Former senator and presidential candidate George McGovern has called for the impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Cheney. Writing in today’s Washington Post [“Why I Believe Bush Must Go”], McGovern says both are “clearly guilty of numerous impeachable offenses.” Among them: violation of the Constitution; transgression of national and international law; and lying to the American people.

McGovern, who won the Democratic nomination in 1972 but was defeated by Richard M. Nixon in the election, called the war in Iraq “murderous, illegal, and nonsensical.” He also recited most of the antiwar, anti-Bush administration accusations: nearly 4,000 Americans dead at a cost of $250 million a day, perhaps as many as 600,000 Iraqi casualties, and much of the world now regarding the image of the U.S. at an all-time low.

McGovern says the reasons to impeach Bush and Cheney are far stronger than those used against Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew. McGovern did not call for the impeachment of Nixon because, at the time he says, it would have been viewed as a personal vendetta against the man who defeated him.

In a recent issue of Vanity Fair, Nobel laureate Joseph Seidlitz enumerated several other items of what he calls “the crippling legacy of George W. Bush.” They include a tax code that favors the rich, a staggering national debt, oil prices at $100 a barrel and rising, a record trade deficit, and an avalanche of mortgage defaults as the country slides into a recession. Stiglitz’s article deserves a review all its own, but coupled with McGovern’s indictments, the Bush administration emerges as one of the most damaging in our nation’s history.

To be sure, McGovern’s biography is not squeaky clean. Even though he was a decorated bomber pilot during World War II, and served honorably in the South Dakota Senate and the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, the so-called Eagleton Affair and the “I’m behind you 1000 percent” quote will forever stain McGovern’s record. Eagleton, it will be recalled, was nominated as McGovern’s running mate in the ‘72 election. Shortly after, Eagleton revealed that he had been hospitalized for depression and stress, and had received electric shock therapy twice.

When the news broke about Eagleton’s hidden problem, McGovern initially stuck by his running mate, saying he supported him “1,000 percent.” Eighteen days after Eagleton’s nomination, and following a national nightmare of subsequent media coverage, McGovern met with Eagleton, who then withdrew from the race, to be replaced by Sargent Shriver. But the phrase, “I’m behind you 1,000 percent” stuck with McGovern thereafter and was a favorite punch line of many comedians and TV talk show hosts.

While this incident and McGovern’s identification with Vietnam era antiwar supporters probably weakens his latest position, his voice still carries some weight nevertheless, in the ongoing denunciations of the Bush administration. In particular, McGovern accuses Bush and Cheney of fostering a climate of fear, which allowed the current administration to tap telephones, misleading the public into believing we are at war with all the Muslims in the world, and weakening U.S. influence in the Middle East, perhaps for decades.

One of the contingent reasons that McGovern believes that Bush should be impeached is the administration’s inept handling of the Hurricane Katrina catastrophe. During one of the worst natural disasters in U.S. history, charges McGovern, there was a total failure of leadership from the very top. Why the call for Bush’s and Cheney’s prosecution? McGovern believes Americans need to be reminded that there is a remedy for rogue presidents and vice presidents. Furthermore, the mere mention of impeachment may convince some of our former friends and allies that the American people have not forsaken their principles and commitments, but it is the “false prophets” who are the culprits.

McGovern, who will soon be 86, admits that he will probably not live to see the second “reconstruction” in our nation’s history. The current damage, in his estimation, will take decades to fix. He also concedes that the impeachment of Bush and Cheney seems improbable. The call for their ouster before the expiration of their terms in a few short months could seem to many like an act of retribution by a disappointed office seeker. But as George Stanley McGovern learned years ago, at the controls of a B-24 bomber over enemy territory, focus on the mission. Fate will take care of the rest.

– Chase.Hamil




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