a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew

Gordon Clark (Green-MD-8) on Congress and impeachment

Posted by Thomas Nephew on July 13th, 2008

Gordon Clark is a former SANE/Freeze, Peace Action, and Public Citizen state and national organizer who is challenging Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD-8) in the November election, as the Green Party candidate for Maryland’s 8th Congressional District seat in Congress. As befits a Green Party and progressive candidate, he’s centering his campaign on the issues of the Iraq war, global warming, and to some extent on the storm clouds gathering for a possible Iran war; as I noted at the time, I first learned about the execrable H.Con.Res.362 bill demanding a blockade of Iran via a press release from the Gordon Clark campaign.

I was curious where Mr. Clark stands on impeachment, accountability, and the dream of a healthy constitutional democracy in the United States. Via his website, I just got through listening to an interview he gave on June 13th on the (quite excellent) BlogTalkRadio news show “Radio Resistance,” hosted by Chip Gibbons. The Clark interview begins at around 32:30 minutes*; the key part, for me, is here:

GIBBONS, “RADIO RESISTANCE” (at around 44:52): If you were in Congress right now instead of Representative Van Hollen, would you be pursuing impeachment of George Bush?

CLARK: As I said, I think it’s a tough call in some ways. I’ll start off by saying: yes, I would. […] If I were in the legislature right now, there’s no question that this administration has committed crimes that deserve impeachment and I would be forced to vote for it.

(All emphases are mine.)

The first eight minutes or so of the interview — which you should listen to as well — introduce Clark, and give him a chance to develop the connections he (quite rightly) sees between the U.S. oil-based economy, our deadly, costly adventure in Iraq, and the global warming crisis — what I sometimes think of as “the cliff we’re driving off issues.” Then interviewer Chip Gibbons turned to the “getting our hands on the steering wheel issues” of accountability, impeachment, and Congress’s supine behavior versus the Bush administration:

RR (at around 40:23): Why do you believe Congress has failed to hold George Bush accountable in any way for any of his actions? Whether it be the war in Iraq or the authorization of torture or the warrantless wiretapping or any of the numerous things he’s done that are …

CLARK: …bad!

RR: … that require some accountability.

CLARK: …very, very bad, yes, and require some accountability… Well, it doesn’t seem to me that Congress itself is terribly accountable. When you consider the extraordinary rate that incumbents get returned to office and that challenges that anyone who is running against an incumbent faces, that’s part of the problem. I think overall — and I certainly know members of Congress who are good people — but I think the biggest problem overall is that you’re talking about two political parties, both the Democrats and Republicans, who are essentially feeding from the same trough. And it’s very unlikely that you’re going to get a Democratically controlled Congress which is acting like a true opposition party when in fact an awful lot of their campaign finance funding comes from the same industries or sectors that Republican politicians get it from.

I also think that part of what’s going on is that Democrats don’t want to set any precedents that they themselves might get caught in later on. You know, who knows what skeletons other people have in their closets, so they don’t push too hard.

This is something, by the way, when I worked with Public Citizen in their CongressWatch division, I followed ethics abuses and corruption in Congress, so as you can imagine we kept very, very busy. And basically, members of Congress had an unspoken agreement with eachother for years that they were not going to file any ethics complaints against eachother, for all the corruption that was clearly going on. And the whole reason they had that agreement is they knew if one of them filed a corruption charge, well then someone else would file an ethics complaint in return. So they rather agreed, ‘we like the system the way it is, let’s not complain about eachother,’ and I think that type of thinking writ large is why you have a supposed opposition Congress controlled by Democrats that really is absolutely failing to hold President Bush accountable or the Bush administration generally accountable for any of the *criminal* activities — not just bad policies, but some of the outright criminal activites that they’ve been pursuing for the past several years.

RR: What do you think of Congressman Kucinich’s 35 articles of impeachment against George Bush?

CLARK: What, only 35?

