On the morning of Thursday, September 20, over two dozen impeachment supporters from Takoma Park, Garrett Park, and elsewhere in Maryland’s 8th Congressional District crowded into a meeting room in Longworth House Office Building for a wide ranging discussion with Rep. Chris Van Hollen.
State Senator and constitutional expert Jamie Raskin and Takoma Park Mayor Kathy Porter were among the delegates, who also included Lisa Moscatiello, Thomas Nephew, and Hank Prensky from Takoma Park, Warren Kornberg and Jim Agenbroad from Garrett Park, and Alan McConnell from Silver Spring, to name but a few.
Rep. Van Hollen was presented with a folder containing the Takoma Park City Council impeachment resolution, a list of signatories for the Garrett Park referendum, the agenda and attendance list for the meeting, prepared statements by several of the delegates, books on impeachment by Elizabeth Holtzman and John Conyers and his Judiciary Committee staff — and, in a small gesture he appreciated, a small box of “Impeachmints” candy bought at “Now and Then.”
What came next was basically a town hall meeting on Capitol Hill. In prepared statements by Lisa Moscatiello and others, as well as in frank give and take, we told Rep. Van Hollen that impeachment must be tried and can succeed. While we regret he doesn’t agree with us (yet!) we’re encouraged by the fact that he really listened to us at length — the meeting was scheduled to last just half an hour, but went to nearly twice as long — and that he promised continued dialogue with us about this issue.
Van Hollen said he agreed on the merits of the issues Lisa and others raised such as torture, warrantless wiretapping, and indefinite detentions, but felt that between the courts and congressional oversight, these issues were being addressed. He didn’t agree that Congress had been “silenced,” and argued that a failed, “botched” impeachment attempt would be worse than none at all. He thinks that impeachment might not get a majority in the House at this time — although he did say it could get a majority of Democrats.
The congressman – who is head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee – observed that by January the primaries would be underway. Warning about the effect on the elections, he asserted that the political benefit was questionable – impeachment appeals to the base, but not the general electorate.
“A single throw of the dice”
None of that went unchallenged, to put it mildly. Warren Kornberg asked “we wonder if you see what you’re staking on a single throw of the dice—on the outcome of the next election.” Regarding Van Hollen’s seeking “the best possibility of advancing our agenda,” Thomas Nephew said Van Hollen’s bedrock obligation wasn’t to pass legislation, but was “in your oath of office: to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies.” In a tense exchange, Hank Prensky asked whether Van Hollen was waiting for more co-sponsors to H.Res.333, Kucinich’s bill calling for Cheney’s impeachment; Van Hollen replied that he resented that. Garrett Park’s David Haley said he’d left the Republican Party and voted for Van Hollen, but that independent voters like him would react if they see Congress has let Bush run off with the Constitution.
The full texts of the prepared statements delivered at the meeting will appear on the Takoma Park and Maryland 8th CD Impeach Bush Cheney web sites in the near future. For now, have a look at this excerpt from a recent article by John Nichols in The Nation:
In her remarks to Congressman Van Hollen, Mayor Porter said ours was one of the biggest grassroots movements she’s witnessed in Takoma Park. And it’s spreading: Garrett Park residents have taken up the cause,forcing a referendum on the issue in upcoming city elections. The Montgomery County Council may consider a similar resolution as well.
Thanks for being part of this — but now we really need your help.
We believe there will be a tipping point for Chris Van Hollen, the Democratic leadership, and all of Congress, and we helped push things a little closer to that on Thursday. As events unfold, your phone calls, letters, or fax to Chris Van Hollen may be part of what turns him around on this issue — and saves our republic from creeping authoritarian rule and erosion of the rule of law.
Mr. Van Hollen’s rosy view of this Congress’s ability to check Bush and Cheney is difficult to accept. The shameful “Protect America Act” cave-in on FISA in August actually has us going backwards on one of the key issues Bush deserves impeachment for. And just this week, Congress proved more willing to censure a grassroots organization for exercising free speech about a disastrous war than it has been to punish the President and Vice President who deceived this country about that war in the first place.
So please take some time right now to call Rep. Van Hollen at 202-225-5341 — you can leave a message — and again early next week, and again and again and again in the weeks ahead.
Urge him to honor his oath of office by supporting the impeachment of George Bush and Dick Cheney. Urge him to start by co-sponsoring H.Res 333, the resolution calling for Dick Cheney’s impeachment.
He’s told us what he thinks — now he needs to know what you think.