PBS omnipresence Bill Moyers devoted his entire hour-long Bill Moyers Journal on Friday night to the need to impeach George Bush and Dick Cheney. The stacked hour had two guests, and both were aggressively pro-impeachment: John Nichols of The Nation magazine, author of the book "The Genius of Impeachment," and lawyer Bruce Fein, who Moyers labeled a "conservative," but he compared Bush to King George III, to Adolf Hitler, to the communist autocrats of the Gulag, and to, well, FDR, in suggesting the post 9-11 era could see a mistake like our interning of Japanese Americans. In this conversation, Moyers sometimes played the skeptic, but the overall tenor of the hour was not only anti-Bush, but anti-Speaker Pelosi for being so timid: "Why doesn't Nancy Pelosi see it her duty to take on at least the impeachment hearings that you say would educate the public?"
It’s really something when PBS is so far to the left it’s bashing both parties for not being radical enough, but this is a routine pose for Moyers, where he somehow thinks he’s "objective" when he sounds roughly in sync with the Dennis Kucinch for President campaign. Pelosi came in for whacks several times, first in this early exchange:
BILL MOYERS: It seems to me the country is ahead of Congress on this. How do you explain all this talk about impeachment today out across the country?
JOHN NICHOLS: People don't want to let this go. They do not accept Nancy Pelosi's argument that impeachment is, quote/unquote, off the table. Because I guess maybe they're glad she didn't take some other part of the Constitution off the table like freedom of speech.
Clearly, these men are unhappy Pelosi ever vowed not to bring impeachment as a campaign pledge (to show that the Democrats wouldn’t be as far-left as Moyers), and they want that pledge broken, and now. Frustration with Pelosi boiled over again later, and Moyers insisted that Bruce Fein wasn’t the only "conservative" who thought Bush and Cheney were out of control:
NICHOLS: The hearings are important. There's no question of that. And we should be at that stage. Remember, Thomas Jefferson and, and others, the founders, suggested that impeachment was an organic process. That information would come out. The people would be horrified. They would tell their representatives in Congress, "You must act upon this." Well, the interesting thing is we are well down the track in the organic process. The people are saying it's time. We need, we need some accountability.
MOYERS: But Nancy Pelosi doesn't agree.
NICHOLS: Nancy Pelosi is wrong. Nancy Pelosi is disregarding her oath of office. She should change course now. And more importantly, members of her caucus and responsible Republicans should step up. It is not enough-
MOYERS: Well, Bruce is not the only conservative talking this way.
NICHOLS: No Ron Paul and others are but-
MOYERS: And Bob Barr, who's been here.
BRUCE FEIN: David, David Keene, head of the American Conservative Union.
NICHOLS: But they, but they do so, by and large, in a cautious way. They say, "Well, the President's done too much." Let's start to use the "I" word. Impeach is a useful word. It is a necessary word. The founders in the Constitution made no mention of corporations or political parties or conventions or primaries or caucuses. But they made six separate references to impeachment. They wanted us to know this word, and they wanted us to use it.
And then, soon afterward, Moyers asks why Pelosi doesn’t violate her pledge, and Fein mysteriously suggests impeaching Bush and Cheney should look like "statesmanship," not partisanship:
MOYERS: I have to interrupt you and say, look, you guys don't live in la-la land. Both of you are in, in and around power all the time. Why doesn't Nancy Pelosi see it her duty to take on at least the impeachment hearings that you say would educate the public about the stakes that you think-
FEIN: Because I think that politics has become debased so that it's a matter of one party against another and jockeying and maneuvering. There is no longer any statesmanship. I go back to the real, the real vulnerability and weaknesses [of] Congress. That they don't have anybody who can, as the chairman or even asking a question like John or me or you could say, "Mr. Attorney General, you answer that question. This is the United States of America. Transparency is the rule here. We don't have secret government. That's what Alexander Solzhenitsyn wrote about in the Gulag. That's not the United States of America. We pay your salary. We have a right to know 'cause it's our duty to decide whether what you're doing is legal and wise, not yours. Answer that question or you're held in contempt right now." That's - and all you need is that tone of voice. But what happens up there? "Well, would you please answer? Well, are you sure? When could you get John Ashcroft?" I mean, it's just staggering.
NICHOLS: ...their first step must be something that is very hard in these days of extreme partisanship and these days of money and politics and a media that doesn't cover politics very well. Their first step has to be to say, "I cherish my country more than my party and more than the next election." And so, probably, we're talking about a Democrat. And that Democrat's first responsibility is to go to Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, the person who decides what committee assignments they may have and even how nice an office they may get, and say, "You know, Nancy, I respect you. I respect you greatly, Mrs. Speaker. But the country's more important. So you can, you can get mad at me. You can, you know, push back internally, whatever. But I'm going to the American people and I'm gonna talk to them like Bruce Fein just did." Now, my sense is the response to the American people and, frankly, the response of a lot of other members of Congress would be to stand up and applaud. But you have to have that initial courage to do so.
In case anyone felt that Moyers was really the moderate in this drama, and not just playing the moderate, his show-ending commentary suggested it was intolerable that "an imperial executive" was still having its way in Iraq, and insisted that it should be the role of taxpayer-funded PBS to show all of the war debates live on its affiliates:
MOYERS: Congress is polarized and paralyzed. And down at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue President Bush still was insisting that Congress should stay out of the war, altogether. He and Vice President Cheney are holding out for better news from Iraq in September. But when September comes, you can count on more appeals for delay, more excuses. That's the formula for perpetual war - what our founders most feared, because it would turn our Constitution on its head, throwing off the checks and balances so crucial to liberty, and leaving all power in an imperial executive. Already the war in Iraq is in its fifth year, costing $10 billion a month, with the casualties mounting. All week a line from the poet Marvin Bell floated through my mind:
"What / shall we do, we who are at war but are asked / to pretend we are not?"
What shall we do? Impeachment hearings are one way to go, as you heard Fein and Nichols say. In the meantime, those of us in public television have an obligation to make sure viewers like you stay in the loop. I wish we had carried the congressional debate this week in full -- all of it -- in prime time. When we broadcast teach-ins on the Vietnam war, and the Watergate hearings during the trial of Richard Nixon, it was a real public service - the reason PBS was created. We should keep Iraq in prime time every week -- the fighting and dying, the suffering, the debate, the politics -- the extraordinary costs. It's months until September and this war is killing us now, body and soul.
That's it for the Journal. I'm Bill Moyers.
So just call PBS the Leftist 'Teach-In' Channel. So where was Moyers when Clinton was impeached in 1998? He was absent for most of 1998 due to an illness-related break, but on October 6, the day after Congress took up impeachment, he marked his return to PBS with a 'Frontline' documentary attacking both parties from his far-left perch for not passing a leftist campaign-finance bill. He was not a voice for impeachment, and certainly not a voice for devoting more PBS air time to the impeachment debate.