After seeing the insanity unfold before his eyes, a visiting law professor felt compelled to say this:
“I am really astonished at the mood in this room,” commented one witness, George Mason University School of Law professor Jeremy Rabkin.
“The tone of these deliberations is slightly demented,” Rabkin said. “You should all remind yourselves that the rest of the country is not necessarily in this same bubble in which people think it is reasonable to describe the president as if he were Caligula.”
Where was he? A netroots (or do I mean nutroots?) convention? A Truthers’ gathering? A San Francisco party? A Berkeley tree sit-in?
Nope. None of the above.
Our professor was sitting at House Judiciary Committee hearing, listening to Democratic Congresspeople and their friends vent their spleen at President Bush. It wasn’t an impeachment — the Dems aren’t that stupid — but it was almost worse, because it had the trappings of a kangaroo court with the President being tried in absentia:
Leading the way was Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, the former Democratic presidential candidate who has brought repeated impeachment resolutions on the House floor against Bush and Vice President Cheney.
Kucinich got a rock star welcome of whistles, hoots and clapping as he walked into the hearing room, holding hands with his wife, from hundreds of anti-war, anti-Bush people crammed into the room and lining the hallways outside. T-shirts reading “Arrest Bush” and “Veterans for Impeachment” illustrated the sentiments of many.
“The decision before us is whether to demand accountability for one of the gravest injustices imaginable,” Kucinich testified, avoiding use of the “I” word.
“To the regret of many, this is not an impeachment hearing,” said committee chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., pointing out the less incendiary title of the event, “executive power and its constitutional limitations.”
Still, Conyers, a vocal opponent of Bush, noted that his panel had pursued many issues that Kucinich and others regard as impeachable offenses: manipulating intelligence about Iraq; misusing authority with regard to torture, detention and rendition; politicizing the Justice Department and retaliating against critics, as in the outing of former CIA agent Valerie Plame.
“The rules of the House prevent me or any witness from utilizing familiar terms,” Kucinich said. “But we can put two and two together in our minds.”
Former Los Angeles County Prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi, known for his prosecution of Charles Manson in 1970, acknowledged that “I am forbidden from accusing him of a crime, or even any dishonorable conduct” under House rules. But he could still encourage people to read his book, “The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder.”
Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., was less circumspect in asserting that Bush was “the worst president that our nation has ever suffered.”
Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y., concluded that “this is the most impeachable administration in the history of America because of the way that it has clearly violated the law.”
Unsurprisingly, the only sane words in this gravitas-free mad house that emanated from an actual elected figure were those voiced by a Republican:
“It seems that we are hosting an anger management class,” said Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, the committee’s senior Republican. “This hearing will not cause us to impeach the president; it will only serve to impeach Congress’s credibility.”