Going retro: Using the Nixon Spring Flooding Plan on Bush & Cheney

By Barbara G. Ellis of Portland, Oregon. Barbara is a principal at Ellis & Associates, a professional writing company, and author of several books, including "The Moving Appeal" - a 2004 Pulitzer Prize nominee. A long-time reporter and copy editor, she was a journalism professor at Oregon State University and Louisiana's McNeese State University. She’s a member of the South Side DFA MeetUp Group and We the People National Coalition for Impeachment.

A new strategy on impeachment—the Nixon Spring Flooding Plan—now being implemented by the We the People National Coalition on Impeachment (WPNCI) was launched in Portland in February by Democratic activists. The aim is to get House Democrats to either hopper separate impeachment bills—as was done in 1973 to oust President Richard Nixon and Vice President Spiro Agnew—or to cosponsor others’ bills.

Ongoing from March 17-April 11, this campaign was inspired by a 1973 strategy in the Democratic-controlled Congress when nearly 90 House Democrats forced those resignations by each hoppering separate impeachment bills. Nearly 40 were submitted against Nixon in October alone, some with no co-sponsors, some with as many as 24 (who were also submitting bills). Sparked by initial bills of William Fitts Ryan (NY) and John Conyers (now chair of the House Judiciary committee), that “band of brothers” (and New York’s Bella Abzug) were galvanized into action by Nixon’s “unitary-executive” deeds violating the U.S. Constitution. They ranged from 14 months of a secret war against Cambodia, warrantless wiretapping, setting up a secret police, turning the CIA against the FBI, tax manipulation—and, of course, Watergate.

Nixon’s ignoring Congress and violating the Constitution made even Republicans realize that unless they used the Framers’ weapon of impeachment, the precedents he was setting would be used by future presidents. (His deeds were cheered on by then-staffer Richard B. Cheney.)

The Dems first successfully practiced the flooding strategy to force Agnew’s resignation over a real-estate scandal.

Their Nixon flooding plan—two-thirds for investigation on impeachment, a third for plain-vanilla impeachment—finally forced Speaker Carl Albert and House Judiciary Committee chair Peter Rodino to put impeachment “on the table.” Nixon resigned on August 9. But his high crimes were so alarming (even to Republicans panelists) that to kill the precedents set, they voted unanimously on August 20 to send three articles of impeachment to the House floor.

That Speaker Albert refused to bring it to a vote, opened the door to the precedents of Bush's and Cheney's long list of high crimes against the Constitution. Mindful of the oath of office Congress had taken to support and defend that document, impeachment and a Senate trial would have been swift and led to a criminal trial for treason in federal court.

The Portland part of WPNCI realized in January that if impeachment was not put back“on the table” now by Speaker Pelosi, the “presidential precedents” set by Nixon and expanded into near-dictatorial powers by Cheney and Bush will be handed over to the 2008 presidential winner (McCain, Clinton, Obama??) and future presidents. And they most certainly will use those "precedential" powers, as Bush and Cheney have demonstrated.

Just as the Nixon Flooding Plan worked then, the Portlanders set about to introduce it to Congress.

Especially with the tide of House Republicans quitting because they are afraid of defeat, and the trickle of House Democrats like Leonard Boswell (IA) and Pete Stark (CA) beginning to cosponsor an impeachment bill against Cheney buried in the HJC by Speaker Pelosi. (Rep. Dennis Kucinch’s H.Res. 333/799). Several others have begun signing Rep. Robert Wexler’s letter to Conyers demanding impeachment hearings be started now.

RollcallnixonadFirst, WPNCI sent Portland activist Marcia Meyers to join Michael Greenman (from Cleveland, OH) and Carl McCargo (from Springfield, MA) to Washington from Feb. 24-28 to lobby nearly 35 core members of the House’s pro-impeachment group. Among the literature distributed was a White Paper on the 1973 flooding plan (written by me) emphasizing the Dem “brotherhood,” as well as furnishing templates for sample impeachment bills. Nine of those visited are HJC members; several have signed Wexler’s letter; and others are getting up the nerve to pounce. The delegation also visited five members from the 1973 flooding plan, among them Pete Stark and Conyers. Wexler strongly supported this latest strategy.

Followup was intense in early March: Calls and emails to each House member visited, again to strongly suggest a new team of “brothers and sisters” either hopper separate impeachment bills or cosponsor one. In mid-March, WPNCI posted flier templates to the hundreds of Internet impeachment groups around the nation. They provided week-by-week instructions for the March 17-April 11 campaign on heavy lobbying of House reps’ home offices during spring recess.

When House members arrive back in Washington, a quarter-page ad (at right) will appear Tuesday, April 29 in the one newspaper all Congress and their staffs read every day: The Capitol Hill tabloid, Roll Call. If BlueOregon readers want to help in helping to underwrite the $3,715 expense, send contributions through Paypal.com to: [email protected] for credit cards or bank-account transfers. Or make cheques payable to "DemocracyforOregon" and mail to 6428 SE 15th Ave., Portland OR 97202.

