Here at the Pruning Shears we’re trying to have both words and action since a danger for a site like this is that it turns into a glorified bitch session. As we get up and running Mark is focused on getting 2008 presidential candidates to share their thoughts on executive power and I’m looking at what ordinary citizens can do to pressure the current administration. One is to jump on the bandwagon attempting to dislodge Alberto Gonzales from his sinecure at the Justice Department, but I suspect he will very shortly decide that he urgently needs to spend more time with his family. More importantly I don’t think he’s got a clear path to the exit. He’s in the middle of a complete tangled mess right now and even if he submitted his resignation tomorrow the legal issues already in motion would need months and years to play out. Any more complications at this point would just slow it down even more.
Impeaching the president is a nonstarter at the moment because there isn’t enough support. As far as I know we haven’t seen anything more than a few theoretical mentions of it by Congressional Democrats and no one has moved from the “off the table” line. The trend is moving in that direction (at the start of the year we weren’t even hearing theoretical mentions) but it will take additional developments to keep it going. This is where the Vice President comes in.
As I wrote last week there is a legitimate case to make for Cheney’s impeachment. You don’t have to be a raving zealot to suggest it - there are good, sound, logical reasons to be in favor of it. Even better there’s actually something in place to focus our energies - the articles of impeachment introduced in H.RES.333. The best option I can see right now is trying to persuade our representative to sign on to them.
I’ve been talking with Mark about this and we’ve got some ideas to start fleshing out. The outline is that we’d like to get folks who agree to sign a petition urging Rep. Ryan to sign on. We’d like to find a place with good traffic to set up something simple - petitions, a card table and a clipboard are theoretically all we need. We’d like to have something nice printed out to advertise the site and there are plenty of other things we could put onto a wish list, but right now we just want to get out there and try something. We figure it’ll be a few weeks to plan and get everything ready, so maybe the first week of September is our initial “go” date. Whatever happens our goal is to start giving like-minded people in this area a way to make their voices heard, and try to persuade those who are willing to give us a chance. If what we’re planning is a bust then we’ll try something else, and if that doesn’t work then something else again. We both believe in this and intend to keep plugging away at it. And we’ll approach it the same way Thomas Edison did with a stubborn project: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
One note on last week’s column. I got some feedback that asked, why go straight to impeachment? Isn’t that an extreme position to take and how can you expect Republicans to agree to it? For the second question, I don’t expect Republicans agree at the moment. My hope is to build pressure on them to reconsider the political calculus by building support for it. As to whether it’s extreme here are two reasons why I don’t think so. First, the threat of impeachment should by itself be enough to cause the administration to moderate and help resolve the crisis. We haven’t pledged unwavering commitment to it, and the path can change as circumstances change. Second, this administration simply doesn’t answer to any of the typical “soft” pressure that others have. Plummeting public support, repudiation at the polls last November, distress signals from the members of their party that DO have to face voters again, the firm setting of conventional wisdom against them, open ridicule and contempt (most recently of the Attorney General), traditional customs of cooperation and restraint…none of these things come into play for them. They don’t seem willing to change under any circumstances. What is left? To those who think impeachment is unreasonable, what has demonstrably caused them to change in the past? They have been unresponsive to any of the typical inducements. A hard group requires a hard instrument.