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Why Removing Bush and Cheney Matters

Many people know that Bush and Cheney engaged in a systematic media campaign to deceive the American people and Congress about the reasons to launch a preemptive war on Iraq. Many others recognize that the President has violated numerous laws by spying on citizens without a warrant, dismissing their rights accorded to them by the Bill of Rights, and promoting torture. Some are also concerned about the President's abuse of power by using unconstitutional "signing statements," in which he signs a bill into law but then states he does not have to obey it. These are impeachable offenses.
It is, therefore, curious that although few argue that Bush is innocent, many are willing to give him and his team the equivalent of a "get out of jail" card. They offer a number of arguments opposing impeachment.

1. The President is fighting a "war on terror" and therefore has the authority to do whatever he feels is necessary as commander in chief. However, nothing in the Constitution supports this view. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor, in ruling against the President's illegal spying on citizens, reaffirmed the limits of Presidential power, declaring, "There are no hereditary kings in America and no powers not created by the Constitution. So all 'inherent powers' must derive from that Constitution." US Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, a Reagan appointee, also dismissed this argument, succinctly stating, "A state of war is not a blank check for the President when it comes to the rights of the nation's citizens."

2. These illegal actions are a matter for the courts. While it is true that some individuals whose rights have been violated have turned to the courts for redress, the courts have no jurisdiction over a President who breaks the law because the Constitution gives Presidents immunity. The impeachment process is the only remedy available to the people to deal with a President who breaks the law.

3. Cheney will be in charge if Bush is removed. Cheney, as Bush's current handler, would actually have no more power. However, Cheney, like Bush, should be removed from office for using fraudulent information to scare the public into supporting a pre-emptive strike on Iraq. The U.N., the CIA and British Intelligence told Bush/Cheney that there were no weapons of mass destruction or any nuclear capability in Iraq, but they took to the airwaves anyway with soundbites like, "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."

4. The invasion of Iraq is insufficient grounds for impeachment because Congress gave the President authority to wage war. Congress has not declared war since 1941. However, even if it had, it would have still been a violation of the U.N. Charter, which we approved as the supreme law of our country. We agreed not to use war to settle disputes unless there was an imminent threat requiring self-defense. There was no threat. The argument quickly changes at this point to say that other Presidents have waged illegal war. "Why should Bush be punished," ask Bush's defenders, "when other Presidents have gotten away with it?" That is like saying no one who commits murder should be punished because some people have gotten away with it.

5. Impeachment is a futile effort. It will take a two-thirds vote in the Senate, they point out, but the Democrats hold only a slim majority. While blind loyalty has marked the Republicans for most of the Bush presidency, times have changed. The arrogance of Bush/Cheney has alienated many Senators. Senator Chuck Hagel (R -- NE) has recently criticized the President for riding roughshod over the Senate, stating, "This is not a monarchy." The public's low opinion of Bush/Cheney along with the 2006 election results gives Republicans permission to remove Bush/Cheney.

6. Impeachment will be seen as partisan. The Democrats are afraid they will be seen as seeking partisan revenge. I see it differently. Everyone in Congress takes an oath to protect and defend the Constitution so this is not a partisan issue. The Democrats need more faith in the people. We do understand that impeachment is about preserving and protecting the Constitution. We expect the Democrats, and all of Congress, to honor their oath of office. Being more concerned about "how it will look for the Democrats in the next election," than about honoring their oath of office is truly partisanship run amok.

7. Impeachment will distract from the Democrats' agenda. Twenty Representatives (ten Democrats and ten Republicans) conduct the initial impeachment investigation. Given that there are 435 people in the House of Representatives, it is difficult to see why Congress would be unable to conduct business as usual. If the Committee does find substantial evidence of crimes, the full House would become involved. They will hear the results of that investigation and decide whether to pass articles of impeachment, which are like an indictment. If they pass articles of impeachment, the Senate will serve as the jury in the equivalent of a trial. If Bush and Cheney do not step down at this point, the House will present the case, Bush/Cheney will have legal representation, and the Chief Supreme Court Justice will preside. The process, however, will be swift. Representative John Conyers has already conducted hearings and issued a report in August 2006 with evidence needed for removal.

8. It will be a replay of the Clinton Impeachment. Unlike the Clinton impeachment process, the Bush/Cheney trial will not require millions of taxpayer dollars and many months of investigation. It will be swift because the evidence is overwhelming and undisputed. Experts Elizabeth de la Vega, David Lindorff, and Ray McGovern will make a case for impeachment at the town hall meeting in Olympia on February 20th (see side bar) by presenting the facts that are already known.

9. Removing Bush/Cheney will be bad for the country. The Orwellian spin machine has already started to reframe the Nixon impeachment as harmful to the country. However, impeachment does not harm us. Removing Bush/Cheney will restore the Constitution, including the Bill of Rights, as the bedrock of our democracy and will heal the grievous harm done over the past six years. It will also restore our faith that a government by the people can peacefully remove a President and Vice President who have broken laws and moved our country dangerously close to a dictatorship. It will also send a signal to the world that democracy still exists here and that the actions of Bush/Cheney do not represent Americans.

10. This is a lame duck administration, so why create all the turmoil of an impeachment? (House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, among others, has made this argument). But unless Congress removes Bush and Cheney, every future President can claim that he/she has the right to lie to get us into war, spy on us for any reason without a warrant, arrest us for any reason and deny us due process, torture us, and refuse to follow any law passed by Congress. That is the precedent established by this administration. Impeachment and removal of Bush/Cheney is the only way to send the message to future Presidents that they will never get away with violating our rights. Impeachment is never off the table when a President is dismantling the Constitution and the rights of the citizens are in peril.

Gail Johnson is a member of Citizen's Movement to Impeach Bush/Cheney.

Article in february's Works in Progress