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Impeaching Cheney: Step One | The Nation

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John Nichols

John Nichols

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Impeaching Cheney: Step One

That Vice President Dick Cheney is the ripest target for impeachment in the Bush White House is beyond debate.

Cheney was far more aggressive that President Bush in peddling manipulated -- or, to use a more precise term, "fantastical" -- intelligence before the US invaded Iraq. And, once the war began, Cheney promoted the illusion that a connection had been found between Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network so recklessly that Bush, himself, was finally forced to correct his errant vice president. That puts Cheney at odds with the checks and balances requirements of the Constitution, and with the oath he swore to obey that document's demands.

Cheney personally coordinated efforts to attack former Ambassador Joe Wilson, and Wilson's wife Valerie Plame, after the veteran diplomat revealed that the administration had cooked up a "case" for attacking Iraq that was in conflict with information that had been made available to the White House. That is an abuse of Cheney position similar to the ones that the House Judiciary Committee cited when voted overwhelmingly for the third article of impeachment against then-President Richard Nixon.

Cheney has been the administration's primary defender of torture, so much so that the consistently cautious Washington Post referred to him in an editorial as the "Vice President for Torture." That creates a conflict not just with the Geneva Conventions but with the 8th amendment to the Constitution's bar on cruel and unusual punishment.

Cheney has for decades argued for an expansion of presidential powers that far exceeds anything intended by the founders of the Republic, and with his calculated moves to disempower Congress, to keep official meetings and documents secret, and to get the president to operate by executive orders and signing statements, he has dramatically and intentionally undermined the rule of law and the Constitution.

The list goes on, but the point is clear: Never in the history of the Republic has a member of the executive branch been so ripe for removal from office as Richard B. Cheney.

And Congress will soon have an opportunity to begin the process of holding the most powerful -- and the most powerfully abusive -- vice president in American history to account.

Congressman Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, plans to introduce articles of impeachment against Cheney.

Kucinich's decision to go after Cheney is not just Constitutionally appropriate, it is politically smart.

Many Americans who are open impeachment -- the total number has surpassed 50 percent according to the October, 2006, Newsweek poll -- shy away from going after President Bush because of their fear that Cheney would then assume the presidency. The fear is foolish, as the Constitution makes clear that both the president and vice president can be the subjects of articles of impeachment at the same time -- as Nixon and Vice President Spiro Agnew were in the 1970s. Unfortunately, consciousness of the Constitution, particularly in matters of impeachment, is scant these days.

So Kucinich has picked the right target, for now.

Americans who understand that the threat of impeachment is the only tool of the Constitution strong enough to bring this administration back in line with the rule of law -- and, in so doing, to make possible the rapid end of the Iraq occupation and other worthy goals -- have their work cut out for them. House Democratic leaders remain resistant to the very mention of the "i" word.

Kucinich's decision to introduce articles of impeachment is an important first step. But to get the hearings and the votes that will be needed, the congressman and presidential candidate from Ohio will need co-sponsors. What Kucinich has done is to give impeachment activists a place to focus their conversations with members of the House, but those conversations still must be held. And their message must be blunt: If you want to fix what's wrong in Washington, you must consponsor the articles of impeachment against Cheney.

There is an accountability moment coming. House and Senate committees are investigating, questioning, subpoenaing and challenging the Bush-Cheney administration. But accountability is about more than assembling a record of wrongdoing. It demands action upon that wrongdoing. And the founders left no doubt that the appropriate action when dealing with the likes of Dick Cheney is an application of the "heroic medicine" of impeachment.

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John Nichols, the best-selling biographer of Vice President Dick Cheney, is the author of a new book: THE GENIUS OF IMPEACHMENT: The Founders' Cure forRoyalism. Rolling Stone's Tim Dickinson hails it as a "nervy, acerbic, passionately argued history-cum-polemic [that] combines a rich examination of the parliamentary roots and past use ofthe 'heroic medicine' that is impeachment with a call for Democraticleaders to 'reclaim and reuse the most vital tool handed to us by thefounders for the defense of our most basic liberties.'"

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