House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is proving to be the surprise O. Henry ending to last November's elections. The American voters gave Democrats clear control of Congress, rebuked President George W. Bush, and voiced an unequivocal public craving to trade in customary narrow-minded politics for something more inspiring. Yet motivated by partisan concerns over the 2008 elections, the new speaker is following President Bush around like a sheep while he solidifies an imperial presidency and diminishes the Congress into irrelevancy. Just look at the latest ACLU advertisement targeting Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. The only thing Pelosi has retained for the Congress is small-minded earmarks to attract political contributions.
If Pelosi persists in her imperious, mean-spirited, and myopic thinking in disregard of her oath to support and defend the Constitution, members of the House should replace her with Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md.
According to public opinion polling, the percentage of voters supporting the impeachments of both President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney are now approximately 45 and 54 percent, respectively. Most Americans instinctively feel the president is an untrustworthy steward of the Constitution's checks and balances because, among other things, he flouts laws, prohibits White House aides from testifying before Congress, consistently defends an attorney general who is an inveterate liar, and detains citizens and noncitizens indefinitely as enemy combatants on his say-so alone. The prevailing barometer of acute public dissatisfaction with the White House surpasses the corresponding disaffection with President Richard M. Nixon when the Senate Watergate hearings began in May 1973. And Mr. Nixon had recently trounced Sen. George McGovern in the 1972 elections, winning 49 states.
The prospect of an impeachment inquiry by the House judiciary committee would concentrate the minds of the president and vice president wonderfully on obeying rather than sabotaging the Constitution. But Speaker Pelosi has at least figuratively joined hands with the White House in opposition. Emulating the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland, she has threatened the removal of Michigan Rep. John Conyers from his chairmanship of the House judiciary committee if an impeachment inquiry were even opened, according to reliable congressional chatter.
With more than four decades of service in the House, Chairman Conyers is a veteran of constitutional battles between the branches. The speaker, in contrast, is a novice on such matters. Unlike Conyers, she never experienced the Nixon impeachment travails that sobered and toughened the chairman against executive abuses and secrecy. If she had, she never would have emboldened President Bush and Vice President Cheney to intensify their assaults on congressional power by pronouncing that "impeachment is off the table."