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Impeachment Talking Points
Impeachment Talking Points - November 12, 2006 – www.afterdowningstreet.org
The evidence of impeachable offenses by Bush and Cheney is already public knowledge. There is no question that impeachment is needed. The question is why it hasn't happened yet. Investigations will reveal more details and move the process forward, but the outcome is clear from the start. In fact, those who oppose impeachment very rarely claim that there is not sufficient evidence. Rather, they base their opposition on political or strategic concerns, getting their priorities out of order. Nothing is more important than restoring the rule of law and a constitutional system of government in which Congress can restrain abuses by the executive. If we do not impeach in this case, we will effectively remove impeachment from the Constitution and establish for future presidents the right to ignore the law.
Ten impeachable offenses committed by Bush and Cheney are:
1. Violating the United Nations Charter by launching an illegal war of aggression against Iraq without cause, using fraud to sell the war to Congress and the public, and misusing government funds to begin bombing without Congressional authorization.
2. Violating U.S. and international law by authorizing the torture of thousands of captives, resulting in dozens of deaths, and keeping prisoners hidden from the International Committee of the Red Cross.
3. Violating the Constitution by arbitrarily detaining Americans, legal residents, and non-Americans, without due process, without charge, and without access to counsel.
4. Violating the Geneva Conventions by targeting civilians, journalists, hospitals, and ambulances, and using illegal weapons, including white phosphorous, depleted uranium, and a new type of napalm.
5. Violating U.S. law and the Constitution through widespread wiretapping of the phone calls and emails of Americans without a warrant.
6. Violating the Constitution by using signing statements to defy hundreds of laws passed by Congress.
7. Violating U.S. and state law by obstructing honest elections in 2000, 2002, 2004, and 2006.
8. Violating U.S. law by using paid propaganda and disinformation, selectively and misleadingly leaking classified information, and exposing the identity of a covert CIA operative working on sensitive WMD proliferation for political retribution.
9. Subverting the Constitution and abusing Presidential power by asserting a "Unitary Executive Theory" giving unlimited powers to the President, by obstructing efforts by Congress and the Courts to review and restrict Presidential actions, and by promoting and signing legislation negating the Bill of Rights and the Writ of Habeas Corpus.
10. Gross negligence in failing to assist New Orleans residents after Hurricane Katrina, in ignoring urgent warnings of an Al Qaeda attack prior to Sept. 11, 2001, and in increasing air pollution causing global warming.
While impeachment is a very serious step that should not have been trivialized the way it was during the last presidential administration, it is also an indispensable part of a system of checks and balances that sustains our democracy. When strong evidence exists of the most serious crimes, we must use impeachment or lose the ability of the legislative branch to compel the executive branch to obey the law. This is not a question of supporting one party over another, but of upholding the rule of law over both of them.
The new Democratic majority in the House is helpful, but haven't Pelosi, Emanuel, and Conyers taken impeachment "off the table"? They have no power to do so. The American people have the power to persuade both the House and the Senate to take up investigations that will lead to impeachment. A majority of Americans support this. We have a duty to make the strength of our support known. See these polls: www.afterdowningstreet.org/polling
But won't that hurt the Democrats politically in 2008? That worry should be lower on our list. What good is getting elected in 2008 if we still have a dictator? What good was getting elected in 2006 if all you do is hide until 2008? But if you must base everything on elections, impeachment is helpful, not harmful. Failing to impeach Reagan for Iran-Contra led to Democratic losses, not gains. Through history, parties that have pushed for impeachment have gained at the polls, not lost.
But don't the Democrats have a duty to work cooperatively with the Republicans, pass legislation, and advance a positive future-looking agenda? Not according to American voters who elected many new Democrats but not a single new Republican, who support investigations and impeachment, and who care about the freedoms found in the Bill of Rights as much as they do about health care, schools, stem cells, or the minimum wage. Passing legislation that will be either vetoed or reversed by signing statements may make good political theater, but will not solve the current crisis.
But won't impeaching Bush give us Cheney? No. Impeachment and removal from office are two steps. Let's not get ahead of ourselves. Investigating Bush or Cheney will incriminate the other. Both will face criminal indictments. Cheney runs things now, and having him as the most unpopular president in history would be a coup for the Democrats. But whoever is president after Bush, whether it's Cheney, another Republican, or Pelosi, he or she will know that the American people can hold them accountable through impeachment. The next election is the time to pick a president. Impeachment and removal from office are only tools for dealing with officials who abuse power, not for selecting their replacements.
But why impeach in the House if removal from office by the Senate requires an unlikely two-thirds vote? The investigations in the House will expose crimes to the light of day and the glow of televisions. Impeachment itself and the trial that follows, even if resulting in acquittal, will provide some measure of accountability. Criminal and civil proceedings will almost certainly follow. If the House votes to impeach, it is very likely that many Republicans will vote with the Democrats. They will understand the 2006 election results as requiring it if they are to keep their seats in 2008. If at least 16 Republican Senators (plus Lieberman and other Democrats in Name Only) see the same writing on the wall, they will either vote to convict or advise Bush to resign before they have to.
How can Bush and Cheney be charged with crimes after being tried in the Senate? Criminal proceedings, domestic or international, are completely separate from the impeachment process, which is political, not legal. The fact that Clinton had violated the law by lying under oath was seen as central to his impeachment only because he was not being charged with anything remotely approaching an impeachable offense. The public came away imagining falsely that illegal activity was required for impeachment. The impeachment proceedings against Nixon focused on impeachable offenses, which included lying to the public (not a crime) but intentionally omitted tax fraud (a crime, but not a serious abuse of presidential power). An impeachable offense is a threat to our system of government, legal or otherwise. Lying to the citizens of a democracy is a threat to that system of government. Legalizing your crimes through legislation like the Military Commissions Act does not make them any less impeachable offenses. Bush has lied to Congress about the reasons for the war in formal written statements (see his letter and report on March 19, 2003) as well as orally. These actions are felonies. Lying under oath is not the only crime on the books. Bush and Cheney have lied to the public on the same topic. That may not be a crime, but it is the highest possible high crime or misdemeanor, the clearest conceivable impeachable offense.
If investigations will get us to impeachment, then why not just push for investigations and keep quiet about impeachment so as not to upset people? Because we will then allow the media and Members of Congress to believe that the public does not want impeachment. For activists to be out ahead of Congress Members actually gives those Members the space they need to have positions that are seen as moderate and respectable. Those on the right understand this and are always glad to have organizations further out to the right than themselves. We on the left can learn this from those on the right who have joined and are joining the impeachment movement. If we back off impeachment, Congress will find a way to avoid it. Our inside-outside strategy is to push Congress Members for investigations while publicly creating an uproar for impeachment.