For more information on the Nixon Flooding Plan, visit ImpeachBush.tv.

  • Mr. Roth (unverified)

    Nice article and an appreciated level of scholarship.

    I've actually spent some time in the research library (more like bomb shelter below the museum) at the Nixon Presidential Library in Yorba Linda. Most of my time was spent on correspondence with David and Nelson Rockefeller, certain members of the Council on Foreign Relations, and Joan Crawford, the Pepsi heiress who Nixon had met with in Dallas (when he said he wasn't there) at the time of JFK's murder.

    Regardless, I don't think impeachment cleaned out the real rot in that administration and circle of politicians which included George H.W. Bush, Donald Rumsfield, Henry Kissinger (revealed by Watergate-famed journalist Bob Woodward to frequently consult Bush and Cheney), etc. The same cast of crooks who appear in politics together, start wars, make money disappear in defense budgets, etc. If we do get impeachment going against Bush, we need to make sure the whole cabal goes down with them for good.

    Nixon himself was a strange case. His entire congressional and senate career was very left-leaning as a Republican. He broke party ranks often. He was the key Republican in approving the Marshall Plan (which followed the disasterous Morgenthau Plan from FDR who pulled the same snaffu to avoid Geneva Convention protections for German prisoners) in 1947. By all accounts, he was not liked by the elder Bush or Kissenger. Nixon was impeached, but the criminal element lived on.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)

    Great article, but one problem with impeachment in the House is that a majority of its members, including Democrats, were accomplices in voting for authorization to use military force (AUMF) and other crimes. It's almost like charging a gangster with a crime and having fellow gang members on the grand jury. Most of the politicians in Congress have an inherent capacity for hypocrisy, but could they be that hypocritical - or have a Damascene conversion? Another analogy is the Nuremberg Trials. When lawyers were preparing charges against the Nazi leaders, they sent lists to Washington and London where several alleged war crimes were deleted because Allied forces had committed similar actions.

  • Douglas K. (unverified)

    one problem with impeachment in the House is that a majority of its members, including Democrats, were accomplices in voting for authorization to use military force (AUMF) and other crimes.

    That's really not a problem. There's a very long list of things Bush could be impeached over. The invasion of Iraq doesn't need to be part of it. And if it was, "participating in an organized conspiracy to deceive Congress into authorizing force" seems like the sort of "high crime or misdemeanor" that would warrant impeachment. Any Congressman who believed the administration's lies in good faith would have every reason to vote for impeachment.

    The analogy is not have a fellow gang member on the grand jury; it would be like charging a con artist with fraud and having a couple of his victims on the grand jury. Sure, maybe they were stupid to believe him, but they're hardly parties to the crime.

  • Harry Kershner (unverified)

    If a known mass murderer was openly flaunting his crimes in Portland and was threatening to commit new mass murders, what would we say if the response of our police chief was that bringing him to justice was not worth the time or energy necessary?

    Bush and Cheney are worse than mere serial killers because they are seeking to institutionalize their crimes far into the future via the "unitary executive" meme.

    When reps like Blumenauer et al deny that war crimes, crimes against humanity, and crimes against the Constitution are worthy of impeachment, they are complicit in those crimes. And all those who submit worshipful comments to BO are equally complicit.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)

    Sure, maybe they were stupid to believe him, but they're hardly parties to the crime.

    I would have to defer to a lawyer on this, but I find it hard to believe that incompetence (other than mental incompetence), gullibility and ignorance of the law (U.N. Charter and Geneva Conventions) would make much of a defense. When approximately 25% saw through the Bush/Cheney propaganda for the war on Iraq, the remaining 75% or so don't have much of a defense. One of the principles that came out of the Nuremberg Trials after the Second World War was that following orders was not exculpatory in the commission of immoral and illegal acts when the perpetrator should have known they were immoral and illegal.

  • Douglas K (unverified)

    This isn't a legal question, it's a political one. And in terms of political cover, "the administration intentionally fed us misleading information and we relied on it in giving the President war authority" is really all the cover that any member of Congress would need to justify an impeachment vote on the topic.

    But as I mentioned earlier, there are a LOT of different grounds to impeach these guys. Warrantless surveillance of US citizens. Torture. Guantanamo. Signing statements. Unilateral breach of treaties. If I had my choice, I'd impeach Bush on a whole string of "abuse of power" grounds. It doesn't matter whether or not there are votes in the Senate to convict: if the House of Representatives votes to impeach a number of specific, defined abuses of power, it sets a strong political precedent that the President of the United States doesn't have those specific powers, AND that "abuse of power" generally is an impeachable offense.

