George McGovern has a word for Vice President Dick Cheney: “Resign.”
Responding to Tuesday’s conviction of Cheney’s former chief-of-staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, on charges of obstruction of justice, perjury and lying to the FBI — after a trial that revealed Cheney’s intimate involvement with a scheme to discredit a critic of the administration’s war policies — the former congressman, senator and presidential candidate said it was time for the vice president to go.
“What we have learned about how he has conducted himself leaves no doubt that he should be out of office,” McGovern says of Cheney. “If he had any respect for the Constitution or the country, he would resign.”
And if Cheney does not take the liberal Democrat’s counsel?
“There is no question in my mind that Cheney has committed impeachable offenses. So has George Bush,” argues McGovern. “Bush is much more impeachable than Richard Nixon was. That’s been clear for some time. There does not seem to be much sentiment for impeachment in Congress now, but around the country people are fed up with this administration.”
At age 84, McGovern has attained the elder statesman status that is afforded politicians who have held or sought the presidency. He enjoys the respect of fellow Democrats and more than a few Republicans for being, like former Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater, a straight-talking man of deep commitment who may have lost one presidential election but won the battle for a place of honor in the nation’s history texts.
McGovern testifies before congressional caucuses about how to end the war in Iraq, delivers distinguished lectures, travels widely to discuss his well-received books, contributes articles to magazines such as The Nation and Harper’s and regularly defends anti-hunger programs with a former Republican colleague in the Senate, Bob Dole.
What distinguishes McGovern from most other political elders, however, is his refusal to mince words about the current occupants of the White House.
“I think this is the most lawless administration we’ve ever had,” he says of the Bush-Cheney team. That’s a strong statement coming from a man who tangled in 1972 with Nixon, and then saw Nixon’s presidency destroyed by the Watergate scandals. But McGovern says there is no comparison.
“I’d far rather have Nixon in the White House than these two fellows that we’ve got now,” said the former three-term senator from South Dakota. “Nixon did some horrible things, which led to the effort to impeach him. But he simply was not as bad as Bush. On just about every level I can think of, Bush’s actions are more impeachable than were those of Nixon.”
Of particular concern to McGovern is the war in Iraq, which he has steadfastly opposed.
“The war was begun in clear violation of the Constitution,” McGovern says. “There was no declaration of war by the Congress. Secondly, it’s a flagrant violation of international law: Iraq was not threatening the United States in any way. Yet, the United States went after Iraq. The president and vice president got away with it, at least initially, because they were willing to exploit the emotional power of the 9/11 attack to achieve their goal of getting us into a war in the Middle East.”