In last week's San Francisco Bay Guardian, the Bay Area's venerable, rabblerousing alternative weekly, Steven T. Jones reported that "in the wake of the revelation that federal officials have been illegally eavesdropping on American citizens without required warrants-which President George W. Bush not only admitted approving, but promised to continue under his expansive view of executive power-has propelled talk of impeachment into the political mainstream."
Jones argues that although politicians and the media have yet to catch a ride on the impeachment bandwagon, a groundswell of support for impeachment proceedings to begin against Bush is growing in towns and villages across America. He cites a Zogby poll, conducted three weeks ago, that showed that 52 percent of Americans agreed in response to this question: "If President Bush wiretapped American citizens without the approval of a judge, do you agree or disagree that Congress should consider holding him accountable through impeachment." Forty-three percent of respondents disagreed.
An opinion poll is a far cry from average Americans taking to the streets in great numbers. We believe impeachment is a word still uttered only in small crowds of Democratic activists, but that's a minor point. Jones, in fact, makes a larger point that we agree with wholeheartedly: Impeachment is a process, not a decision. "Opening up an impeachment inquiry doesn't mean the president is about to be evicted from the White House-it just means a congressional committee with the power to demand documents and compel witnesses has taken up the case," Jones writes.
There's plenty of evidence that such an inquiry is warranted-in two areas: the covert eavesdropping and Bush's stated case for invading Iraq. And they're inextricably linked. Bush and his consigliere, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, are arguing that the congressional go-ahead to wage war on America's enemies in the wake of Sept. 11 allows the president to break the law that forbids domestic wiretapping without judicial oversight.
Bush has repeatedly linked the invasion of Iraq to his nebulous "war on terror" despite a total lack of evidence that Iraq has had anything to do with terrorist acts against the United States. He also famously relied on erroneous evidence that Iraq had stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction and filled the heads of Americans with notions of mushroom clouds. Once it was learned that there were no such weapons in Iraq, he and his supporters blamed the debacle on bad international intelligence. But the so-called "Downing Street memo," a very high-level, secret British government document, indicated that the Bush administration's policy was to "fix" intelligence around the plan for invading Iraq.
It's possible that the president misled Congress, and that's an impeachable offense. The Republican-held Congress has quashed attempts to investigate the administration's role in influencing weapons intelligence. Why? Who are they trying to protect?
Again, Bush thinks he has legal cover in the wiretapping scandal. But there's plenty of debate about that, and we hope the ACLU is successful in bringing its case against Bush before a judge. People of all political stripes-conservative libertarians, moderates and liberals alike-have criticized the invasion of privacy. A judicial rebuke of the president would likely galvanize the American public, a large segment of which seems to be OK with sacrificing civil liberties if it helps catch people who aim to kill us, against the practice of eavesdropping. In our opinion, many people fail to understand the grave threat to democracy embedded in the president's move to undermine the judicial process and this country's system of checks and balances.
But secrecy, dirty tricks and the undercutting of democratic institutions are hallmarks of the current presidency-from Dick Cheney's clandestine meetings with oil interests and Scooter Libby obstructing justice to barring detainees from obtaining legal counsel and subjecting them to torture. Now, the president's drawing heat for possibly lying to the public and the press about his relationship with indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
It seems there's no end. And that's why we're calling for impeachment proceedings to begin. Because unlike the case of President Bill Clinton, who was impeached for lying about an Oval Office blowjob, Bush's possible illegal behavior is ongoing. "What is being alleged against the Bush administration," Jones writes, "are misdeeds that have resulted in tens of thousands of deaths, the torture of people in U.S. custody, blatant and unapologetic violations of the Fourth Amendment and the shredding of American credibility around the world-all of which are ongoing, claiming new victims every day."
To read Jones' story, "The Case for Impeachment," please visit www.sfbg.com and search for "impeachment."