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John Dean and Elizabeth Holtzman Live on Impeaching Bush

Posted in on September 14th, 2006 7:07 pm by HL

Last night The Nation Institute put on a talk at UCLA’s Royce Hall featuring John Dean, the former Presidential Counsel to Richard Nixon, and former New York Congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman. The event was sponsored by Hamilton Fish, Katrina Vanden Heuvel, and Nation books. There was a reception beforehand where an impressive array of high-powered people who are dedicated to seeing George W. Bush impeached got to exchange ideas with Mr. Dean and Ms. Holtzman.

I got to meet a very nice lady named Norma Barzman, the author of “The Red and The Blacklist” and a new book, “The End of Romance.” Norma was a writer in Hollywood in the 40’s until she was blacklisted, and spent the next 30 years in exile in France. Norma introduced me to Cindy Asner, who is fighting to keep Diebold out of L.A. County.

After we filed into the Royce Hall auditorium Hamilton Fish came out and introduced the guests. John Dean is the author of several books including “Worse Then Watergate” and “Conservatives without Conscience.” He was Nixon’s attorney and the key figure in bringing down his Presidency, and he has studied past impeachments including Nixon, Clinton, and Andrew Johnson. He also served as a guest host to Keith Olbermann during the Clinton impeachment. Elizabeth Holtzman served on the House Judiciary Committee that held the Nixon impeachment hearings, and helped draft the articles of impeachment.

The discussion was moderated by Patt Morrison of The L.A. Times, who started by jokingly welcoming everyone including the unlucky member of Homeland Security who had to listen in on the conversation.

Dean started out by saying that when Nixon was impeached he thought it would send a message to future Presidents that you cannot ignore the constitution; he is in disbelief over how much further Bush has gone then Nixon ever did. Dean also talked about how the ball for impeachment never got rolling in Congress until after the people had finally had enough and began to speak up. This happened in full when Nixon fired Federal Prosecutor Archibald Cox. Of course back then the press was much more involved in the matter. After the firing, the nightly network news shows were running stories, and the papers were printing headlines that were skewering Nixon on a nightly basis. This was a large basis for people getting so fed up that congressmen, fearing for their jobs if they didn’t do something, had to act and led to bi-partisan support for impeachment.

Dean made the comparison of Bill Clinton’s impeachment to that of Andrew Johnson as ridiculously political. He told of members of congress telling him that the party leaders would not let them vote their conscious on the issue; they were forced to go along or lose future campaign money and suffer other such punishment. As Republicans had a majority and the vote was strictly along party lines, Congress voted to impeach despite the fact that they knew Clinton would never be convicted.

Dean made a point that it was important not to put the debate for impeachment in a criminal frame, and listed 3 broad categories under which Nixon was impeached:
obstruction of justice, abuse of power, and refusal to respond i.e. stonewalling the impeachment process. He then compared that to Bush, calling him “Nixon on Steroids.”

Elizabeth Holtzman spoke next and laid out what she believes are the possible charges that could be brought against Bush. She started by mentioning subversion of democracy and the Constitution, by knowingly deceiving the people on the Iraq war, as well as by impairing Congress from making a reasonable decision. Bush did not comply with the FISA Act which is an impeachable offense; he also refused and still refuses to obey the law. Bush has violated the Geneva Convention by torturing and mistreating detainees, and he failed to punish those responsible for Abu Gharib. Bush put Rumsfeld in charge of the matter who admitted that he was hiding detainees. All of these Holtzman believes are impeachable offenses, and she stated that Bush thinks that just because he is commander in chief he can violate any law he wants, which he cannot. The Supreme Court has already ruled on this when Justice Robert H. Jackson wrote that the President is commander in chief of the military not commander in chief of the country. She mentioned that Bush has violated over 720 laws through signing statements in which he signed a bill into law but then refused to obey certain parts of that law.

Holtzman wasn’t finished yet-she then turned to Hurricane Katrina. Bush is on the hook for failure to make sure laws are applied. He was alerted and did nothing for days while people died. It is Bush’s responsibility to make sure that the federal government is doing what it is supposed to in an emergency situation. Instead Bush went on vacation again.

John Dean talked of how an important facet to impeachment is that the President had to authorize or know about what was going on, as with Nixon’s secret bombing of Cambodia. He said that the present Congress and Senate Intelligence Committee have chosen loyalty to the President instead of to the country despite their oath. He cited the Spector bill, which seeks to immunize Bush from prosecution on NSA wiretapping.

The two guests then made final statements. Both spoke of how the first step to impeachment is for Democrats to retake Congress, and then not to be afraid to do it. Elizabeth Holtzman said that if people want to get involved one thing they could do was to contact their representative and ask them if they are sponsoring resolution 635, (the resolution to impeach Bush), and if not, why not?
Dean remarked that we must hold the President responsible, because the constitution depends on it.