By Dana Milbank
Wednesday, April 25, 2007 8:18 AM
"I do not stand alone," Dennis Kucinich said as he stood, alone, in front of a cluster of microphones yesterday evening.
The Ohio congressman, a Democratic presidential candidate, was holding a news conference outside the Capitol to announce that he had just filed articles of impeachment against Vice President Cheney. But subsequent questioning quickly revealed that Kucinich had not yet persuaded any of his 434 colleagues to be a cosponsor, that he had not even discussed the matter with House Democratic leaders, and that he had not raised the subject with the Judiciary Committee.
Kucinich did have one thing: a copy of the Declaration of Independence. And he was not afraid to read it. "We hold these truths to be self-evident," the aspiring impeachment manager read at the start of his news conference. He continued all the way through the bit about the right of the people to abolish the government.
"These words from the Declaration of Independence are instructive at this moment," he said.
A reporter from the Cleveland Plain Dealer encouraged USS Kucinich to contact planet Earth. "But Nancy Pelosi says this is not going anywhere," she pointed out.
"Have you talked to her today?" Kucinich shot back.
"Yes, I did," she replied.
Kucinich had not expected that answer. "Then I would say I have not talked to her," he acknowledged.
It was not an auspicious beginning for the impeachment of Richard B. Cheney.
Kucinich had called his news conference for noon on the terrace of the Cannon building. But minutes before the event, his office sent out a statement: "News reports this morning indicate the Vice President was experiencing a medical crisis. Until the vice president's condition is clarified, I am placing any action on hold."
This was odd, because the vice president's spokeswoman had already announced that Cheney had merely gone to a doctor's office to check on a blood clot in his leg, which is improving. Cheney himself, far from suffering a medical crisis, joined Senate Republicans for lunch at the Capitol. "The leg's doing good," Cheney announced after lunch, his lips in his trademark snarl. Indeed, he was feeling so well that he chose to start a new fight with congressional Democrats. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was not only "uninformed and misleading," but also practicing "defeatism," Cheney said. Democrats are guilty of "political calculation" and "blind opposition."
Reid visited the same microphones minutes later to return the playground taunts: "I'm not going to get into a name-calling match with somebody who has a 9 percent approval rating." And: "I'm not going to get into a name-calling match with the administration's chief attack dog."
Kucinich evidently realized there was no reason for him to get cold feet just because of Cheney's leg. A few minutes after the Cheney-Reid showdown, the congressman arrived in the Speaker's Lobby off the House floor, handing out news releases to any reporter he could find: "Kucinich to Move Forward with Impeachment News Conference."
Washingtonpost.com's Paul Kane showed the news release to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), who declined to endorse the Kucinich crusade. "He was busily engaged in handing that out," Hoyer observed. "Beyond that, I don't have any thought about it."
Rep. Rahm Emanuel (Ill.), chairman of the House Democratic caucus, was equally dismissive -- "Dennis can do what he wants; I'm not going to support it" -- but used the occasion to try out some Cheney material: "This is the biggest setback for the vice president since oil went under 65 bucks a barrel."
Kucinich, however, did not find humor in the matter. Standing perhaps 5 feet 6 inches tall in shoes, he wore a solemn face as he approached the microphones, which nearly reached his eye level. He beckoned to aides, who handed out thick binders detailing the case.
Kucinich read at length from his articles of impeachment, undeterred by rush-hour traffic noise on Independence Avenue ("I'll wait till the truck goes by here," he said at one point) and wind that ruffled his text and the few strands of his hair that were insufficiently weighted by Brylcreem.
Tom Ferraro of Reuters asked Kucinich if any other lawmakers supported impeachment.
"Because this resolution is so weighty in its import, it's going to be important for members of Congress to have sufficient time to study the articles," Kucinich answered.
We'll take that as a no. "So at this point you stand alone?" Ferraro pressed.
"I believe I stand with millions of Americans," Kucinich parried.
Someone else asked why Kucinich targeted Cheney but not Cheney's boss. "There's a practical reason," the congressman explained. "If we were to start with the president and pursue articles of impeachment, Mr. Cheney would then become president. . . . You would then have to go through the constitutional agony of impeaching two presidents consecutively."
It was a valid point. If Kucinich is having this much trouble impeaching one vice president, imagine the difficulty impeaching two presidents.