Saturday, June 30, 2007

Eleven Reps Now Say 'Impeach Cheney'

Representative Dennis Kucinich of Ohio now has ten co-sponsors for his bill to impeach Vice President Dick Cheney.

The most recent to line up in support of impeaching his snarling highness include Keith Ellison and Hank Johnson.

Ellison, of Minnesota, is the first Muslim elected to Congress, and at this rate he's never going to convince the wingnuts that he's not a terrorist.

Johnson now holds the seat formerly held by Cynthia McKinney, who was defeated in one of the strangest primaries ever. But then Johnson and McKinney are from Georgia, where the electoral mess is even worse than the national ab-norm.

"I believe it was time to send a message to the Vice President and to the Executive Branch as a whole," said a statement released by Johnson's office.

Yes, sir, it certainly was. And a long time ago, too. Ms. McKinney would be right behind Dennis Kucinich, if not out in front of him. But thanks for not waiting any longer.

Johnson's statement continued: "I have certainly been displeased with the operations of the Executive Branch, particularly with regard to the secrecy, the incompetence, and the lack of cooperation that is coming out of the Vice President’s Office. I think the response to the subpoenas was the last straw."

Ahh, the subpoenas. We discussed them three weeks ago, and the president's reaction to them just yesterday.

I also have been displeased with a great many of their operations -- including fomenting terror, setting up death squads in Iraq, running black ops out of the Pentagon rather than the CIA in order to avoid oversight, and a great number of other offenses against America and mankind -- so it is difficult for me to argue with Rep. Johnson on this point. I can go along with him on the secrecy. I'd say "lack of cooperation" is a very gentle euphemism for "open defiance". And I would suggest that what appears to be incompetence is something else altogether. More on that in a moment if we're lucky.

But in the meantime it's nice to know there are still "last straws", and camels whose backs are still capable of breaking. Is it too little, too late? Is something better than nothing? Is it just another act in the endless meaningless public drama? Another sleight-of-hand that conceals more than it reveals? Or is Hank Johnson simply a pragmatic Democrat who can see what direction the ship is sinking?

Matthew Cunningham has more details on the move to impeach at Atlanta Progressive News.

On a related subject -- the same subject, actually -- your chilled scribbler can't help but wonder whether Hank Johnson has seen this passage from the Washington Post series that started last weekend:
In a bunker beneath the East Wing of the White House, Cheney locked his eyes on CNN, chin resting on interlaced fingers. He was about to watch, in real time, as thousands were killed on Sept. 11, 2001.

Previous accounts have [...] not detailed his reaction [...] when the south tower of the World Trade Center collapsed.

"There was a groan in the room that I won't forget, ever,"
one witness said. "It seemed like one groan from everyone" -- among them Rice; her deputy, Stephen J. Hadley; economic adviser Lawrence B. Lindsey; counselor Matalin; Cheney's chief of staff, Libby; and the vice president's wife.

Cheney made no sound. "I remember turning my head and looking at the vice president, and his expression never changed,"
said the witness, reading from a notebook of observations written that day. Cheney closed his eyes against the image for one long, slow blink.

Three people who were present, not all of them admirers, said they saw no sign then or later of the profound psychological transformation that has often been imputed to Cheney. What they saw, they said, was extraordinary self-containment and a rapid shift of focus to the machinery of power.
I added the emphasis, and resisted the urge to add a roar like a hundred freight trains and the sound of thousands of people screaming. But maybe we need the silence to appreciate (if that's the world) what we're reading here.

Not even a groan -- just "one long, slow blink" ... followed by "a rapid shift of focus to the machinery of power".

