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Censure and Impeachment

By Katrina Vanden Heuvel,

On Meet the Press Sunday, Senator Russ Feingold, D-Wis., announced that he will be introducing two censure resolutions in the next few days, aimed at holding President Bush, Vice President Cheney and other administration officials responsible for the damage done to our country — weakening our security by misleading us into the disastrous war in Iraq and shredding our Constitution.

When "Meet the Press" host Tim Russert asked, "Isn't this futile?" (sounding every bit like the arbiter of inside-the-beltway realism that he is), Feingold spoke eloquently of the need to set the historical record straight. What message does it send, he asked, if elected representatives do not hold accountable a President and Vice President who have used mistruths, spin, manipulated intelligence reports and fear to drag this country into a war that is the most colossal foreign policy mistake in our history? What message does it send if we do not hold them accountable for weakening our security through relentless assaults on the rule of law on which our country was founded?

History must therefore record, Feingold argued, that when faced with an administration which doesn't recognize or respect the separation of powers, which perpetually acts as if the executive branch is above the laws of our nation, the people and their elected officials stood up and demanded accountability.

While Feingold believes that Bush and Cheney have committed what our Founding Fathers would have thought of as "high crimes and misdemeanors," at this time he does not believe it is in the nation's best interest to put important issues confronting our country on the back burner to go through months of a divisive impeachment process. That is a view shared by many progressives.

At the same time, however, a growing majority of the country disagrees — in fact, a majority believe Cheney should be impeached. And many progressives as well as conservatives — including Bruce Fein, former Reagan Justice Department official — make a coherent and impassioned case for the value of pursuing the impeachment process. The case for impeachment was given the airtime it richly deserves in an extraordinary July 13 Bill Moyer's Journal, program featuring The Nation's John Nichols in conversation with Fein.

Feingold needs citizens' help to develop and push these resolutions forward. E-mail your representatives, bombard them with your appeals and demands that they stop this White House from shredding the Constitution and, as Feingold puts it, "thumbing their noses at the American people."

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"Feingold needs citizens' help..."? For censure? Why isn't Feingold pushing impeachment? What nonsense is this?

Declare It Now! Orange Outrage Needs to Bloom Everywhere. Tyranny and Torture cannot be allowed to stand.

Dennis Loo

I sent this e-mail and also called Feingold's office at 202-224-5323 and read it to a lackey to express my outrage that 1) Feingold thinks censure is sufficient for these criminals, and 2) Feingold thinks he has my support just because mine was one of the phone calls he received about it the day after he announced it -- it was a pissed-off phone call then and a pissed-off phone call and e-mail Monday, but he twists mere numbers into meaning support. Call him, and your own senators, and tell them to support not censure but the only just, the only Constitutionally-prescribed remedy -- swift impeachment and removal. Like I say below, anything less is politics, not justice.

Senator Feingold:

I do not support your proposal. You are neither progressive, nor a patriot if you think censure is what history should show criminal, imperial executives like this receive; censure has no consequences, and thus is no deterrent to future abuses. It's politics, not justice.

Censure is for presidents who lie to Congress and the American people about a consensual extramarital affair -- something that's none of our business anyway. Presidents who commit the high crimes and misdemeanors you refer to warrant nothing less than impeachment, because these are our business. Go ahead and slap them on the wrist, coward. It won't save this country. The United States of America is over because people like you think it's too inconvenient, or impolitic to use the remedy the Constitution gave us for imperial presidencies -- impeachment. Anything less is what's divisive, distracting, impolitic, and in the end, useless. You won't get my money and you won't get my vote unless you do your duty and impeach this criminal administration and remove them from office before they do more massive harm to American justice and democracy and to world stability. Refusing to impeach makes you a complicit accessory to their crimes through your failure to take appropriate action. It's unconscionable. I'm sure that I speak for millions of other voters, tens of thousands of whom live in your home state. I know they will see to it that someone else is sitting in your seat after your next bid for re-election.
J. Sibelman

Censure is a distraction. General rule, when Katrina Vanden Heuvel writes, the hairs on the back of my neck go up. Former Congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman wrote a strong argument for impeachment that was a cover story for The Nation at the start of 2006. Since then, the magazine has provided an argument for not impeaching by a Texas law professor. Vanden Heuvel is steering people to censure.
If censure takes place, the next barrier to impeachment will be, "We censored!" Censure is a smoke screen tossed out by Russ Feingold again. It didn't work last time he put it forward.
The last thing the growing impeachment movement needs to do is WASTE our time on a weak censure. We do not need to defocus or stray from our course. Censure is not a sure thing and it does not do what is needed. Vanden Heuvel can always be counted on to support the weakest option. Citizens need to demand justice and justice is impeachment.

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