“President George W. Bush has failed to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States; he has failed to ensure that senior members of his administration do the same; and he has betrayed the trust of the American people,” Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney explained in remarks prepared to accompany her submission on Friday of articles of impeachment against Bush, Vice President Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
McKinney, in her last legislative act before leaving the House at the end of her current term, represented not merely a final thrust by the Georgia Democrat against the Bush administration that she has so consistently opposed but a challenge to the new House Democratic leadership to pay more than lip service to its Constitutionally-mandated duty to check and balance the executive branch.
“With a heavy heart and in the deepest spirit of patriotism, I exercise my duty and responsibility to speak truthfully about what is before us,” continued McKinney, according to a copy of her remarks distributed by the Atlanta Progressive News network. “To shy away from this responsibility would be easier. But I have not been one to travel the easy road. I believe in this country, and in the power of our democracy. I feel the steely conviction of one who will not let the country I love descend into shame; for the fabric of our democracy is at stake. Some will call this a partisan vendetta, others will say this is an unimportant distraction to the plans of the incoming Congress. But this is not about political gamesmanship. I am not willing to put any political party before my principles. This, instead, is about beginning the long road back to regaining the high standards of truth and democracy upon which our great country was founded.”
There will be many who dismiss McKinney’s filing of articles of impeachment against the president and members of his administration as an act of little consequence. The congresswoman has been a controversial figure during six terms in the House, often placing herself well to the left of her own caucus, particularly on issues of presidential accountability. And her impending departure from the chamber means that her resolution will only be a factor in the next Congress if another member takes it up. With incoming-Speaker Nancy Pelosi telling fellow Democrats that they must keep impeachment “off the table,” that may not happen in the short term.
But McKinney’s move ought not be casually discounted. As a legislative veteran whose service at the state and federal levels goes back almost 20 years, she well understands that the coming investigations of administration wrongdoing could well put impeachment back on the table.
McKinney knows that speaks for a great many House Democrats who, while they may currently be honoring their leadership’s calls for caution on the issue, fully recognize that the president and vice president need to be held to account for their disregard of the rule of law and their Constitutionally-defined responsibilities. Remember that McKinney, who lost a primary runoff earlier this year, was just one of 38 members of the House who cosponsored a resolution submitted last year by Congressman John Conyers, the Michigan Democrat who will take charge of the Judiciary Committee in January, to create “a select committee to investigate the Administration’s intent to go to war before congressional authorization, manipulation of pre-war intelligence, encouraging and countenancing torture, retaliating against critics, and to make recommendations regarding grounds for possible impeachment.”