Subject: Councilmember Reuben Snipper Agrees to Sponsor Impeachment Resolution

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                                                       May 25, 2007
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Councilmember Reuben Snipper Agrees to Sponsor Impeachment Resolution

Takoma Park, MD may become the first community in the Washington, DC area to introduce a resolution calling for the impeachment of Vice President Dick Cheney and President George W. Bush. Now that Ward 5 Councilmember Reuben Snipper has agreed to sponsor the resolution, members of the community are encouraged to come to Council meetings and express their views on it. If the Mayor decides to include it on the agenda of a Council meeting, the members of the Council will put it to a vote. If the measure passes, Takoma Park will join over fifty other towns and cities around the country who have passed such resolutions, including San Francisco, CA, Detroit, MI, Amherst, MA, Chapel Hill, NC, Oberlin, OH and a number of towns in Vermont.

Impeachment activism, even in a left-leaning community like Takoma Park, faces many hurdles, the most daunting of which may be the 2006 declaration by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that impeachment is “off the table.”  For this reason, Takoma Park resident Lisa Moscatiello had assumed that impeachment was not a realistic or appropriate goal.  But this Spring, frustration over Congress’ stalemate with the President over war funding and the departure of a longtime friend for the National Guard spurred her to give the idea a second look.  It was a February 2007 article in The Nation by former Congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman that changed her mind.

“It was Holtzman’s experience as a member of the House Judiciary Committee during Watergate and the impeachment investigation into President Nixon that grabbed my attention.  In the article, she argued that impeachment is a grave matter, that it should not be undertaken lightly, and that it must come from the grassroots and not from Congressional leadership. In 1973 Congress was in no hurry to impeach the President, and it was only a groundswell of public outrage over Nixon’s attempt to obstruct justice by firing the Special Prosecutor and the subsequent resignations of the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General that forced Congress to act. So, the fact that Congressional leadership today is reluctant to take this step is not a reason for the rest of us to give up on it.”  

Moscatiello soon joined forces with local activist Michelle Bailey and other members of the community and began meeting on a regular basis. The group’s kickoff event was an April 26 forum with State Senator Jamie Raskin at Montgomery College.  This event was videotaped and will be posted on the group’s website soon. See http://www.takomaparkibc.wordpress.com for a writeup of the event.

“This movement faces tough battles on several levels,” says Moscatiello.  “The most difficult hurdle is getting people to pay attention. People have grown very cynical during the past eight years about their ability to influence their leaders in government.  They have grown paralyzed and depressed and have stopped informing themselves, and that is what has allowed the Administration to get away with so much for so long. There is an alarming sort of ‘bread and circuses’ mentality in the populace. Even in Takoma Park , I sometimes worry that people care more about organic goat cheese than the Constitution. People have unquestioningly accepted certain assumptions and are afraid of looking foolish or naïve if they voice dissent. I recently read on a Takoma Park blog an assertion that ‘Impeachment will take two years.’ Where did that come from? That’s totally arbitrary. Statements like that have become the conventional wisdom, which is why we have subtitled our web site ‘UnconventionalWisdom.’

 Conventional wisdom and fear of criticism are what got us into war with Iraq .”

The next hurdle is making the case that the President and the Vice President have, personally, committed impeachable offenses.  This includes actual violations of federal statutes as well as the types of political “high crimes and misdemeanors” outlined in the “impeachment clause” of the Constitution in Article II, Section 4. The draft resolution for Takoma Park, which can also be viewed at http://www.takomaparkibc.wordpress.com , lists as impeachable offenses, misleading the country into war; violating the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act through the use of  warrantless wiretaps; violating the Geneva Conventions and U.S. statutes by engaging in torture; detaining individuals indefinitely without trial, and undermining the authority of the legislative branch with the use of Presidential signing statements.

More difficult than arguing that there is a case for impeachment, though, is convincing people that it is a politically wise course of action at this time.  Many Democrats argue that the party is poised to take the Presidency in 2008, and that such an inevitably rancorous proceeding would tarnish the party’s image in the eyes of voters. Others have argued that impeachment will distract Congress as well as well as the City Council from other pressing matters such as education and health care. Moscatiello believes that, on the contrary, “Having a national conversation on these matters is vital. It is central. Do we abandon the principles on which this country was founded just because we have enemies? We are supposedly fighting in Iraq to bring democracy to the region. How vital will the rest of the world view our democracy if we abandon our cherished principles of checks and balances and the rule of law at the first sign of danger? What better advertisement for democracy could there be than the peaceful removal of a corrupt and power hungry President and Vice President through a systematic investigation and fair trial? No one can predict what will happen between now and 2008 to sway the national election, but right and wrong and accountability are enduring principles that remain constant no matter who is in office.  Members of Congress should use this as an opportunity to be heroes.  How are we supposed to trust them to protect us from Al Qaeda when they cannot protect us and the Constitution from a lawless President and his administration?”

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