Tuesday, July 25, 2006



I don't like to let myself be goaded into particular decisions about what to post, but I'm going to make a limited exception for these comments.

Not that I plan to write an essay on the merits of an impeachment case against Bush. I don't have what I consider a unique take or anything interesting to add to what's already been written, e.g., here and here. And getting into a debate over substance with people who are invested in supporting Bush is a sterile and frustrating exercise in this political climate, since it's virtually impossible to engage constructively: there's simply no agreement on the basic facts, and each side sees the other as reasoning backward from a fixed conclusion.

But I'll make a couple of points.

1. The case against Bush is probably as strong as the case against Nixon, and far stronger than the case against Clinton. The three biggest items:
Bush lied to the public and congress to justify the invasion of Iraq, which, as is well known, was a key element of his advisors' foreign policy program before he even became president.

Bush has been an active accomplice in illegal detention and torture, in violation of the U.S. constitution and international law. He may or may not have authorized the worst of the torture beforehand, but he has ratified it after the fact by continuing to push for broad latititude for it to be conducted.

Bush has violated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act with his illegal wiretapping program.
2. There's considerable historical evidence that many of the framers believed that impeachment of the president was not an extraordinary remedy, to be resorted to only in cases of provable criminality by the president, but an institutional check on tyrannical wielding of power. I have mixed feelings about such a view of the impeachment power.

The Bush administration certainly has run roughshod over any notion of political consensus buidling, but more pointedly, has aggressively pushed arguable executive authority to the limit. Bush's order establishing secret military tribunals is one example. A more pervasive example is his routine issuance of unconstitutional "presidential signing statements" in which Bush, while signing (rather than vetoing) legislation basically announces an intention not to follow it. Bush has done this some 750 to 800 times. Even Arlen Spector agrees with me that Bush's signing statements are an unconstitutional abuse of power.

3. The commenters say "impeaching Bush is stupid" because of the "small likelihood of success" and the "downside" of success. The commenters specify neither what constitutes "success" nor what the downside is they have in mind.

"Impeachment" is the formal charge by the House, and is not the same as removal from office, which can only follow the Senate's vote to convict the impeached officeholder. So is "success" defined as the House voting articles of impeachment (which has happened three times in our history) or the Senate voting to convict (which has never happened)?

Either way, I find those comments to be somewhat knee-jerk. If an outcry for impeachment among Democratic party faithful can gain momentum, this will mean a broad public summing up and focusing on Bush's six years of abuse of presidential power in the run-up to his last mid-term election. It will focus people on important stuff rather than inane distractions like Kevin Barrett. That strikes me as pretty much all upside.

It doesn't matter whether Bush is actually impeached. Republican congressmen who oppose impeachment will have to either defend Bush's unpopular policies, or make mealy-mouthed statements about why they oppose impeachment even though they're not in favor of, say, torture, or lying to the public to justify a war. Democratic congressmen will be put in the sometimes awkward position of having to find their backbones. That's not such a bad thing either. And the mobilization is likely to help in the 2008 election as well.

If the argument is that an impeachment movement will create a backlash, then let's recall how in 2000 the Republicans ended up with control of the White House and both houses of Congress after impeaching Clinton at a time when his approval ratings were about twice as high as Bush's are now. What backlash?

If the argument is that successfully removing Bush from office has the downside that somebody worse will take over -- an argument that contradicts the critics' point that impeachment won't succeed -- then the answer is that the impeachment process will significantly hamper the Bush administration's ability to (mis)govern for the next year to eighteen months. And after the hypothetically successful conclusion to the impeachment process, there would not be enough time left for a mortally wounded Cheney administration to do much damage.

4. One final point. "A serious move toward impeaching Bush now will only encourage the Republicans to try to impeach the next Democratic president simply because they disagree with him." That argument sounds good, until you think about it and realize it's BS.

