Judging from what John Conyers is saying today, it's clear the Democrats are still trying to figure out how they can best deal with the Republican charge that they are just a gang of Bush-bashers thirsting for revenge.
As I mentioned in print last weekend, the beleaguered GOP will argue this year that the election in November of a Democratic House would usher in two years of hearings, probes, subpoenas and government gridlock. The Democrats, as always fearful that any charge made against them will stick like Velcro to their hindquarters, are now working hard to reassure voters that a handover of power would not result in another impeachment psychodrama.
Which brings us to Conyers, the Michigan congressman who would take over the House Judiciary Committee if the Democrats capture the chamber. He writes in today's Washington Post that, regarding the notion that he would immediately bring impeachment proceedings, "I will not do that." He goes on to say that he merely wants to get some answers about the Bush administrations' conduct "in a responsible and bipartisan manner."
More Conyers: "So, rather than seeking impeachment, I have chosen to propose comprehensive oversight of these alleged abuses. The oversight I have suggested would be performed by a select committee made up equally of Democrats and Republicans and chosen by the House speaker and the minority leader."
But did he really think this relatively benign message would get the Republicans to back off? That's not how the GOP plays the game. Democrats always calibrate; Republicans cede nothing. Within hours of Conyers' remarks today, GOP headquarters emailed a press release entitled REAL DEM AGENDA: IMPEACHMENT...which pointed out that Conyers was evading the fact that he introduced a bill last December to "make recommendations" on possible grounds for impeachment. Therefore, said the Republican email in boldface, CONYERS ATTEMPTED TO CUT AND RUN FROM HIS IMPEACHMENT PUSH.
So let's review: Before his Post piece, Conyers was being painted by the GOP as a Bush-bashing avenger.
Then he writes his piece, and now the GOP has him as (a) a Bush-bashing avenger (b) a truth-trimmer, and (c) a coward trying to "cut and run" (which is also the all-purpose GOP term for Democrats weak on Iraq).
Nice work, Dems. Here's a new article that makes the case for campaigning without apology on a platform of bringing accountability to Washington.