Thursday, May 18, 2006

John Conyers and Impeachment

Now that Republicans have been raising the specter of a Chairman Conyers of the Judiciary Committee if the Democrats should take back the House, Conyers is starting to realize that it is not a great selling point for Democrats to let people know that high on their agenda is trying to impeach President Bush. So, Conyers has a column in today's Washington Post denying that he would seek impeachment hearings if he became chairman of the committee.
As Republicans have become increasingly nervous about whether they will be able to maintain control of the House in the midterm elections, they have resorted to the straw-man strategy of identifying a parade of horrors to come if Democrats gain the majority. Among these is the assertion that I, as the new chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, would immediately begin impeachment proceedings against President Bush.

I will not do that. I readily admit that I have been quite vigorous, if not relentless, in questioning the administration. The allegations I have raised are grave, serious, well known, and based on reliable media reports and the accounts of former administration officials.
I guess that Representative Conyers has forgotten about this episode when he held a "mock impeachment" hearing.
In the Capitol basement yesterday, long-suffering House Democrats took a trip to the land of make-believe.

They pretended a small conference room was the Judiciary Committee hearing room, draping white linens over folding tables to make them look like witness tables and bringing in cardboard name tags and extra flags to make the whole thing look official.

Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) banged a large wooden gavel and got the other lawmakers to call him "Mr. Chairman." He liked that so much that he started calling himself "the chairman" and spouted other chairmanly phrases, such as "unanimous consent" and "without objection so ordered." The dress-up game looked realistic enough on C-SPAN, so two dozen more Democrats came downstairs to play along.

The session was a mock impeachment inquiry over the Iraq war. As luck would have it, all four of the witnesses agreed that President Bush lied to the nation and was guilty of high crimes -- and that a British memo on "fixed" intelligence that surfaced last month was the smoking gun equivalent to the Watergate tapes. Conyers was having so much fun that he ignored aides' entreaties to end the session.

"At the next hearing," he told his colleagues, "we could use a little subpoena power." That brought the house down.
And, one of those witnesses was the same guy, Ray McGovern, who got kudos for confronting Rumsfeld recently at a speech.
The session took an awkward turn when witness Ray McGovern, a former intelligence analyst, declared that the United States went to war in Iraq for oil, Israel and military bases craved by administration "neocons" so "the United States and Israel could dominate that part of the world." He said that Israel should not be considered an ally and that Bush was doing the bidding of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

"Israel is not allowed to be brought up in polite conversation," McGovern said. "The last time I did this, the previous director of Central Intelligence called me anti-Semitic."

Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.), who prompted the question by wondering whether the true war motive was Iraq's threat to Israel, thanked McGovern for his "candid answer."
So, some might take Conyers at his word that he isn't salivating at the idea of holding impeachment hearings, but I'm skeptical. Perhaps, he just wants to hold oodles of hearings and doesn't actually want to pull a trigger, but the general idea is the same and is enough to make me hope that Republicans voters dissatisfied with the GOP Congress don't stay home in such numbers as to let Conyers become chairman and tie up the last two years of Bush's presidency with hearing after hearing into the many non-stories that have bubbled up with the media's help in the past five years.