    That's the important thing at this point. NOT removing Bush from power, but (1) setting an impeachment precedent to discourage future presidents (of either party) from exercising this kind of extra-constitutional authority; (2) to soundly quash the "unitary executive" theory Cheney has been pushing; and (3) to preserve the power of Congress in the constitutional system instead of letting the president chip away at it.

  • Ralph (unverified)

    March 26, 2008 Chairman John Conyers House Judiciary Committee U.S. House of Representatives U.S. Congress Washington, DC 20510

    Dear Chairman Conyers:

    Prominent Constitutional law experts believe President Bush has engaged in at least, five categories of repeated, defiant "high crimes and misdemeanors", which separately or together would allow Congress to subject the President to impeachment under Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution. The sworn oath of members of Congress is to uphold the Constitution. Failure of the members of Congress to pursue impeachment of President Bush is an affront to the founding fathers, the Constitution, and the people of the United States.

    In addition to a criminal war of aggression in Iraq, in violation of our constitution, statutes and treaties, there are the arrests of thousands of Americans and their imprisonment without charges, the spying on Americans without juridical warrant, systematic torture, and the unprecedented wholesale, defiant signing statements declaring that the President, in his unbridled discretion, is the law.

    In 2005, a plurality of the American people polled declared that they would favor impeachment of President Bush if it was shown that he did not tell the truth about the reasons for going to War in Iraq. Congress should use its authority under Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution to officially determine what President Bush knew before going to war in Iraq.

    Your files and retrieval systems are bulging with over-whelming evidence behind all these five categories. When constitutional duty combines with the available evidence, inaction amounts to a suppression of that evidence from constitutional implementation.

    When the Democrats were heading for a net election gain in 2006 in the House of Representatives, many observers of presidential accountability entertained the hope that the Judiciary Committee, with its new chairman, would hold hearings on an impeachment resolution. No way! The next backup was the belief that there would an impeachment inquiry (fortified by your own op-ed in the The Washington Post) No way! The next lowered expectation backup was just a hearing on impeachment urged by several of your present and former Congressional colleagues. So far, no way!

    The fourth fallback was simply a hearing on the criminal and constitutional violations of Bush-Cheney by your Committee, as urged in a letter sent to you earlier this year by, among others, several of your former Congressional colleagues, including Senators George McGovern and James Abourezk, and Representatives Andy Jacobs and Paul Findley, along with Rocky Anderson, former mayor of Salt Lake City, and the undersigned. So far, no progress.

    There is another option: do nothing. Since January 2007 - the politically expedient option of doing nothing has triumphed. Volumes can and will be written, about what can go down as the most serious abdication of impeachment responsibilities by a Congress in its history.

    No other president has committed more systemic, repeated impeachable offenses, with such serious consequences to this country, its people, to Iraq, its people and the security of this nation before, than George W. Bush. James Madison, Thomas Jefferson and their colleagues had just these kinds of monarchical abuses and violations in their framework of anticipation.

    Declarations by Bush on the somber occasion of the fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq this past March 20, 2008 demonstrated his criminal, unconstitutional arrogance and his confidence that this Democratic Congress will continue to be cowed, continue its historic cowardliness, and continue to leave the American people without representation. Even should he unilaterally attack Iran. The Democratic Party has abandoned its critical role as an opposition Party in this and other serious matters.

    In a January 6, 2008 op-ed in The Washington Post, former Senator George McGovern wrote an eloquently reasoned plea for the impeachment of George W. Bush. More than two out of three polled Americans want out of Iraq, believing it was a costly mistake.

    Repeatedly during the past seven years, Mr. Bush has lectured the American people about "responsibility" and that actions with consequences must incur responsibility.

    It is never too late to enforce the Constitution. It is never too late to uphold the rule of law. It is never too late to awaken the Congress to its sworn duties under the Constitution. But it will soon be too late to avoid the searing verdict of history when on January 21, 2009, George W. Bush becomes a fugitive from a justice that was never invoked by those in Congress so solely authorized to hold the President accountable.

    Is this the massive Bush precedent you and your colleagues wish to convey to presidential successors who may be similarly tempted to establish themselves above and beyond the rule of law?

    Is this the way you and your colleagues wish to be remembered by the American people?


    Ralph Nader

  • Thirteenburn (unverified)

    This mental giant, Barbara Ellis, is just another glaring example of how the collective stupidity of the liberal, whiny, knee-jerk, bleeding-heart, Anti-American/America Democrat Party is surpassed ONLY by their mind numbing intellectual dishonesty.

    As someone once said, "...the dogs keep barking, but the wagon train rolls on." In otherwords, you and your ilk have tried this on numerous occasions, all to utter failure and much mockery, but you just keep on trying.

    What is it with the liberal, Democrat Party that they just don't understand the word "NO"?

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