Local rally to push for impeachment

A group of Ashlanders, concerned the White House is trampling Americans' civil liberties, is holding a rally Saturday to call for the impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Cheney.

The event, which coincides with the National Mobilization to End the War in Iraq, will begin at 11 a.m. outside the Ashland Public Library, 410 Siskiyou Blvd., where participants are asked to assemble before marching to the Plaza.

Priscilla High, one of the rally's organizers, said she was inspired to do something locally to draw attention to what she called the Bush administration's failed policies after she and a group of her friends gathered about a month ago to watch "Bill Moyers Journal: Tough Talk on Impeachment." Meeting in her Ashland home, the group decided to call collectively for a rally and High christened the loose-knit group the Ashland Defenders of the Constitution.

"We are not here to bash anyone or to be divisive," High said, explaining in an interview Wednesday that impeachment is the only way to reverse the breadth of power the president has assumed and to restore the balance of power outlined in the U.S. Constitution.

"The Constitution is the glory of America and the genius of the Constitution is the separation of powers, written by people who lived under a monarchy where the king was law," High said. "In America, the law is king and nobody is above the law &

not even the president." Cheney, she said, is the architect of many of the Bush administration's faulty policies, and since his days as an intern in the Nixon administration and later as chief of staff to President Ford, he has wanted to protect presidents from being held accountable to Congress.

"It's been his goal for decades, long before 9/11, to make sure that another president was not forced from power," she said.

High's indictment against Bush and Cheney is lengthy and includes the White House's post-Sept. 11warrantless wiretapping program, its clandestine terrorist detention centers in Eastern Europe and the Bush administration's "manipulation of intelligence to deceive the Congress to justify invading Iraq." The president, additionally, has shirked his responsibility to enforce the laws of the land, she said, by choosing not to enforce more than 1,200 laws by opting to interpret them, traditionally a function of the courts.

"These are all adequate causes for impeachment that should be undertaken by the House Judiciary Committee," High said.

So far, however, calls for the U.S. House of Representatives to begin impeachment proceedings have gained little traction in the Democrat-led Congress, but High said that is no reason not to continue to press lawmakers on the contentious issue.

"This is a democracy," she said. "When some people shout other people respond." John Fisher-Smith of Asland, who watched the Bill Moyers special with High, said there is no question in his mind that Bush and Cheney have "trampled all over the Constitution, doing whatever they want to do." Fisher-Smith, who became a U.S. citizen while serving in the U.S. military during World War II, said the U.S. government is doing things he says are simply "un-American," including "torturing" terror suspects and flouting provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the 1978 law that is the legal framework for monitoring suspected terrorists and spies.

"I was proud to become an American when I was 18," he said. "I knew then about the separation of powers and the Constitution.

"Frankly, I am deeply troubled when this country makes excuses for torture. I am very disturbed that this country has disappeared people the way the Argentine dictatorship used to do and I am deeply concerned about the false cause for the invasion of Iraq," he said.

Asked why House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., have said that launching impeachment proceedings against the White House is off the table, Fisher-Smith said it is part of Democrats' political calculus.

He said the mass media being "so pro-administration, pro-Republican and corporate-owned," have Democrats "afraid" of losing elections and worried they could be treated poorly in the media like President Clinton was while he was in office.

"The trouble is: instead of losing an election they're losing our country and the principles of this country," Fisher-Smith said.

covers politics for the Ashland Daily Tidings. Reach him at csrizo@hotmail.com.

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