Kucinich Greeted as Hero at Bush Hearing

Posted July 25, 2008 at 11:03am

Scores of anti-war protesters lined the halls of the Rayburn House Office Building Friday morning to greet Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) with a hero’s welcome as he walked into a packed committee room, hand-in-hand with his wife, to testify on abuses of power by President Bush.

Rounds of “We want in! We want in!” could be heard outside of the hearing room as the House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), began considering Kucinich’s resolution to impeach President Bush.

The atmosphere was so charged that Capitol Police arrested a man outside the hearing room at about 10:15 a.m.

Kucinich has long been pushing for impeachment hearings, and the hearing on “Executive Power and its Constitutional Limitations” marks a concession by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who has said she does not support impeaching Bush.

“The war was totally unnecessary, unprovoked and unjustified,” Kucinich said in his opening remarks. “The question for Congress is this: What responsibility do the president and his administration have for that unnecessary, unprovoked and unjustified war?”

The Ohio Democrat called on the committee “to think, and then to act” in order to hold those people accountable “who misled this nation” into war.

Ranking member Lamar Smith (R-Texas) blasted Pelosi for allowing the hearing to proceed for purely partisan reasons.

“Nothing is going to come out of this hearing with regard to impeachment of the president. I know it, the media knows it, even the Speaker knows it,” Smith said.

He said the committee has held 32 hearings and listened to more than 120 witnesses, and still has “found no evidence of any criminal wrongdoing by the president or vice president.” His comments drew snickers of disapproval from people in the audience.

Bracing for Kucinich’s upcoming remarks, Smith read aloud an excerpt from the House rules stating that lawmakers may not use language “that is personally offensive to the president.”

Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.) called the hearing “impeachment lite” because while it does not go through the process of an impeachment trial, it leaves the public with the impression that Bush is being accused of impeachable offenses.

“Accusing but not taking action. Maybe that has the same effect on the court of public opinion,” Lungren said. People in the audience could be heard muttering “uh-uh” and “take action.”

Conyers noted that “to the regret of many, this is not an impeachment hearing,” but a chance to address concerns about “the excesses and exercises of authority used by this administration.”

Conyers cited “grave concerns” with instances where the Bush administration made use of warrantless wiretapping, overreaching presidential signing statements and used privileges to block investigations and judicial oversight.

Evidence of these matters occurring “is both credible and substantial,” the chairman said. The administration will leave behind “a legacy of these excesses.”

Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) said there is no evidence of Bush committing high crimes, but that he does “not begrudge” Kucinich for seeking impeachment. “I just believe the gentleman from Ohio is dead wrong.”