I was serving in Congress and on the Judiciary Committee for the ridiculous and politically motivated impeachment hearings of President Clinton. During that witch hunt Newt Gingrich, Tom Delay, and Ken Starr wasted a year and a half on investigations and hearings about President Clinton’s personal relations. However, this attempted coup d’etat by Republicans against President Clinton was not and should not be the standard of impeachment that was enshrined by the Founders in our Constitution.
First, impeachment hearings are only proper when significant allegations exist that the President or Vice-President, or others civil officers, committed actions – within their official duties – that constitute ‘High Crimes and Misdemeanors.’ The allegations against Clinton – involving a personal affair – never reached this threshold. The serious charges against Cheney involve alleged crimes that are central to his duties of Vice-President; namely war and peace, the widespread violations of civil liberties, and the security of the United States and our covert agents.
Unlike the show trial put on by Republicans against President Clinton, a proper impeachment hearing would involve a fair and objective presentation of the facts without hyperbole or political gamesmanship. The hard evidence that is presented at the hearings will be judged fully both by Congress and the American people. The evidence alone will determine the outcome, and if it is determined that Vice President Cheney committed “High Crimes and Misdemeanors” he should be properly impeached and put on trial before the Senate.
After the Democratic Party regained control of Congress, many – myself included – thought that it might be possible to meet President Bush half-way on the large issues facing our nation. Unfortunately, Bush has been nothing more than an ideological obstacle. He has vetoed stem cell research. He has vetoed efforts to bring our troops home from Iraq. He vetoed children’s health care. So, the idea that we are somehow inhibiting Congress from passing our agenda by holding impeachment hearings – unfortunately – is a false argument.
Instead, I believe that we can both live up to our Constitutional obligation by holding hearings and pass a Democratic agenda. If President Bush perceives that the Democratic Congress is weak and unwilling to aggressively push our agenda – he will continue to veto legislation, such as children’s health care – that is supported by a majority of Americans. The only way to move a progressive Democratic agenda is by acting through strength and following through on our core principles. A Congress willing to stand up to the abuses of the Bush Administration through impeachment hearings will demonstrate a strength of will that will more likely convince Bush to accommodate on issues such as Iraq, health care, and energy and environmental issues.