RR: Well they take 5 hours to read, because they read them in to the record, it took 5 hours to read, I think if there were any more, the House.. reader person, I don’t know what she’s called, would …

CLARK: right

RR: …explode.

CLARK: And I was actually only joking, Chip, when I said ‘only 35.’

RR: oh.

CLARK: I think impeachment is… there’s more than one side to the issue in terms of whether politically you move ahead with it, but it’s very clear to me that this adm is more corrupt and more deserving of impeachment than any administration in US history that I’m aware of. They have signalled their open contempt for Congress’s role in running our country and in legislation as recently as last February, when Congress passed … the Defense Authorization Bill, it had more money for the war in Iraq, of course, but as part of that they tried to pass a provision saying there would be no permanent bases in Iraq. And President Bush said publicly, “Well… thank you for the advice, we’ll do with that what we want to.” So on many occasions he has just signalled his willingness — the whole issue about presidential signing statements, you know the fact that President Bush has issued — geez, I’ve lost count but it’s over seven *hundred* of them, which again are specifically statements that used to be about small interpretations in pieces of legislation, they’ve now become a way of President Bush saying ‘I will ignore this law if I want to.’ So I think it’s very clear historically there has never been an administration more deserving of impeachment than this one and I’m delighted and proud that there are people like Representative Kucinich that are willing to do that.

RR (at around 44:52): If you were in Congress right now instead of Representative Van Hollen, would you be pursuing impeachment of George Bush?

CLARK: As I said, I think it’s a tough call in some ways. I’ll start off by saying: yes, I would. Given the record, I don’t think you can look at that and say, this shouldn’t be pursued. For what it’s worth, I do think it’s a challenging issue because I think it represents a division in this country which goes simply beyond holding people accountable. And when I look at other places in the world where there’ve been deep seated conflicts, whether you’re talking about apartheid in South Africa, or Pinochet’s regime in Chile, that the people who tried to reconcile later — and that’s the word, they tried to bring about reconciliation — they were very careful sometimes about who got blamed or whether they in fact tried to punish people for what happened, realizing that sometimes punishment can make some of the old wounds raw again, and actually result in backlashes and deepened divisions rather than reconciliation. So as a nonviolent activist, I think that actually plays a part in here. If I were in the legislature right now, there’s no question that this administration has committed crimes that deserve impeachment and I would be forced to vote for it.

Not all exactly what I would have said, or the way I would have said it, but I’ll certainly take it. Impeachment is a nonviolent process — it’s there so U.S. citizens have at least one way to avoid ever needing to get to a “reconciliation” stage with a violently repressive class.

But like I said, I’ll take it, and I think his comments on Congress needing some challenges and accountability of its own are spot-on. I can’t speak for others, but for my part, I’ve made up my mind to support Gordon Clark in the coming election.

I don’t dislike Chris Van Hollen at all — I’ve thanked him for many of his votes, and found him to be at least a patient and polite listener, if not a very receptive one, in our meeting about impeachment with him last year. But since his “no” vote against the Iraq War six years ago — and particularly since his party returned to power in 2006 — he’s been wrong, silent, or at best ineffective on the key issues of impeachment and Iraq, and is actually helping bang the war drums about Iran.

Moreover, as a rising star in the Democratic Party, Mr. Van Hollen also gets to share the blame for his leadership colleagues’ egregious missteps, even the ones he didn’t vote for like the FISA Amendment Act. At the level he operates — chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee — Van Hollen is as much a part of the Democratic Party establishment as Steny Hoyer, Rahm Emanuel, or Nancy Pelosi. To be the 208th co-sponsor — out of 435 representatives — of a bill “demanding” a blockade of Iran may not be quite as bad as being the 218th one, but it’s not far short. When a cosponsorship like that comes from the guy with the election season cash, it’s a strong signal for remaining Democrats to get with the program — and for the Bush/Cheney administration to go ahead with the one military adventure that could be more disastrous than Iraq has been.

