The Time Leonard Boswell, Facing Primary Challenge, Supported Cheney Impeachment

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Leonard Boswell, an Iowa Democrat who served in Congress from 1997 to 2013 and the state Senate before that, died Friday of a rare form of cancer called pseudomyxoma peritonei. He was 84. The following interview was published in the March 2008 issue of the Ames Progressive, when former state Rep. Ed Fallon, whose gubernatorial campaign I volunteered on before becoming a journalist, challenged the incumbent in the Democratic primary from the left. Boswell ultimately won the primary handily en route to a general election victory over Republican Kim Schmett, but he lost four years later against fellow incumbent Tom Latham, after the 2010 Census reduced Iowa’s five seats in the US House to four.

Democratic Congressman Leonard Boswell represents Iowa’s 3rd District and has served the state for six terms, since 1997. When he first entered the House he voted in favor of a bill that would have limited representatives to six terms, but he ultimately decided to seek a seventh term, where he is facing his first primary challenge from former state representative and 2006 gubernatorial candidate Ed Fallon. On February 14, the same day that Democracy for America endorsed Fallon’s candidacy and called Boswell a “Bush-Democrat” for having voted for various pieces of Bush administration-backed legislation, Boswell cosigned Ohio Democratic Representative Dennis Kucinich’s bill calling for the impeachment of Vice President Dick Cheney. The bill charges Cheney with lying to Congress and the American people about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and alleged-but-nonexistent links between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, and with threatening war with Iran.

What made you decide to support the impeachment bill?

I met with a group of progressives … and we talked about this, and [I had] a long conversation with them. And I have said all along – I’ve felt all along – that if it came up, the impeachment process, I would support it.

So [after] we had that discussion not too long ago … I sat down with staff and said, “You know, that’s where I’m at. I just haven’t gotten involved in it because I’ve talked to the leadership. Who’s more progressive than John Conyers?” And John said, “We can’t make it happen.” And so I’ve been applying my energy on doing other things.

But there seemed to be some strong feelings that it would be good to be on the bill, so I went back and said, “Well, that’s what I feel,” and I’m on it.

Your primary challenger Ed Fallon’s response is that you’ve signed this now in order to seem more progressive for the primary challenge. How do you answer to that?

I say nonsense, because I was on this issue since the get-go.

This president has lied to me, and I feel very strongly about it, so I went early on and talked with John Conyers, and you can just go check with him yourself if you want to. And I said to exorcise the last administration over the Clinton situation. [He] said [by] the time we would get there it would just bog us down and we probably couldn’t get there anyway with the way the numbers [of sympathetic representatives] are right now.

He said we probably ought to concentrate on other things. So I’ve been concentrating on other things.

What was your primary reason for your support for impeachment?

I’m one of those that believed in the commander in chief when he said, yes, there are weapons of mass destruction that [are] coming down on Americans. And knowing what I know and what I’ve been trained to know in my ears, that brings a whole new picture to my mind.

Correction: The headline of this article previously said that Boswell supported a bill to impeach George W. Bush. That was in error; he supported Kucinich’s Cheney impeachment bill.

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Gavin Aronsen is an editor and reporter for and founding member of the Iowa Informer. He previously worked as a city reporter for the Ames Tribune, research assistant to investigative journalist Wayne Barrett at the Village Voice, and in various roles at Mother Jones, where his work contributed to a National Magazine Award nomination for the magazine's digital media coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Email: garonsen [at] iowainformer [dot] com.