not falling asleep again just because the Democrats, only with grassroots involvement and commitment, are back in power in Congress.”

Moreover, as former Congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman pointed out in her speech at the Impeach for Change Conference at Constitution Center in Philadelphia on Veteran’s Day, the majority of Americans are open to the idea of impeachment, and perhaps the newly re-empowered Democrats, who regained control at the whim of that very same electorate, should take heed.

Holtzman makes it eloquently clear that the impeachment clause was included in our Constitution because its writers understood that, “subverting the constitution was the greatest danger that could befall our country.” She goes on to say that having checks and balances does not abrogate our responsibility to remove from office someone “who threatens our democracy.” It is, she writes, “a matter of setting the right standards and holding those accountable who lied and deceived the American people and who want to shred the constitution still.”

Is there a basis for impeachment? According to Holtzman who is an attorney, the answer is yes, based on the following grounds:

1. Deceiving Congress and the people in taking the country to war in Iraq.

2. Directing an illegal domestic wiretapping program and other surveillance of Americans.

3. Permitting and condoning the use of torture or cruel treatment of detainees.

4. Showing reckless indifference to human life in the face of Hurricane Katrina, in inadequately equipping U.S. soldiers, and in insufficiently planning for the occupation of Iraq.

5. Covering up his war deceptions with the leak of misleading classified information, an act that became entangled with the outing of a CIA agent, a possible crime.

Not only does the Congress have an obligation to impeach the president, we the American people have the obligation to insist that they do so. In the words of Cindy Sheehan, this is the stand we must take:

“We the people demand that you do your duties as officers and protectors of our Constitution and we demand that you do your duties as members of humanity to call a halt to the crimes against humanity of the Bush regime.”

Politics as usual is coming perilously close to destroying our country. We did not elect the Dems in order for them to continue to irresponsibly lead us down this dangerous path. The time to stand up for impeachment and the preservation of democracy is now.

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