There they go again. The Republican National Committee, the right-wing noise machine and their spear-carriers in the mainstream media have been in attack mode over the last few weeks. This time their target is Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, the distinguished senior Democrat who will become chair of the House Judiciary Committee if Democrats win the House back this fall.
With the president and the Tom DeLay Congress about as popular as big oil CEOs, the Republican National Committee is desperate to demonize Democrats. So they cooked up a campaign against Conyers, claiming that if Democrats win the House, Conyers is geared up to impeach the president. This threat, they suggest, will rouse the disaffected Republican base and bring them out to vote in large numbers.
The mainstream media fell for the bait. The ever-cooperative Tim Russert grilled Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi, suggesting that Conyers should take down the Web site explaining his resolution providing for a bipartisan committee to investigate the administration and to recommend whether or not impeachment hearings should begin.
Pelosi, to her credit, didn't fold. She said the Democrats would investigate the handling of intelligence leading up to the war, the corruption in the war, and other administration misdeeds. She reminded Russert that checks and balances were the essence of the Constitution.
But Democrats were spooked. Their excitable inside-the-beltway strategists began worrying that the Democratic left would blow the election by alienating voters in swing districts. Pelosi then had her spokesperson announce that "impeachment wasn't in the cards" if Democrats took back the House.
It is hard to sort out which is more pathetic. The RNC for hyping up this gambit. The press for falling for it. Or the Democratic leadership for cowering at the first sign of a dustup.
I'd say let the RNC run the fall election on the issue of saving Bush's neck. "This election isn't about you," Republican candidates would say, "or your jobs, your skyrocketing health care and gas costs or your stagnant incomes. And it's not about the country mired in a costly occupation of Iraq, saddled with record foreign debt, accelerating outsourcing and a staggering $1 trillion trade deficit this year alone. No, this election is about George Bush — vote to protect him and Dick Cheney from accountability. Vote Republican. We may not do much for you, but we'll keep George Bush and Dick Cheney above the law."
The doyens of the press fell for the RNC's line that this pap would turn out their base, without a shred of evidence to support it.
This president has made a sweeping claim to national security prerogatives in a war on terror that has no end. He says he can make war without Congress, monitor you without a warrant, lock you up without a lawyer, keep you in jail so long as the unending war goes on without a hearing. According to the Supreme Court precedents, if such claims go without challenge, he can effectively rewrite the Constitution.
The Republican Congress has utterly failed to provide even a minimum of oversight and accountability. Their concern has been to protect their party and their president before protecting the Constitution and its people.
A Democratic Congress would have a constitutional duty to investigate and challenge the president's claims. Investigating potential high crimes and misdemeanors isn't partisan. It isn't about "settling scores." It's about protecting the Constitution and preserving the Republic and the rule of law.
White House political guru Karl Rove suggests that Republicans run this fall by creating a choice — Democrats will raise your taxes, cut and run from Iraq and impeach the president. Republicans will defend the president's tax cuts, keep troops in Iraq until at least 2009 and keep the president above accountability. Let's have Rove's election. It surely would help Democrats take back the House.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. is founder and president of the Rainbow/Push Coalition.