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This article originally appeared in AfterDowningStreet.org

The Republican National Committee (RNC) has launched an aggressive campaign to smear Congressman John Conyers (D-MI), a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Here's the background: It is accepted common wisdom among reporters, pundits, congressional staffers, and a majority of Americans that Bush and Cheney lied us into a war.  A new "smoking gun" piece of evidence makes the news on almost a weekly basis, and that has been going on for upwards of a year.  Yet there has been no investigation in either branch of Congress, no oversight, no checks, no balances, no accountability.

Congressman Conyers has introduced a bill (House Resolution 635) cosponsored by 36 other Congress Members to create a bipartisan committee to investigate the Bush administration's use or misuse of pre-war intelligence.  Should that investigation end up pointing in the same direction that an overwhelming mountain of publicly available evidence already points, then Bush and Cheney will easily merit impeachment.  An impeachment is only an indictment.  Following impeachment, the Senate holds a trial, and more evidence comes out. 

Congressman Conyers has not done what the vast majority of Democratic voters and many Republicans want; he has not introduced articles of impeachment.  Rather, he's stepped back a step and proposed creating an investigation that would make recommendations on impeachment.  Talk about going slow!  This is a proposal to make recommendations on beginning a process to charge people with a crime we all already know they're guilty of.  That's all before a trial can even begin.

The RNC should be accusing the Democrats of refusing to put up a real fight, leaving Republicans to swing at air.  Instead they're accusing Conyers of firmly planning on impeachment immediately after the elections.

The primary reason for Conyers' measured approach is that most of the Democrats in Congress lack his courage and are scared to stand up for the Constitution and a separation of powers, no matter how fervently their constituents demand it.  If every Democrat in the House were backing impeachment, Republicans would be forced to split with their party and join in.  If the Democrats were targeting Cheney, the White House and the Republican party would be split over the question of defending someone so unpopular. 

Instead, it's the Democrats who are split.  Most of them are hiding under their beds, none of them are introducing articles of impeachment, and only 36 are standing with John Conyers.

Polls suggest that impeachment is a hugely winning issue for Democrats this year.  A Zogby poll was particularly bad news for George Bush.

Voters want to vote for pro-impeachment congressional candidates.  Disapproval of Bush is higher than it was for Nixon when he resigned, and Cheney is about half as popular as Bush.  Support for Bush among Republicans is weak compared to disapproval among Democrats.

Zero evidence suggests that fear of impeachment will motivate Republicans to vote.  Yet, the punditry is all parroting RNC talking points that claim impeachment is good for Republicans.  This is a Rovian tactic: they attack at their weakest point.  They turn a weak defense into an offense through shear bluff and bull.  And the Democrats fall for it.

For the past two weeks, the RNC has been focusing on John Conyers and claiming that he will work to impeach Bush as Chair of the Judiciary Committee if the Democrats take back the House.  I hope he will, and that he will be able to drag the rest of the Democrats along with him, kicking and screaming.  But that's not where Conyers is now.  Trust me.  We've been trying to push him to that position for 12 months.

Impeachment of Bush and Cheney, by the way, is not revenge for Clinton's impeachment.  It is the left-leaning Democrats who are willing to push for Bush and Cheney impeachments, and we on the left never could stand Clinton.  The dead armadillos (those in the middle of the road) are the ones who liked Clinton, and they're hiding from impeachment as if it really were an RNC weapon.

On Thursday, the Dallas Morning News wrote a story about how Republicans can do well in this year's elections.  The "reporter" suggested focusing on the fact that Conyers would chair the Judiciary Committee and push impeachment.

The New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Associated Press have been phoning around, working on similar stories, following a recent televised encounter between Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and talking rear-end Tim Russert.  Russert rudely questioned Pelosi about impeachment and suggested that Rep. Conyers should take down his website.

Over on the Disney Channel, er, I mean ABC News, Tom Delay began his recent blather by telling George Stephanopoulos that the Dems should not be allowed to retake the House because of… guess who?  John Conyers.

Is this beginning to look like an oddly coordinated effort for our system of free and competitive media outlets dedicated to truth and democratic enlightenment?

Then there are the stories reporters keep dragging up about Conyers' staffer years ago babysitting his kids.  The Republican Party is throwing an orgy in the Watergate for a $40 billion spy agency that couldn't find its ass with a map and two hands, and this is where our intrepid reporters are digging?  Why?

Why this bombardment of efforts to paint the longest-serving African-American in Congress as a fringe extremist, whereas in reality he is balancing carefully between the demands of voters and the spinelessness of his party's leadership?

The sad thing is that the RNC may be doing what the DNC has failed at, finally announcing to the public that the Democrats will boldly charge ahead for justice.

And, knowing Conyers, it might even be true.

But that's between you, me, and the NSA.  Don't tell Tim Russert or Nancy Pelosi.

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May 11, 2006
Issue 183

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