WASHINGTON - The push to impeach President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney is gaining a hearing in some parts of the country, but not in Washington.
More than 70 cities and 14 state Democratic parties have urged impeachment or investigations that could lead to impeachment. The most common charge is that Bush manipulated intelligence to lead the country into the Iraq war. Other charges include spying on Americans and torturing suspected terrorists in violation of U.S. and international law.
Most recently, the Massachusetts Democratic Party voted to push impeachment of both men. The 2,500 state convention delegates voted almost unanimously against Cheney; the vote against Bush was closer.
Massachusetts’ Democratic Party thus joined 13 others on the investigate-or-impeach bandwagon, including: Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin.
Among the cities and towns, the largest and most recent is Detroit, where the city council voted 7-0 this month to urge Congress to impeach Bush and Cheney for “intentionally misleading Congress and the public regarding the threat from Iraq in order to justify the war.”
“There’s a lot growing in support,” said Tim Carpenter, the director of the liberal group Progressive Democrats of America. “Whether Congress will respond, that’s another question.”
Indeed. The Democrats who run Congress have no interest in impeaching Bush or Cheney, despite pressure from their party’s base outside the Beltway.
It’s noteworthy that impeachment pressure is coming from the home states of the two Democratic leaders in Congress, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.
Pelosi said last year that impeachment “is off the table.” Under the Constitution, the House impeaches; the Senate then decides whether to convict and remove from office.
It’s also interesting that one of the resolutions came from Detroit, home to Rep. John Conyers, who as the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee would lead any impeachment hearings.
The Detroit resolution was co-authored by Monica Conyers, the congressman’s wife. But she hasn’t had any noticeable clout at home: Conyers said last year that he wasn’t interested in impeachment - just oversight investigations - and he hasn’t changed his stand.
There are both policy and political reasons that Democratic leaders are risking the anger of their base.
One is that some don’t see an impeachable offense in what Bush has done, what the Constitution calls “high crimes and misdemeanors.” They might find such evidence in any of the many congressional investigations, but they haven’t yet.
Another is that they fear a political backlash from voters similar to the one that punished Republicans after they impeached Bill Clinton. One factor on the side of the pro-impeachment crowd: Clinton was much more popular than Bush.
The third is that they’re eager to keep Bush and Cheney around as punching bags for Democratic candidates in the 2008 campaign.
“The political lens they’re looking through is the 2008 election,” Carpenter said. “They want to see Bush and Cheney dangling so the election is a referendum on them. That is not the correct lens.”
To him, the right lens is the last election, when voters threw the Republicans out of power in Congress. Those people, he said, now want Bush and Cheney out.
“There is a groundswell here,” Carpenter said. “Pelosi says it’s off the table. It’s our role to put it on the table.”
© 2007 McClatchy Newspapers