For an excellent example of why the Democratic-led Congress’s approval ratings are a dismal nine percent, look no further than last Friday’s House Judiciary Committee hearing to “impeach” President Bush.
By any measure, the marathon six-hour hearing was a joke. For starters, it had to skirt around its nominal subject. For impeachment even to be considered, the House must first authorize a special inquiry to do so. But as committee chairman and impeachment booster Rep. John Conyers grudgingly conceded, that “has not taken place yet.”
Nor will it. Earlier this month, the House specifically rejected the possibility of impeachment proceedings. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi – hardly a lockstep ally of the Bush administration – has categorically ruled out impeachment, and the consensus in the Democratic leadership is that it is at best an unproductive cause. That’s the main reason that last week’s spectacle was titled, somewhat grandiosely, a “Hearing on Executive Power and Its Constitutional Limitations”: Lacking any official support or sanction for impeachment, its Congressional champions couldn’t even use the word.
If impeachment nevertheless remains the white whale of some Democratic malcontents, then Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich is their Captain Ahab. So committed is Kucinich to the cause that he maintains a special impeachment-centric website, complete with a copy of his drafted 35 articles of impeachment against the Bush administration.
To appreciate the gravity, such as it is, of these charges, consider that Kucinich accuses the administration of waging a “covert offensive against the Iranian regime.” His source for this putatively damning allegation is the far-Left and credibility-free webzine Counterpunch. Elsewhere, Kucinich condemns the administration for “imprisoning children.” By this he apparently means the detention of under-18 jihadists captured on the battlefield. These teenage terrorists may be old enough to kill Americans but not, in Kucinich’s view, to pay the price.
The War on Terror is not Kucinich’s only concern. He also deems the administration impeachable for a number of unrelated offenses. Thus, one impeachment article accuses the Bush administration of “Systematically Undermining Efforts to Address Global Climate Change.” Grand Inquisitor Gore cannot be far behind. If there is a single Bush administration position or policy that does not warrant impeachment, Kucinich makes no mention of it.
In fairness, Kucinich is no more ridiculous than other impeachment seekers. Take New York Congressman Maurice Hinchey. At Friday’s hearing, Hinchey introduced a resolution to “condemn administrative officials for failing to plan for the inevitable civil conflict and humanitarian strife in Iraq.” The administration is vulnerable to criticism on these grounds, but Rep. Hinchey is an unlikely candidate to make it. After all, this is the same Rep. Hinchey who repeatedly has assailed the administration’s troop-surge strategy in Iraq – the very policy that has helped restore order and ease sectarian strife in the country. Assuming Hinchey is sincere in his concern for Iraq’s humanitarian situation, he should be his own worst critic.
At least Hinchey is upfront about his intentions. Less certain was the case of another “witness” at last week’s hearing, former New York congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman, who seemed most intent on hawking her book, imaginatively titled The Impeachment of George W. Bush. For those inclined to doubt her “prima facie case of impeachment for certain Administration officials,” Holtzman noted that she has expounded it “at greater length elsewhere, including in my book…” The notion that President Bush deceived Congress about the war may sound suspect, but “[a]s I explain in my book…” Her sales-pitch duly deployed, Holtzman concluded with a note of resignation. Convinced though she was of its guilt, Holtzman admitted to doubts that the Bush administration would be impeached. She didn’t want anyone to think she was “unrealistic.” Perish the thought.
It would be unfair to single out leftists like Holtzman. Last week’s hearing may have been a fringe affair, but it included a bipartisan fringe. Representing the Republican case for impeachment was North Carolina Rep. Walter Jones. In the run-up to the Iraq war, it may be recalled, Jones famously urged renaming French fries “freedom fries” as a protest against Chiracian opposition to the war. Since then, he has had a change of heart, joining the Ron Paul wing of the party and embracing its view of the Bush administration as the greatest threat to national and world security. It is a rare feat: In the span of a few short years, Rep. Jones has managed to demagogue opposite sides of the same issue.
Somewhat more surprising, perhaps, was the participation of Bob Barr. As the Libertarian Party’s nominee for president, Barr might be expected to eschew associations that have long consigned the party to the political wilderness. Instead, Barr delivered an alarmist disquisition on the on the alleged harm done by the Bush administration to the “foundation of American constitutional government” – a foundation that, according to Barr, is “clearly in danger of crumbling.” Considering his choice of speaking engagements – before attending last week’s hearing, Barr had dropped in at the Daily-Kos organized Netroots Nation – it’s no wonder that he is polling at 2 percent nationally, trailing even Ralph Nader.
That nothing will come of last week’s partisan pep-rally makes it no less deplorable. With the economy uncertain and an energy crisis looming, House Democrats – including its most zealous Bush haters – surely have better things to do than conduct inane ideological witch hunts. If Congress won’t stop wasting taxpayers’ money – a tall order in the best of times – the very least it can do is stop wasting their time.