On the same day that articles of impeachment against George W. Bush were referred to the House Judiciary Committee, a North Dakota sheriff reported that high winds had caused cows to "fly."

Funny. I thought we'd see pigs.

Bill Clinton was impeached in 1998 by a Republican Congress (led by horn dogs whose own peccadilloes soon came to light) for lying to a grand jury about his relationship with a White House intern. Ten years later, a Democratic Congress has failed to impeach George W. Bush for lying the country into a bloody and unnecessary war, undermining civil liberties and employing torture.

So much for change.

The Republicans failed to exercise wise judgment. Mikael Rudolph accuses Democrats of lacking something more important: Spine.

Rudolph is a co-founder of Impeach For Peace, a national group based in Minnesota.

Impeach For Peace, whose website is www.impeachforpeace.org, is pushing, against big odds, for the impeachment of Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. The organization has nine chapters and an e-mail list of 10,000 people, but it hasn't had much success, so far.

Few in Washington or the media even mentioned impeachment before Monday, when Rep. Dennis Kucinich, a populist Ohio congressman who was an unsuccessful candidate in the Democratic presidential primaries earlier this year, took five hours to introduce a 35-count bill "Impeaching George W. Bush, President of the United States, of high crimes and misdemeanors."

Even then, hardly any mention of impeachment appeared in the mainstream media. It was as if someone has decided it is not worthy of discussing and that the country should hold its breath until Bush, with 222 days left in office, leaves.

Then Wednesday, cows flew and the House voted 251-166 to refer the impeachment resolution to the Judiciary Committee. (All Minnesota congressmen voted for referral, except Republicans Michele Bachmann and John Kline.)

Will the Democrats act?

Most observers expect impeachment to languish in Judiciary without hearings, because Democrats fear that the issue might hurt their chances of victory in November.

They might be wrong.

Rudolph points out that opinion polls show a majority of Americans want Congress to investigate whether impeachable offenses have been committed by Bush. More important, he says, protecting the Constitution is of far higher value than party politics.

"This is not the time for politics as usual," he says. "It is time to take an extreme stand against the extreme evil that has taken over our nation."

Rudolph, an evangelical Christian, lives in Minneapolis and makes his living as a ballroom dance instructor and mime. (Feel free to insert a mime joke here.) But maybe it takes someone who can communicate without words to shatter a country's silence. Rudolph's mimicry -- an art form from ancient times that could be used to criticize kings without leaving a transcript -- is not about invisible boxes. It's about the boxes we put ourselves in, that keep us from acting.

"When I perform in a church, I do a crucifixion piece," says Rudolph, who performs as Mikael the Mime. "When I'm finished, I discuss the irony that we worship a Lord who was arrested in the middle of the night, rendered from place to place, kept from friends and family, and finally tortured and put to death. It is increasingly hypocritical to be Christian and support a government that does the same."

Rudolph has voted for candidates of every party stripe, but he cautiously supports the Democrats and hopes Barack Obama wins in November. But he says most politicians, like Al Franken, DFL candidate for the Senate, haven't done enough to oppose George Bush to get his vote.

Is Franken too weak?

"Until Al is ready to defend the nation against the enemies of the rule of law who have been occupying the White House, he's not ready to swear the oath of office and promise to protect and defend the Constitution."

Tough talk from a mime. But this mime speaks his mind. The mimes in Washington only go through the motions.

"This is my country, and I'm not going to let them steal it," Rudolph says. "The Patriot Act was passed, and you can't find a member of Congress who even read it," he says. "They stripped away our rights -- and didn't even read it!

"If we just sweep all of this under the rug, without demanding accountability, then we are in dire trouble."

Nick Coleman • 612-673-4400 ncoleman@startribune.com