Sunday, July 27, 2008

Fairly impartial Congressional Quarterly covers Friday's Hearing



Kucinich Again Calls For Impeachment of Bush

By Keith Perine, CQ Staff

Appearing at an acrimonious committee hearing spurred by his efforts to begin a House impeachment inquiry, Ohio Democratic Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich said President Bush should be held accountable for leading the nation into an unwarranted invasion of Iraq.

"The war was totally unnecessary, unprovoked and unjustified," said Kucinich. "The question for Congress is this: What responsibility do the president and members of his administration have for that unnecessary, unprovoked and unjustified war? The rules of the House prevent me or any witness from utilizing familiar terms. But we can put two and two together in our minds. We can draw inferences about culpability."

Committee members were sharply divided along party lines about whether impeachment proceedings should begin against Bush, who has a little less than six months left in office. Several Democrats clearly favored beginning actual impeachment proceedings. Republicans, on the other hand, cast the hearing as a misguided, politically motivated attack on Bush.

Demands for Bush's impeachment and removal from office by administration critics — who accuse the president of flouting the Constitution by taking the country to war in Iraq under false pretenses and conducting warrantless surveillance of U.S. citizens, among other issues — have grown steadily in recent years. But the House will not actually move to impeach Bush. Democratic congressional leaders, fearing a potential voter backlash at the polls, foreswore any impeachment efforts after regaining a House majority in the 2006 elections.

In any event, there is little time left for a full-blown Judiciary Committee impeachment inquiry, let alone action by the full House, or a Senate trial. Then too, it is unclear at best that a majority of the House would vote to impeach the president, and it is virtually certain that there would not be the support of two-thirds of those present and voting in the Senate for conviction.

But those realities did not inhibit impassioned rhetoric on both sides of the issue Friday. Rep. Zoe Lofgren , D-Calif., said, "It is my judgment that President Bush is the worst president that our country has ever suffered."

The House voted 238-180 on July 16 to send the latest in a series of Kucinich impeachment resolutions (H Res 1345) against either Bush or Vice President Dick Cheney to the committee.

Friday's hearing, billed as an examination of "Executive Power and Its Constitutional Limitations," was not explicitly an impeachment hearing, a fact that committee Chairman John Conyers Jr. , D-Mich., took pains to point out. Conyers began the hearing by reminding the committee and the audience of his legislative credentials and the dozens of oversight hearings the committee has held under his stewardship.

"We do not intend to go away until we achieve the accountability that the Congress is entitled to and the American people deserve," Conyers said.

But it is not clear whether Kucinich – who has said he would file articles of impeachment in the House every month until there was an impeachment hearing – will go away either.

Committee Republicans were quick to label the hearing an impeachment proceeding, and to attack Democrats for staging it.

Lamar Smith , R-Texas, the top Republican on the panel, said "Nothing is going to come out of this hearing with regard to impeachment of the president. I know it, the media knows it, even the Speaker knows it." Smith added that the hearing "will only serve to impeach our own credibility."

The line of spectators vying for seats in the hearing room stretched far down the hall outside before the start of the hearing.


Kucinich entered to applause from the crowd outside and in the hearing room. At various points, the crowd outside chanted, "Shame" and "We want in."

Testifying before the committee, Rep. Maurice D. Hinchey , D-N.Y., accused the administration of deliberately allowing Osama bin Laden to escape from the Tora Bora region of Afghanistan in 2001 because "it would have been much more difficult then to attempt to justify an attack" against Iraq by arguing that that country was involved in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Melvin Watt , D-N.C., said he would not lead any effort to impeach Bush because of the likely lack of sufficient support in the House and Senate, and because, Watt said, he is "firmly convinced that it would so distract us. I'm convinced that we couldn't have a fair, bipartisan evaluation of this issue in this environment." But, Watt added, "I want the American people to impeach this president in November 2008."

The audience interrupted the hearing several times with applause or comments. Conyers ordered anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan to leave the hearing after she stood up and said "I urge [the committee] to take action."

Late in the hearing, Dan Lungren , R-Calif., prompted Conyers to order audience members with visible signs to be removed. One spectator, ejected for refusing to take off a button said "it's my First Amendment right and I don't give a damn about your House rules."

He threw his button toward Lungren as he was escorted from the hearing room.

Kucinich declined to say whether or not he'll keep putting resolutions on the floor, but hopes the Judiciary Committee will launch an 11th-hour impeachment inquiry, despite the obvious reluctance of Democratic leadership to do so.

Kucinich said that after "a six-hour hearing on abuse of executive power," the question is "whether the Judiciary Committee wants to take that up."