To catalog the abuses of power which have occurred since that time -- less than six years ago -- is no small task, but Bruce Fein had a go at it, in a piece published by Slate and quoted by Digby:
  • The vice president asserted presidential power to create military commissions, which combine the functions of judge, jury, and prosecutor in the trial of war crimes.
  • The vice president initiated kidnappings, secret detentions, and torture in Eastern European prisons of suspected international terrorists.
  • The vice president has maintained that the entire world is a battlefield. Accordingly, he contends that military power may be unleashed to kill or capture any American citizen on American soil if suspected of association or affiliation with al-Qaida.
  • Mr. Cheney has championed a presidential power to torture in contravention of federal statutes and treaties.
  • He has advocated and authored signing statements that declare the president's intent to disregard provisions of bills he has signed into law that he proclaims are unconstitutional,
  • The vice president engineered the National Security Agency's warrantless domestic surveillance program targeting American citizens on American soil in contravention of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978.
  • The vice president has orchestrated the invocation of executive privilege to conceal from Congress secret spying programs to gather foreign intelligence, and their legal justifications.
  • Cheney scorns freedom of speech and of the press. He urges application of the Espionage Act to prosecute journalists who expose national security abuses, for example, secret prisons in Eastern Europe or the NSA's warrantless surveillance program. He retaliated against Ambassador Joseph Wilson and his wife, Valerie Plame, through Chief of Staff Scooter Libby, for questioning the administration's evidence of weapons of mass destruction as justification for invading Iraq.
Digby points out that Bruce Fein is no lightweight -- he was an official in the Department of Justice during the Reagan presidency.

Digby also says
... nobody should be surprised by this when you consider how this lawless cabal took power in the first place. They showed very early on that they would let nothing stand in their way and from their first moments in office they governed as if their institutional power meant they had a mandate to enact their entire agenda by any means necessary. (Bush like to call it "political capital" --- I suspect Cheney just called it raw power.)
And she has me nodding all the way, till this:
I think the most amazing thing about all that is that 9/11 was just frosting on the cake for these guys --
they were prepared to do all this stuff anyway.
Anyway? What do you mean, "anyway"?
Cheney said he'd taken office with the intention of "restoring" presidential power. The GWOT made it easier to do the national security stuff, but he would have done it anyway.
Ahhh! So the argument runs: the hinge made the door easier to open, but Cheney would have come through the door anyway!

This is a man whose naked lust for power has been public knowledge for a long time, whose plan to take over the world beginning with the Middle East has been in clear view for more than a decade.

This is a man who has assured us endlessly that Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden belonged in the same sentence because 9/11! Iraq! And when he's pressed to back up his insinuation, he claims he never insinuated anything, but as soon as the pressure's off, he goes back to doing it.

This is a man who couldn't even bother to feign surprise when the South Tower disintegrated. (Some say "collapsed", but that's not the right word, is it?) No sadness, no profound transformation -- not even a groan!

He was coming through that door, whether we like it or not, but the hinge just happened to appear, is that right? I think that's what Digby's saying.

It's almost as if Digby's saying 9/11 didn't matter because Cheney was planning a power-grab in any case. Or maybe that's exactly what she's saying. I can't tell.

But 9/11 did matter, because it enabled the power-grab. It put the American people into a frame of mind in which they could be manipulated with the greatest of ease. And at the same time -- with a little anthrax assist -- the media went as soft as possible.

Speaking of which, Glenn Greenwald interviewed Helen Thomas on Thursday and she had this to say about that:
Reporters, after Watergate, realized that we had let so much go by us. They got much tougher when President Ford took over. It wasn't animosity. It was anger that we hadn't asked the right questions. And the press became tougher.

But they really went soft after 9/11. Reporters, I'm assuming, did not want to be called unpatriotic and un-American when we were in a national crisis.

And I don't think the corporate heads exactly wanted anyone to rock the boat at that time.

But I kept asking questions about the validity of going to war against a country that had done nothing to us.
Certainly nobody wanted to be called "unpatriotic" for trying to prevent the country from suffering its coup d'etat in silence, and of course corporate heads can always be counted on to steady the boat, but I would have been a lot happier if Glenn Greenwald had asked Helen Thomas "Which country?" as in "Which country did we go to war against that had done nothing to us?"

It's a vital question. Is she talking about Afghanistan, or Iraq, or both? Here's a hint: if the meant both, she would have used the plural.

Here's another hint: If she was talking about Iraq, that war didn't even start until a year and a half after 9/11. But it was the most brain-damaged 18 months in American history. The media went soft on 9/11 and it stayed soft. That's even more important, in my view.

Here's another hint: Dick Cheney didn't have to knock down the door, because, just when he needed one, a hinge appeared! Isn't it amazing how often these guys get lucky?

And here's the final hint: Why do we believe him when he sits down -- behind closed doors, not under oath, with no notes allowed, and no transcripts -- and tells us who installed that hinge?