The I-word, back on the table; Fannie Lou Hamer and the Democrats.



The revelations in Pulitzer Prize-winner

Ron Suskind

‘s book The Way of the World–that President Bush was informed in January 2003 that

Saddam Hussein

had no weapons of mass destruction, that the White House ordered the CIA to produce “evidence” of a nonexistent link between Hussein and Al Qaeda–merely confirm what was assumed for years: the President and Vice President were willing to go to any length to get their war on. But we ought not allow our cynicism about the Administration to obscure the fact that this book outlines “worse than Watergate” charges that demand Congressional action. The

House Judiciary Committee

is scheduled to “review” the allegations; the review can no longer dance around the “I-word.” If former CIA officials allege in taped interviews that a President or Vice President engaged in falsifying the “case” for war, a failure to impeach does not merely let the wrongdoers off the hook; it effectively places the executive beyond the reach of Congressional oversight or constitutional constraint. That, rather than any particular anger at Bush and Cheney, is why impeachment should be on the table.   JOHN NICHOLS


When Democrats convened in Denver 100 years ago, African-Americans urged nominee

William Jennings Bryan

to support a platform opposing lynching. Bryan declined, and the Colorado Statesman opined that it was “useless” to expect the party “to profess a sincere and wholesome regard for the welfare of the Negro citizen.” Another forty years would pass before Democrats finally endorsed a platform that moved the party “into the bright sunshine of human rights.” Even so,

Fannie Lou Hamer

‘s Mississippi Freedom Democrats struggled for seats at the 1964 convention. The Voting Rights Act and civil rights activism brought 337 African-American delegates and alternates to the 1968 convention with a young leader determined to make their voices heard. Congressman

John Conyers

co-chaired the party’s first “black caucus” and took the podium on behalf of

Channing Phillips

, the first African-American placed in nomination for the presidency. “We’re trying to act in a constructive sense to build a party to last, a party that will be relevant to a nation made up of many minorities,” he said. Conyers kept fighting: for serious treatment of

Shirley Chisholm

‘s 1972 run and for the Rev.

Jesse Jackson

‘s 1984 and 1988 campaigns, which he saw as revitalizing a party that had “become stale and lifeless.” He is similarly energized by

Barack Obama

‘s candidacy. “The excitement Obama has generated is tapping into a strong desire for change in America. And that change is happening in the Democratic Party,” argues Conyers, who comes to Denver not just to select the first African-American nominee but to continue forging a party relevant to a nation made up of many minorities. JOHN NICHOLS

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