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MEDIA CRITICISM:

Blacked Out by the Corporate Media, Impeachment Advances

by Dave Lindorff
When will the corporate media finally begin to honestly report on the impeachment story? And how will news organizations explain impeachment's seemingly magical appearance as a full-blown campaign in Congress?
The corporate media are disgracing themselves even further, if that is possible, on the impeachment story.

On Thursday, three more members of Congress signed on to Rep. Dennis Kucinich’s bill to impeach Vice President Dick Cheney (H Res 333), bringing the total number of co-sponsors of the bill to 10. That in itself would be national news, but there is more to it than simple numbers. The new sponsors include two freshman, Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, who ran for office calling for impeachment, and Hank Johnson, who took over the seat of pro-impeachment Rep. Cynthia McKinney (McKinney filed her own bill of impeachment against President Bush in the waning days of the last Congress), but the group also includes Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA).

What makes McDermott significant is that he is a senior member of the Washington state delegation to Congress, a 9th-term legislator with considerable clout in Congress who sits on the House Ways and Means and Judiciary Committees, who chairs the subcommittee on income security and family support, and who has, in the past, said he was opposed to impeachment. While most of the other nine co-sponsors of H Res 333 were also among the group of 39 representatives who last year had signed on to Rep. John Conyers’ bill in the last Congress calling for creation of a special committee to investigate possible impeachable crimes by the administration, McDermott was never a backer.

In a related development, Kucinich’s bill, which was filed back on April 24, amid an almost complete news blackout, and which has languished for over two months, with the House Judiciary Committee, headed by Conyers (D-MI) taking no action on it, suddenly was referred this week to a Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties, chaired by US Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY)—a sign that it will be taken up by the full Judiciary Committee.

Despite all these breaking developments in the impeachment story, Friday’s and Saturday’s news reports around the nation had little or nothing on impeachment. The New York Times, whose front pages and national pages influence the news decisions of editors across the country, has ignored the story completely, as has the Washington Post, which is supposed to be covering Washington—both astonishing examples of corporate media censorship. Even in Washington, Minnesota and Georgia, the main local papers only ran short briefs on the actions of their local Congress members.

But despite this journalistic lockdown, it is clear that the national grassroots impeachment is gaining power and momentum by the day.

Washington impeachment activists had long been pressing McDermott to join the impeachment campaign, but had been unsuccessful until this week.

His switch on the issue seems to have been the result of that pressure from his constituents, as well as from the latest actions of and revelations about the vice president. A powerful series of news articles that ran in late June in the Washington Post has disclosed that the vice president was the driving force behind President Bush’s decision to violate the Geneva Conventions and to illegally deny international protections to captives in what he has called the War on Terror, including captives from Afghanistan and Iraq, and to establish a program of torture of captives. Cheney also made the ludicrous assertion this week that he did not have to respond to Congressional subpoenas and requests for information about the activities of his office because as vice president, he is president of the Senate, and thus is not a part of the executive branch, (It is a claim that is contradicted by his own earlier assertions of “executive authority” in refusing to respond to Congressional requests for information.)

The Post's silence about McDermott and about impeachment developments is particularly peculiar, given that the latest developments are in part due to the paper's articles on Cheney's actions. Normally, newspapers are quick to point to or even grab credit for the results of their scoops and investigative reports.

While other representatives who have signed on the H Res 333 have done so relatively quietly, or in Rep. Maxine Waters’ case, in a press conference, McDermott made his move with a public speech in the House.

In that Thursday evening address, he said the vice president should “resign or face impeachment,” saying, “The vice president holds himself above the law, and it is time for the Congress to enforce the law.”

In addition to citing Cheney’s role in deceiving Americans and Congress into supporting an invasion of Iraq, and threatening war with Iran, which are the charges in Kucinich’s impeachment bill, McDermott cited Cheney’s claim to be exempt from Congressional investigation and his refusal to comply with rules for the handling of classified information as grounds for his impeachment. It is not clear whether he intends to file his own impeachment bill on those issues, or to have them added to Kucinich’s bill.

Johnson also cited the vice president’s refusal to submit materials in his office to control by the Information Oversight Security Office as a reason for his decision to back impeachment.

So far, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), has not changed her position that “impeachment is off the table.” Rep. Conyers, for his part, has not spoken in favor of the Kucinich bill either.

But with seven members of Congress signing on to the Cheney impeachment bill over the past month, and more likely to do so in coming days and weeks, and with polls showing that the public both wants impeachment and is losing patience with the timidity and inaction of the Democratic Congress, it seems increasingly likely that their hands will be forced.

An interesting question will be when the corporate media will finally begin to honestly report on the impeachment story, and how news organizations will explain its seemingly magical appearance as a full-blown campaign in Congress.


Lindorff speakingAbout the author: Philadelphia journalist Dave Lindorff is co-author, with Barbara Olshansky, of The Case for Impeachment: The Legal Argument for Removing President George W. Bush from Office. His work is available at www.thiscantbehappening.net.


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This story was published on July 2, 2007.