Liberals push to impeach BushWashington Times
By Christina Bellantoni
April 6, 2007
Congressional Democrats say their constituents are clamoring for something even the most liberal lawmakers promise they won't pursue: President Bush's impeachment.
"I get one call after another saying, 'Impeach the president,' " said Rep. John P. Murtha, Pennsylvania Democrat and one of Mr. Bush's most relentless critics on the Iraq war.
"It's a simple process but a very divisive thing," Mr. Murtha said. "You've got to measure what it's going to do to the country, and at this point I don't see that happening. Instead we'll fight it out on the issues."
Some members speculated that the Democratic takeover of Congress and passage of Iraq withdrawal timetables in both the House and Senate have emboldened liberals across the country who want to see the president embarrassed during his final 21 months in office.
"The timing is all wrong," said Rep. Jerrold Nadler, New York Democrat. "If this were the first two years of his administration I would advocate impeachment. A lot of people at home say impeachment, and I'm sure he committed a lot of impeachable offenses, but think about it practically."
Mr. Nadler said impeachment hearings would be pointless and would only distract the country from the presidential election next year.
Democrats say their constituents also want them to target such administration figures as Vice President Dick Cheney, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and Karl Rove, Mr. Bush's chief political adviser.
Rep. Diane Watson, California Democrat, said she hears calls for impeachment from every crowd.
"They say, 'Democrats: Do something. Get Cheney, Karl Rove, Alberto Gonzales.' They are saying impeachment. I am hearing that more and more and more," said Ms. Watson.
She said she has been receiving "nothing but kudos" for being one of just a few Democrats to vote against the party's Iraq spending bill on the premise that Congress should not keep funding the war.
Although she said she would support impeachment, she speculated that it is "not a strategy our new leadership would want to start with."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, pledged last year not to seek impeachment hearings if her party won control of Congress.
"Democrats are not about impeachment," Mrs. Pelosi said on NBC's "Meet the Press" in May. "Democrats are about bringing the country together."
An online "Impeach Bush" movement has received 861,000 votes, and the president's approval ratings hover below 30 percent nationally, according to polls.
Few of those surveys ask about impeachment, and a Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg Poll conducted in January showed less than 1 percent think a Bush impeachment should be a "top priority" for Congress.
A December 2005 Rasmussen Reports poll found that 32 percent of Americans think Mr. Bush should be impeached.
Several congressional Democrats told The Washington Times in an informal survey last week that they think impeachment is the wrong strategy.
"The Republicans showed their true colors when they impeached President Clinton," said Sen. Tom Harkin, Iowa Democrat.
He called the Whitewater investigation of the Clintons' Arkansas real estate dealings a "witch hunt" that wasted thousands of hours and "so much of the public's money."
"We Democrats have to show the people of this country that we're better than that," he said.
Sen. Russ Feingold, Wisconsin Democrat, last year authored a resolution calling on Congress to censure Mr. Bush for his warrantless wiretapping program. He told The Times that he is unlikely to reintroduce the bill or push for impeachment hearings.
"The election in many ways was a censure of the president and his performance in a number of these areas," Mr. Feingold said, noting that voters want Congress to tackle Iraq policy, health care and government accountability.
"Impeachment might make it look like we don't care about the other stuff," he said. "I don't think it serves the American people well, even though if there ever was a president that deserved to be removed, this is probably the guy."
Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, backed censure last year but said the focus now should be on oversight. "It's a chance to change the administration's behavior, not just to express disappointment," said Kerry spokeswoman Amy Brundage.
Rep. John Conyers Jr., Michigan Democrat and Judiciary Committee chairman, has backed off his impeachment calls and has not reintroduced his bills to censure Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney.
A Conyers spokesman said the chairman has "no plans to resubmit" the bills, but declined further comment. Mr. Conyers' campaign Web site once implored visitors to "demand an investigation of administration abuses of power" and consider impeachment.
Mr. Conyers is still no fan of the Bush administration, as is evident on the site now, but his calls for impeachment have been removed.
Dozens of comments posted as recently as yesterday urge Mr. Conyers to seek impeachment.
"At what point do the Democrats in Congress agree with the American people that impeachment is viable and warranted?" read one comment.
Mark A. Jeror Sr. echoed that thought and commented on the Conyers site, "Sooner or later, the biggest issue won't be the Iraq war. ... It will be the fact that the Democrats have all the evidence they need to impeach Bush, and they are too afraid to do anything."
Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich, Ohio Democrat, said he thinks impeachment has merit. In a video on his 2008 presidential campaign site, Mr. Kucinich tells supporters: "We need to reevaluate the direction of this administration by looking at its conduct in office, by determining whether it has faithfully followed the laws of our nation. I'm prepared to start that process."