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Sheehan, others form group, rally for impeachment

Christian Avard
Published: Monday November 13, 2006

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A coalition of national organizations and political leaders announced plans this weekend to launch a national movement for the impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Cheney, RAW STORY has learned.

The organizers of ImpeachForChange held a press conference Saturday, along with an impeachment rally to pressure the new Democratic majority for investigations into impeachment. The events took place at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, just across from Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution were signed.

Anti-war activist and co-founder of Gold Star Families for Peace Cindy Sheehan was one of several keynote speakers at the conference. In an interview with RAW STORY, Sheehan said, "We know that in a recent Zogby Poll that was commissioned by the After Downing Street coalition that over 51 percent of Americans would be in favor of impeaching George W. Bush if it was proven that he lied about the war and about the reasons for the invasion. I was just online today and there was an MSNBC poll that said 86 percent would be in favor of impeachment of George W. Bush, and I just want to rally people all over the country, wherever I go, to encourage their Congress member and the Democratic leadership to institute an investigation that may lead to impeachment and removal from office."

Additional polls also show that a majority of Americans support such measures. A recent Newsweek poll from October 24th showed that 51 percent of Americans support impeachment, while an October 25th, USA Today/Gallup poll found 51 percent of Americans supporting "major investigations" by Democrats.

Going further back, in a CNN poll on September 9th, 57 percent of the respondents said they thought it would be good for the country "if the Democrats in Congress were able to conduct official investigations into what the Bush administration has done in the past six years."

“We are a majority and that is a phenomenal thing, given the near blackout of the media and the lack of action in Congress," said David Swanson, co-founder of AfterDowningStreet.org and Washington Director of Democrats.com. "When Congress and the media were doing nothing else for months, the impeachment of Clinton never got above 37%. So something remarkable is going on but people don’t know it."

"We are a majority," he concluded, "but people we think we are a minority."

The event also drew a former Congresswoman, Elizabeth Holtzman of New York. Holtzman served on the House Judiciary Committee that investigated the Watergate affair, leading to the eventual resignation of President Richard M. Nixon. Swanson pointed out that while many high-ranking officials, such as Nancy Pelosi, Rahm Emanuel, and Howard Dean, say the Democratic Party will not pursue impeachment as the majority party, but Holtzman and other Democrats said the same back in 1974.

Swanson also noted that public support for the impeachment of Nixon didn't materialize until "after the investigation in the House Judiciary was under way and major facts were revealed."

"But without that public pressure," he argues, "it never would have. [Holtzman] was tremendous today, speaking about the crucial need for impeachment… and to also make it clear that it was not the members of the House who made it happen under Nixon, it was the people’s outrage, their letters, their telegrams, their protests, their calls, et cetera.”

Many within Democratic Party leadership have indicated a reluctance to press for impeachment, and have also expressed their view that there are more pressing issues that need to be addressed first, such as implementation of the recommendations of the bipartisan commission that investigated the September 11 attacks, an increase in the minimum wage, and laying the groundwork for an eventual U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq. While these issues are important to many, Swanson feels that the Democratic leadership should not take its eye off what he sees as a critical matter.

“We all want education, health care, et cetera," he argued. "But it’s not clear how passing legislation with a dictator in the White House is accomplishing anything."

“Under the Republican Congress that’s leaving," he continued, "we completely redundantly banned torture and the President said, ‘Yeah whatever, I’m going to keep torturing.’ We banned warrantless spying completely redundantly and the President added a little signing statement with loopholes."

"So if the President now begins vetoing, or if he continues to sign bills that add statements that [indicate] he won’t enact laws," Swanson concludes, "sooner or later the public is going to catch on that the Dems are engaged in a political play and a farce... So as long as we have this unitary executive who’s going to decide what to do regardless of what Congress does, then what is point of passing legislation?”

“Those issues are important," Sheehan agrees, "but they are also safe. It wasn’t domestic issues or local issues that people went out to vote for overwhelmingly; it was a referendum on George W. Bush’s policies on the war.”

According to ImpeachforChange, the event in Philadelphia drew hundreds of people.

According to Swanson, response was positive.

There was, he said, “A lot of optimism, a lot of confidence relative to the past many months, questions from the audience along the lines of how do we get started, do we need a select committee, can the judiciary committee do it, [and] which senators and congressmen should we call on. [There were] not so many questions about is this plausible, can it happen, [or] how can we defeat ourselves by getting scared. So that’s very encouraging.”