Finally, by opposing impeachment, I believe Mr. Van Hollen has failed his own oath of office — “to protect and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” For make no mistake — Bush, Cheney, Addington, and their ilk are enemies of the Constitution as we know it. Gordon Clark recognizes that. Van Hollen either doesn’t recognize that, or isn’t prepared to do anything about it.

So I’d rather have Clark represent me.


* The first part of the show is also well worth your time: Gibbons interviews Adam Kokesh of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) and “Winter Soldier.” In the part I caught, Kokesh noted that they mainly shopped press releases to newspapers read by soldiers, rather than the New York Times, so that their numbers have doubled since the “Winter Soldier” conference earlier this year.

6 Responses to “Gordon Clark (Green-MD-8) on Congress and impeachment”

  1. Gordon Clark (Green-MD-8) on Congress and impeachment « Takoma Park Impeach Bush & Cheney Says:

    […] [by Thomas Nephew; ABRIDGED FROM] […]

  2. Bill Day Says:

    Clark certainly sounds like a breath of fresh air. Looking forward, however, I am less concerned about impeachment and more concerned about 1) how we are going to get out of Iraq at the earliest possible date, 2) how we are going to cure the patronage rot with which Bush/Rove/Cheney seem to have infected every part of the executive branch, and 3) how we are going to enact a program of health care, education, and economic justice that will strengthen our country legally, economically, and socially.

  3. Thomas Nephew Says:

    I think impeachment remains an important goal — or at least a litmus test for congressional candidates. (Recall that it’s still possible and worthwhile after Bush and Cheney leave office — as a way of preventing their return to federal office. Impeachment of underlings like Yoo, Gonzales, and Addington, would also be warranted, both as a dry run for bigger fish like Bush and Cheney, and to avoid an “Abrams Syndrome” down the line.)

    But even if you’re focused on Iraq and the deep seated corruption in DC, it will be worthwhile to send the Dem leadership a message. They rolled over for Bush in 07 and 08, and they’re enabling a conflict with Iran that would probably put a withdrawal from the region on hold indefinitely (assuming US forces don’t suffer a Syracuse-like defeat in the process). Clark sounded the alarm locally on H.Con.Res 362, and as a former Public Citizen “CongressWatch” director, he know the system he’d be trying to clean up from the best perspective of all: an activist who’s observed the mess carefully from the outside.

  4. Nell Says:

    Also: Any process related to accountability for the crimes of the Bush-Cheney regime is going to have to have as its fundamental purpose getting all the facts out of what was done — making public the documents that are still hidden, etc. Criminal trials are virtually impossible without major grants of immunity to apparatchiks. A truth commission cannot compel testimony or get documents released. Impeachment hearings can, and in a way that lays out a much better record than is likely in a trial (where the high stakes would put most judges in the position of giving the utmost benefit of the doubt to Cheney and Bush).

  5. Nell Says:

    There’s absolutely no conflict between impeachment hearings and getting the eff out of Iraq. They’re two different processes entirely.

    WRT Congress, where you could make a case that priorities have to be established, I’d be for starting by pushing through the best possible universal health care/health insurance, and serious global warming/energy measures. Both are emergencies.

    Then it’s time to face up to the crimes.

  6. Thomas Nephew Says:

    You’re right that it will make political sense to emphasize bread and butter/planetary emergency issues like health care and global warming first. But I know you know that Congress proved it could “walk and chew gum at the same time” during the Watergate era, when it moved ahead with all kinds of landmark legislation even while the Senate and then House proceedings were underway. An endnote here lists many of the legislative accomplishments of the 93rd Congress, including the Endangered Species Act, the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA), VISTA, and others. (BTW, impeachment/Iraq superactivist David Swanson once told me Daniel Ellsberg argued that impeachment proceedings actually helped ease the passage of some of that legislation. Couldn’t find that online though, and that point will be more or less moot after the election.)

    I agree that accountability — whether via investigations, prosecutions, or impeachment — is essential, and need not interfere with conducting the rest of the nation’s business.

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