On Jan. 3, 2007, the
Democrats will be in control as the 110th Congress commences. New
members will be sworn in, taking the oath to “support and defend the
Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or
Few things would seem more
fundamental to the support and defense of the Constitution than
sanctioning those who have abused it -- as a matter of simple justice as
well as a deterrent against future abuse.
Yet just before the Nov. 7
elections, Nancy Pelosi, who will now be the next Speaker of the House,
said in an interview on CBS’s “60 Minutes” that if the Democrats gained
control of the House the impeachment of President Bush would be “off the
But public support for
impeachment has been growing. According to a poll published in Newsweek
just before Ms. Pelosi took impeachment off the table, a majority of
Americans may now favor it. But in the spirit of bipartisanship she has
decided that on the issue of impeachment, the House will ignore the
public as well as the remedies which the authors of the Constitution
provided for its abuse.
This is a bad idea,
politically and constitutionally.
When Bill Clinton was elected
President in 1992, two landmark investigations of scandals from the two
previous Republican administrations, Reagan and Bush, were winding down.
One was of “Iraqgate,” concerning secret U.S. arming of Saddam Hussein
during the Iraq/Iran war
The other investigation was
of the Iran/Contra affair.
Despite considerable and
powerful evidence of Republican misdeeds at the highest levels, the
incoming Clinton administration decided not to seriously pursue either
of these scandals, hoping, just as Ms. Pelosi apparently hopes now, to
encourage a spirit of bipartisanship. Unfortunately for President
Clinton, the right wing fought him aggressively from the beginning of
his administration, killing, for example, the attempt to reform health
The partisan opposition
ratcheted up after Republicans gained control of Congress in the 1994
elections. It culminated in the successful drive led by House Speaker
Newt Gingrich to impeach President Clinton for lying about an
extra-marital affair with a consenting adult.
Given this history, as well
as that of the first six years of the Bush administration, one could
understandably view as wishful thinking Ms. Pelosi’s hopes for
bipartisan cooperation with Republicans, many of whom date back to the
More importantly, ruling out
impeachment nurtures the culture of disdain for the rule of law which
currently marks the White House. President Bush and his administration,
sworn to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution,” have instead
indulged in an outrageous pattern of contemptuous disregard for our
The record presents a clear
case for impeachment: lying to start an illegal war; the arrest and
detention without charge of American citizens; violation of
international treaties including the Geneva conventions and the
conventions against torture; willfully ignoring or violating acts of
Congress by issuing hundreds of “signing statements”; violating the
Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and the Fourth Amendment to the
Constitution, and others.
What gives Ms. Pelosi or
anyone else sworn to defend the Constitution the right to choose to
ignore the remedy mandated in that document for its abuse?
Clearly anyone who asserts
such a right is an enabler of lawlessness and the degradation of the
Constitution which has been underway at least since the Republicans
tried to impeach President Clinton and President Bush took office under
dubious circumstances in 2001.
understandably, there are many Americans who feel that impeachment would
be a petty and politically motivated attempt at payback --an unnecessary
and wasteful distraction from work on other compelling national and
But it goes much deeper than
revenge or an opportunity to establish the elusive Beltway bipartisan
consensus. It's a question of whether or not we are going to stop the
assault by the Bush administration and its Democratic enablers and
discourage future assaults on the document which provides the legal
basis for the very existence of the United States. On this there should
be an overwhelming national bipartisan consensus.
Let's hope that our enabling
Democratic “leaders” listen to the significant percentage of Americans
who favor impeachment and realize just how urgently it is needed.
In a democracy, you get the
government you deserve. If American leaders refuse to uphold the law and
if the American people let them get away with it then Americans will
indeed get the government we deserve.
Peter Dyer is a machinist who moved with his wife from California to
New Zealand in 2004. He can be reached at