Guest blogged by Jon Ponder, Pensito Review.
Rep. Steven King (R-Iowa)
Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.)
Prospects are so bad for Republicans in the Senate that Sen. Mitch McConnell, their embattled leader, has given them free reign to vote against the party and, certainly, their unpopular president, if it will help them save their seats in November.
In stark contrast, Republicans in the House are apparently determined to follow Bush in lockstep over the cliff (to mix multiple metaphors), or at least that's the impression they gave at the impeachment hearing last Friday --- which was officially titled "Executive Power and Its Constitutional Limitation" --- when GOP Judiciary Committee members put on a show of the sort of blind loyalty to George Bush that put their party in its dire predicament in the first place.
One by one, these pols --- all of them the sort of Republicans who give white guys a bad name --- took turns lashing out at the proceedings and trying to spin Bush's crimes as insignificant and morally relative to other president's misdeeds. At worst, it was a disgusting display of complicit politicians trying to save their own skins by fending off any pursuit of justice for Bush. At best, they came off a bit comically, like vampires in movies clawing and snarling at sunlight just seconds before they meet their doom.
Speaking of horror, a prime example of growling and back-biting --- not to mention outright lying on the record --- was the performance of Rep. Steve King of Iowa (who is not related to the novelist Stephen King).
"And as I've watched the Bush administration every day in the seven and a half years," King said, "I didn't see anything along the way that would have indicated to me by an objective judgment that we would be sitting here with these impeachment hearings today." And later, "I would point out that it would be pretty rare if you could find anyone out in the crowd who could actually say what it is that [Dick Cheney's former Chief of Staff] Scooter Libby actually did."
That was a rhetorical statement, of course. There were probably any number of people in the room who could have told King that Libby was convicted on one count of obstruction of justice, two counts of perjury and one count of making false statements to federal investigators, and that he is the highest ranking White House official to be convicted of a crime since John Poindexter was convicted in the Reagan-Bush Iran-Contra scandal.
King is best known for saying that the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison was no worse than a fraternity hazing. In March, he made news when he said that terrorists "will be dancing in the streets" if Barack Obama is elected president.
Even worse than King, however, was Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), who trotted out tired and tattered GOP terror politics, first by eliding the nefarious aims of bin Laden to gain nuclear power with those of his mortal enemies who run the Iranian regime, and then by implying that by holding the hearing, the Democrats were helping the terrorists:
Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), the ranking member, set the tone for his party's studied unseriousness about the proceedings: "This week it seems that we are hosting an anger management class."
Rep. Dan Lungren, the last Republican attorney general of California, articulated the minority's position: "Maybe what we're here for is something called impeachment lite. . . . We're sort of in that Never-Neverland of accusing the president of impeachable offenses but not taking actions to impeach him, which I guess impugns him but does not impeach him, but maybe it has the same effect in the court of public opinion."
For a flavor of the Republicans' comportment, here are excerpts extracted from a recap of the hearing by Mikel Weisser at OpEd News :
Trent Franks stuck to his message of dismay that the terrorists are winning and that there were many notable Democrats who also called for a War on Iraq based on claims of WMDs. He also did a rousing review of quotes to demonstrate how much the terrorists hate us for our freedom. "And somehow we're going after this president you has done everything in his power to protect us." Of course, in putting together his terror routine, Franks failed, as so many GOP leaders do, to mention that the American public and politicians were operating on intelligence supplied by Bush in the first place. When Swartz tried to comment Franks concluded his turn rather than let him speak. He also mentioned that by focusing on "fairy tales" instead of terrorists, all there that morning should be ashamed.
Rep. Louie Gohmert R-TX condemned most of the witnesses, reminding them that if misleading to congress is a criminal offense they should consider their "brash allegations." Gohmert focused on Clinton's earlier failures and poor President Bush who "naively" "accepted" "Clinton's lies" about Iraq WMDs. He further claimed that Joe Wilson started speaking out to protect his friends in France who were scamming the UN oil for food deal. He also added, like Franks that the focus of the day should have been on the terrorists, not the innocent, though naive president. The biggest problem right now is that the Supreme Court had just voted to "release terrorists on American soil."
Dan Lungren, R-CA, addressed Holtzman and Bugliosi and returned to the popular Republican phrase, the criminalizing of political difference of opinion. He looked back to earlier presidential abuses including the little mentioned tale of Wilson having political cartoonists imprisoned for unfavorable cartoons. He also likened Japanese Internment to Nixon's post-presidential tax investigations and said the Democrats were "tantamount to overcharging the case." He asked if impeachment is the proper tool. Turning to Rabkin and Presser for support, Lungren interrupted Presser and himself to complain that people in the audience were holding signs.
The last to speak, Dan Lungren, R-CA, came back to the microphone to say that "there is an essential difference between an misstatement of facts and an intentional misstatement;" and as a former prosecutor he knows such allegations are easily made and hard to prove, it's "a long road;" only to find himself cross-examined by Rep. Jerrold Nadler, on whether or not the faulty and misleading intelligence reports Bush gave to Congress rises to the level of lying. Again Lungren used the opportunity to complain about the crowd behavior. Conyers apologized for the crowd's behavior and said disrupters would not be invited back to this chamber. After that, citing Eisenhower's memoirs, he justified Bush's choice to have faith in the intelligence we had and we should accept his good will and intentions. Like Eisenhower, Bush merely "made a decision based on the best intelligence he had."
"The way this has been portrayed as a president chomping at the bit to violate the Constitution is just unreasonable," Lungren concluded. Nadler countered that the issue wasn't about the quality of the intelligence Bush had, but that prima fascia Bush selected the information he wanted to use and hid the rest from the world community. Lungren stuck to his guns despite a final effort to challenge him by Rep Scott.
A pro-Bush witness called in by the GOP dismissed the proceedings this way:
By "the rest of the country," Rabkin, of course, meant "Fox News viewers" --- not the 55 percent of Americans who believe George Bush has abused his power in a way that rises to an impeachable offense.
All in all, it was as sad and sickening a display by the Republicans as we have seen since they lost control of Congress. It was sad because these are the same Republicans who became complicit in Bush's bullying and malfeasance by enabling him at every turn --- and it is always depressing to see enablers in an abusive relationships kowtowing to their abusers.
And it was sickening because, on Friday, as they have done since Bush assumed power in January 2000, these pols put their fealty to Dear Leader, the Republican Party and their own political futures ahead of the good of the country and their own oaths to uphold the Constitution.
The corporate media is ignoring this story, so here are some links to video and other coverage.
You'll find a complete playlist of YouTube videos of the hearing here.
And here is a list of links to YouTube videos of the proceedings compiled by Gene Cappa, a commenter at OpEd News:
- Kucinich enters hearing to cheers
- Rep. Robert Wexler
- Rep. Steve King
- Rep. Jerrold Nadler
- Rep. Trent Franks
- Rep. Dennis Kucinich
- Bruce Fein
- Vincent Bugliosi
- Bruce Fein
- Vincent Bugliosi
- Vincent Bugliosi
- Lamar Smith
- Rep. Tammy Baldwin
- Maurice Hinchey
- Rep. Dan Lungren
- Protesters ejected
- Rep. Walter Jones
- Congressman Steve Cohen
Dennis Kucinich on C-SPAN's "Washington Journal":