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October 24, 2006
Meet The Proposed House Leadership, Part II

The New York Sun reviews the possible ascension of John Conyers to the chair of the House Judiciary Committee and its potential for impeachment mischief. Despite demurrals from Nancy Pelosi, Conyers has continued to sharpen his pencils in preparation for an opportunity to bring charges against George Bush, and a Democratic majority would provide that opening:

John Conyers, a Democrat of Michigan, is now in line to become the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, which has the authority to begin hearings and an investigation into whether the planning and selling of the Iraq war was a constitutional crime. Last week, the Washington Post first reported that if Ms. Pelosi, a Democrat of California, becomes House majority leader, she will keep the seniority system intact for selecting committee chairmen in Congress. An aide to Ms. Pelosi confirmed the report yesterday.

Mr. Conyers's office has released two reports in the last year outlining Mr. Bush's various constitutional transgressions in the war on terror. The first report, released in 2005, focused mostly on his handling of pre-war Iraq intelligence. The second, released this year, was dedicated to the Bush administration's violations of the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act in authorizing the National Security Agency to listen in to some domestic phone calls without a court warrant.

Ten months ago, Mr. Conyers introduced legislation to form a "select committee to investigate the administration's intent to go to war before congressional authorization, manipulation of pre-war intelligence, encouraging and countenancing torture, retaliating against critics, and to make recommendations regarding grounds for possible impeachment."

Members of Mr. Conyers's staff refused a request to answer questions on the record yesterday. A senior aide to Mr. Conyers was careful to say that his boss "has no plans to begin impeachment proceedings." But the aide added, "If evidence for impeachment is uncovered, it should be brought before the committee."

To say that the Democrats are sensitive to this issue would be an understatement. Conyers himself wrote a Washington Post editorial claiming that he didn't seek impeachment, and wouldn't explicitly aim for one if given the gavel of Judiciary. However, as the Sun notes, the Democrats still have not withdrawn Conyers' resolution to start a bipartisan panel to determine whether they can find grounds for impeachment, which would then be forwarded to Conyers' committee rather than the House Oversight Committee.

That sounds rather ambitious, and it sounds familiar. In the summer of 2005, Conyers held hearings in an unused Judiciary conference room with some of his fellow Democrats to hear testimony for Bush's impeachment. He attracted a number of supporters and some media coverage, although Dana Milbank apparently couldn't stop laughing at Conyers' lame attempt at dress-up:

In the Capitol basement yesterday, long-suffering House Democrats took a trip to the land of make-believe.

They pretended a small conference room was the Judiciary Committee hearing room, draping white linens over folding tables to make them look like witness tables and bringing in cardboard name tags and extra flags to make the whole thing look official.

Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) banged a large wooden gavel and got the other lawmakers to call him "Mr. Chairman." He liked that so much that he started calling himself "the chairman" and spouted other chairmanly phrases, such as "unanimous consent" and "without objection so ordered." The dress-up game looked realistic enough on C-SPAN, so two dozen more Democrats came downstairs to play along.

The session was a mock impeachment inquiry over the Iraq war. As luck would have it, all four of the witnesses agreed that President Bush lied to the nation and was guilty of high crimes -- and that a British memo on "fixed" intelligence that surfaced last month was the smoking gun equivalent to the Watergate tapes. Conyers was having so much fun that he ignored aides' entreaties to end the session.

The laughter stopped when the hearing brought out the anti-Semitic loons, including Ray McGovern, who claimed that the entire war was intended to give Israel control of Southwest Asia.

Now Pelosi, Conyers, and the rest of the Democratic leadership want people to believe that Conyers has no interest in impeachment. Don't believe it for a minute. If Conyers can delude himself into staging that display sixteen months ago, imagine what he could do with subpoena power.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at October 24, 2006 6:25 AM

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