Basically, that ship has sailed. The Republicans, simply because they disagreed with Clinton, trumped up an impeachment charge against him. They maneuvered him into having to talk about his sex life under oath, and he, naturally, prevaricated.

The Republicans have resurrected impeachment as the vehicle for expressing intense disappointment with a sitting president. They'll do it next time, whether or not Bush is impeached -- you watch.

You pointed out the case of impeachment in a very logical format.

Now, to find a represenative with the stones to formally introduce it.... but don't hold your breath.
Hi Oscar,

I hope it was Ann rather than me who was mostly responsible for you taking such an effort on this post. You put a lot of work into it and so it deserves some kind of response:

1. I don’t want to split hairs on impeachment v. being removed from office: I am well aware of the difference,-when one speaks of impeachment it is usually assumed that the end goal is removal from office. As an aside, I won a bet back during impeachment days on this very distinction. If the purpose is not to remove Bush from office, why not just pursue a resolution (in either chamber of Congress) of censure? It has twice the chance of passing since you have two chambers to work with, while impeachment must originate in the House only.
2. I never brought up the possibility of a back-lash because, while I suspect there would be one, it is hard to have much assurance one way or the other. The Republicans did loose 4 Senate and 2 House seats in the election of 2000, so it would be hard to say that they gained from impeachment. The argument should be whether Republicans were hurt and if so, by how much.
3. We can debate on the chances of such a project being successful: Impeachment itself would be one degree of success and removal from office a much higher level of success. I am not a Democrat, so maybe I just cannot relate, but I don’t see most liberals liking Cheney better than Bush. I will grant though that it might end up with a Ford-like situation, where the President was too weak to do much against an energized opposition in Congress.
4. I think you will agree (or maybe not) that a minimum requirement for success in this impeachment project is, at least a Democratic majority in the House. If the Republicans retain control, why would they give the opposition an impeachment proceeding to play with? Further, the Republicans would not have to defend an unpopular president. The burden of proof is on the accusers: All the Republicans have to do is rebut any accusations the Democrats make.
5. I see a lot of “Bush lied…etc” when I wander through liberal sites. In most cases it is all about the WMD, which were highly pushed in the lead-up to war and turned-out to be not-so-abundant. For Bush to be a liar, he would have to have known that there were no, or very few WMD there. How do you propose he would know this while the CIA and every foreign intelligence service thought that Iraq retained WMD stocks? On a similar vein, if Bush was so power-mad why would he have kept the lid on the actual poison shells that have been found in the last two years in Iraq? A real demagogue would have trumped each find, instead he kept it quiet to prevent insurgents from seeing if they could find some to use on our forces.

I won’t re-fight the Clinton impeachment here—I followed it closely at the time and have no urge to dredge-up all of that again. I made the bet that Clinton would be impeached a couple of days after he was re-elected. I thought it would be due to abuse of executive privilege claims, or recess appointments of officers already rejected (voted down) by the Senate or maybe Chinese spy issues etc. I think the Lewinski affair would certainly have sunk a Republican president, but probably saved Clinton’s since it lured the Republicans into pursuing weaker (but easier to prove) charges. The impeachment never had anything to do with disagreeing with Clinton: The only major things that got done then: Welfare reform and NAFTA were ideas that Republicans liked. The things Republicans didn’t want; BTU taxes, national healthcare etc never got anywhere anyway.

Jeeze Oscar! You goaded me into posting the longest comment I have ever made, so we’re even.

Best regards,

people who are invested in supporting Bush

Nice choice of words.

jgnvtoj (jog-and-VETO-age): President Bush's morning routine.
I also thought Reagan was in for it (impeachment) after Iran/Contra because I believed it was a much more heinous "crime" than the Watergate break-in. After seeing him, and his cronies, get nothing or a light smack on the wrist with a damp strand of spaghetti, I hold out no hope for Bush's impeahcment, as well-deserved as it may be.

qlquls - calculus, while eating a peanut butter sandwich.
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