Approximately a year ago, I wrote in this magazine that President George W. Bush had committed high crimes and misdemeanors and should be impeached and removed from office. His impeachable offenses include using lies and deceptions to drive the country into war in Iraq, deliberately and repeatedly violating the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) on wiretapping in the United States, and facilitating the mistreatment of US detainees in violation of the Geneva Conventions and the War Crimes Act of 1996.
Since then, the case against President Bush has, if anything, been strengthened by reports that he personally authorized CIA abuse of detainees. In addition, courts have rejected some of his extreme assertions of executive power. The Supreme Court ruled that the Geneva Conventions apply to the treatment of detainees, and a federal judge ruled that the President could not legally ignore FISA. Even Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’s recent announcement that the wiretapping program would from now on operate under FISA court supervision strongly suggests that Bush’s prior claims that it could not were untrue.
Despite scant attention from the mainstream media, since last year impeachment has won a wide audience. Amid a flurry of blogs, books and articles, a national grassroots movement has sprung up. In early December seventy-five pro-impeachment rallies were held around the country and pro-impeachment efforts are planned for Congressional districts across America. A Newsweek poll, conducted just before election day, showed 51 percent of Americans believed that impeachment of President Bush should be either a high or lower priority; 44 percent opposed it entirely. (Compare these results with the 63 percent of the public who in the fall of 1998 opposed President Clinton’s impeachment.) Most Americans understand the gravity of President Bush’s constitutional misconduct.
Public anger at Bush has been mounting. On November 7 voters swept away Republican control of the House and Senate. The President’s poll numbers continue to drop.
These facts should signal a propitious moment for impeachment proceedings to start. Yet House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has taken impeachment “off the table.” (Impeachment proceedings must commence in the House of Representatives.) Her position doesn’t mean impeachment is dead; it simply means a different route to it has to be pursued. Congressional investigations must start, and public pressure must build to make the House act.
This is no different from what took place during Watergate. In 1973 impeachment was not “on the table” for many months while President Nixon’s cover-up unraveled, even though Democrats controlled the House and Senate. But when Nixon fired the special prosecutor to avoid making his White House tapes public, the American people were outraged and put impeachment on the table, demanding that Congress act. That can happen again.