As recently as a year ago, few people, except hardcore critics of the Bush administration, would say the "I" word. Yet recent polls show that 54 percent of Americans surveyed support the impeachment of Vice President Dick Cheney; 48 percent favor impeaching President George W. Bush. In comparison, when President Richard Nixon faced impeachment in 1974—he resigned before the full House voted on it—only 35 percent of Americans surveyed thought he should be impeached.
It's become clear that Bush and Co. intentionally misled the country into the war in Iraq. Bush and Cheney's Constitutional transgressions include exercising unchecked executive power, authorizing warrantless domestic wiretaps, ordering indefinite detention of American citizens without access to a lawyer, and defying congressional subpoenas. These unilateral moves have prompted even conservatives such as columnist Bruce Fein, who argued for Bush's impeachment earlier this month on Bill Moyers Journal, to warm to the idea.
Jim Lindley, Dave Sokal and Diane VandenBroek are members of the N.C. Grassroots Impeachment Movement (GRIM), which started in Carrboro in 2006. The Carrboro Board of Aldermen and the Chapel Hill Town Council have adopted resolutions supporting Bush's impeachment.
Since late July, organizers have collected about 2,000 signatures, which they plan to present to Congressman David Price on Aug. 20. During that meeting, GRIM will ask Price to formally call for Bush's and Cheney's impeachment. To learn more about GRIM, go to grassrootsimpeachment.org.
Why is mainstream America only now beginning to seriously consider impeachment?
LINDLEY: One factor is the mainstream media and the corporate sponsors avoided the "I" word like the plague. But now it's unavoidable.
Why have people not been eager to impeach Bush when they were eager to impeach Clinton?
LINDLEY: The Democrats are OK with another 17 months of damage by Bush and Cheney so they'll have ammunition for '08. That's beyond unacceptable. It's repulsive. The politics mean more than all the deaths, the billions of dollars, the slaughter of our Constitution and perhaps irreparable damage to the balance of power.
VANDENBROEK: We're just getting started now because we were so hopeful in 2006 that Democrats would take over the Congress. And we did, and then they caved in to Bush.
What are the possible political scenarios if Congress started impeachment proceedings against Bush and/or Cheney?
LINDLEY: In 1974, when Congress presented the evidence, Republican leaders went to Nixon and said, We'll have to side with criminals or impeach you, or you can resign. The Republicans could put Bush in the same position; it would be the best thing for the country and the Republican party. [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi can only be president if there's a precipitious event, so if Cheney were impeached, Bush would have to nominate someone and get congressional approval. Some people think Fred Thompson will be nominated to replace Cheney as vice president.
SOKAL: Cheney might resign and say it's for health reasons. Then Bush might appoint someone like Mitt Romney for vice president. If they impeached Bush, then Romney would be president.
Under that scenario, with a Republican presidential candidate as a de facto incumbent, would it be harder for the Democrats to win in 2008?
SOKAL: Bush is turning out so badly, I don't think the Republicans have much chance of winning an election.
Are you finding that different political parties are talking about impeachment?
SOKAL: Some of the true conservatives and the Libertarians are for impeachment.
VANDENBROEK: Not the true Bush believers, the ones who believe he's sent from God.
LINDLEY: I fit the mold that tens of thousands of Americans do. I haven't dissociated from the Democratic party. I've told them they can consider me a teetering Democrat and soon to be an ex-Democrat if they don't do their constitutional duty. I'd become an independent.
What do people say when you ask them to sign the petition?
SOKAL: Some people say they are afraid. That they'll be placed on a no-fly list or that someone will come after them. I don't think it's likely.
VANDENBROEK: Some say thank you.
LINDLEY: I hear people say "Where were you four years ago?" They think it's too late.
Congressman Price's district is the most progressive in the state. Yet at times he seems hesitant to spend his political capital. How will you persuade him to lead the charge for impeachment?
SOKAL: The Beltway guys are tough. He lost the election to a conservative several years ago, and he's a little afraid of getting too far into the liberal camp. I hope we can convince him there's sentiment out there to impeach.
LINDLEY: He's made it clear in the past he's hesitant to call for impeachment, but the actions of the last month of the administration—blatantly refusing to be accountable to Congress, that executive privilege applies to everything—it's given Congress two choices: You can continue to cave into the executive branch or you can impeach. Executive privilege doesn't apply to impeachment investigations. I don't think Price is going to cave in. When high crimes and misdemeanors have taken place, impeachment is not an option—it's an obligation.
Would you vote for Price again if he declines to call for impeachment?
SOKAL: Price is a great guy, but I'd be tempted to vote in the primary for a strong progressive challenger. I'd probably stick with Price, though.
LINDLEY: I would not.
How would impeachment affect the United States' relationship with our allies?
LINDLEY: We need to demonstrate to the world that this is not America. We're not standing for it. We need to ask for forgiveness.
Would our enemies, such as Iran, take advantage of the leadership instability?
LINDLEY: It's hard to say. But we're being driven off a cliff. And the Republicans want to hand the Democrats the steering wheel so they're in charge when we crash at the end.
What could happen if neither Bush nor Cheney is impeached?
LINDLEY: I'm afraid we'll go into Iran. I'm afraid our balance of power is a thing of the past. By holding this administration accountable, it will serve notice to future administrations. He's not the decider and I don't want future presidents to be the decider.