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McGovern: Impeach Bush, Cheney Now

The former Democratic nominee for president who ran against a president later driven from office under threat of impeachment, today said that impeachment of President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney is "the rightful course for an American patriot."

George McGovern, a former South Dakota Senator who ran on the Democratic ticket in 1972 as an anti-war advocate, wrote in an op-ed for The Washington Post that, while he steered clear of calling for the impeachment of Richard Nixon in the '70s - fearing it would appear as "an expression of personal vengeance" against his opponent who won re-election in a landslide - McGovern said after seven years of the current administration, he has "belatedly and painfully concluded that the only honorable course for me is to urge the impeachment" of the president and the vice president.

McGovern also called the case for impeaching Mr. Bush and Cheney "far stronger" than what was the case against President Nixon and Vice President Spiro T. Agnew after the 1972 election.

McGovern admits that while there is little bipartisan support for instituting impeachment hearings (House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, has announced that impeachment is "off the table"), he said, "Bush and Cheney are clearly guilty of numerous impeachable offenses.

"They have repeatedly violated the Constitution. They have transgressed national and international law. They have lied to the American people time after time. Their conduct and their barbaric policies have reduced our beloved country to a historic low in the eyes of people around the world. These are truly 'high crimes and misdemeanors,' to use the constitutional standard."

McGovern says that American democracy has been "derailed" by the administration's commitment to "a murderous, illegal, nonsensical war against Iraq … done without the declaration of war from Congress that the Constitution clearly requires, in defiance of the U.N. Charter and in violation of international law. This reckless disregard for life and property, as well as constitutional law, has been accompanied by the abuse of prisoners, including systematic torture, in direct violation of the Geneva Conventions of 1949."

"How could a once-admired, great nation fall into such a quagmire of killing, immorality and lawlessness?" he writes.

McGovern writes that while Mr. Bush and Cheney made counterterrorism the battle cry of their administration, "their policies (especially the war in Iraq) have increased the terrorist threat and reduced the security of the United States.

"Today, after five years of clumsy, mistaken policies and U.S. military occupation, Iraq has become a breeding ground of terrorism and bloody civil strife."

McGovern said any impeachment proceedings should also look at the "collapse of presidential leadership" in the face of Hurricane Katrina, "perhaps the worst natural disaster in U.S. history."

In November Rep. Dennis Kucinich introduced a resolution, H.R. 333, calling for impeachment proceedings against Vice President Dick Cheney, which - in part because of a belief such proceedings would embarrass the Democratic leadership - was passed with overwhelming Republican support. House leaders submitted the resolution to the Judiciary Committee, where it has sat ever since. Kucinich later added that he would demand impeachment hearings against the president as well.

But while Committee Chair John Conyers, D-Mich., has advocated impeachment in the past, since the Democrats regained a majority in the House he has been more sanguine about the issue. He has suggested that such hearings could turn villains - "people who should be documented in history as making many profound errors and violating the Constitution" - into victims.

House Speaker Pelosi has likewise dismissed calls for impeachment, suggesting that hearings would detract Congress from other business, or might create a backlash among voters in November 2008, thereby threatening the Democrats' current hold on the majority.

That argument doesn't hold sway with Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Fla., who with two other House members - Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., and Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., who also sit on the Judiciary Committee - recently called for an immediate start to hearings.

In an op-ed they penned, published last month in the Philadelphia Inquirer, the three wrote that, unlike the Republicans' investigation into President Bill Clinton's personal relations, "the Democratic Congress can show that it takes its constitutional authority seriously and hold a sober investigation, which will stand in stark contrast to the kangaroo court convened by Republicans for Clinton."

One aspect of holding impeachment hearings that has attracted attention is that, unlike other congressional hearings where the administration has claimed executive privilege to resist releasing documents or subpoenaed testimony, there is no protection of executive privilege allowed under an impeachment investigation.

Therefore, any documents and testimony relating to the destruction of videotapes depicting torture, to the firings of U.S. attorneys, to the outing of a CIA operative, to secret energy meetings involving Cheney and oil industry figures, to surveillance of Americans without court-order warrants or any other controversy which the White House has refused to produce for Congress, must be given in evidence.

"Impeachment is unlikely, of course," McGovern wrote. "But we must still urge Congress to act. Impeachment, quite simply, is the procedure written into the Constitution to deal with presidents who violate the Constitution and the laws of the land. It is also a way to signal to the American people and the world that some of us feel strongly enough about the present drift of our country to support the impeachment of the false prophets who have led us astray.

"I believe we have a chance to heal the wounds the nation has suffered in the opening decade of the 21st century. This recovery may take a generation and will depend on the election of a series of rational presidents and Congresses. At age 85, I won't be around to witness the completion of the difficult rebuilding of our sorely damaged country, but I'd like to hold on long enough to see the healing begin."
By David Morgan