Tuesday, July 10, 2007


I've been rather slow to call for Bush's impeachment, for two real reasons. One is that I think the Republicans ruined impeachment in the 1990s. That is, by trying to remove a president for committing perjury in a small civil case about sex, they turned this awesome congressional power into a cheap partisan trick. Now anyone who calls for impeachment can be derided as a similar partisan hack. The second reason I've opposed impeaching Bush is that I thought Democrats would pay a price for it. Republicans lost seats in 1998 in part because of their impeachment fever. I didn't want Democrats to lose control of the Congress because of this.

But now I'm starting to think that the impeachment of Bush wouldn't be such a bad thing. For one thing, there'd be very little blowback over it. Bush is incredibly unpopular, and four in ten Americans support the idea of impeaching him.

The tricky thing would be coming to an agreement on what he should be impeached for. I know a lot of Democrats want him impeached because he lied us into war. I disagree with that approach. I believe that impeachment should be limited to cases involving serious breaches of the law. As repugnant as the adminstration's actions in getting us into the war were, they did not, as far as I can tell, involve breaking the law. Yes, starting unnecessary wars should be grounds for losing the presidency (and maybe even grounds for prosecution by the International Criminal Court), but the place to do that is at the ballot booth, and Democrats blew that shot on 2004.

There seems to be no question, however, that Bush broke the law with his warrantless wiretapping program. Whether the FISA law was obsolete or not, a president does not get to ignore federal law because he finds it inconvenient. Bush's actions violated the 4th amendment to the Constitution and the FISA law. That's more than sufficient grounds to impeach a president.

Now, in reality, even if the House were to impeach Bush, the Senate is very unlikely to remove him from office. I understand that. But impeachment would be a stain on the man that would remain part of his legacy. Clinton will be remembered for hundreds of years as only the second U.S. president to be impeached, and all because he lied about getting blown. Shouldn't Bush at least have such a mark on his permanent record?


lidzville said...

Even if the intent isn't to fire him, there's still the impression that impeachment means removal from office. No one wants President Cheney, President Pelosi, or President Gonzales. Do the polls account for that?

Enik said...

I don't think the polls account for that. It's hard to separate removal from office with the resulting replacement. But I doubt those who were most eager to impeach Clinton were all that eager to see a President Gore.