Congressman Maurice Hinchey had the crowd of more than 900–packed into New York’s Ethical Culture Society’s sweltering auditorium this beautiful summer Saturday–on its feet.

Hinchey was the second of three speakers at a Town Hall event this afternoon co-sponsored by The Nation and (He joined former Congresswoman Liz Holtzman–who was brilliant in laying out the legal process available to hold administration officials responsible for torture at Abu Ghraib, as she wrote about in her recent Nation article–and Air America’s Randi Rhodes–who alternately made the crowd laugh and wince with her scathing and funny debunking of Administration spin and lies. Bob Fertik, president of Democrats.Com skillfully moderated.)

“Torture and Lies: Who is Accountable?” was the question. Hinchey, who has represented a largely conservative district in upstate New York since 1993, answered unflinchingly. “Never have I seen such an unlawful Administration, one with such arrogance toward the rule of law. Their activities are criminal.”

Hinchey spoke passionately and eloquently about the significance of the Downing Street minutes and the need to hold this President and Administration accountable for taking the country to war on the basis of lies.

“We have a monolithic government in Washington,” Hinchey told the hushed crowd. “It is a government whose policies have failed, and made the world much more dangerous and made us less secure…It is the responsibility of Congress to oversee the executive branch and when this Administration lied and deceived us, Congress should have held hearings….Therefore, the election of 2006 is one of the most important in our country’s history if we’re going to maintain this Democratic republic. We need a new Congress and we need to carry out a full and thorough investigation of the Administration….It is up to each of us, every one of us in this hall today to do everything we can, to mobilize all our resources, our friends, our organizations, to to make sure our democracy stands.”

The crowd was on its feet, stomping; there were shouts of “Hinchey for President.” Like other political leaders who have shown courage and decency in these last months–I think particularly of John Conyers who launched the Downing St. hearings–Hinchey is someone who gives hope that we will take back our country from a Administration which has defiled our democracy.

This NYC Town Hall was just one of 350 events held today, around the country, on the third anniversary of the Downing Street Memo meeting in London. To learn more about what you can do, click here to check out and work to take back the Congress from those who refuse to hold hearings into this criminal administration.