The impeachment of Bush and Cheney seems less foolhardy with each passing day.
Giving impeachment a chance
I wrote a piece on the issue of impeachment for FightingBob.com in January, and another one in May. The general message was that although nobody has ever deserved impeachment more than Bush and Cheney (and don't forget about Gonzales), I was of the opinion that it was not a wise move at this time for many reasons.
I outlined those reasons, and they mostly had to do with the fact that impeachment proceedings would tie up Congress for the next year or more and many issues of critical importance would get short shrift in the process. And anyway, the chance of getting anything resolved before the Bush/Cheney Gang is out of office in eighteen months is slim to non-existent -- that and the fact that there just are not the votes to carry out this action.
I spoke before of a conversation with Congressman Dave Obey, who stressed the realities of the situation. It may satisfy some deep moral need in our soul to try to "throw the rascals out," but, if we haven't got the votes, who cares?
And I'm really weary of the bashing of congressional Democrats like Obey. Yes, I too like Dennis Kucinich, and I agree that he serves a valuable function by forcing such issues -- but he's too marginal to succeed in accomplishing something like impeachment.
It is entirely possible that enough Republicans will eventually bail out of the sinking Bush Ship of State to override the expected presidential vetoes and provide for our extrication from Iraq. And, who knows, maybe there could even be sane hearings on impeachable offenses.
Another thought: Imagine what the news media would do with an impeachment proceeding! Just when we should be learning more about the candidates for office in next year's election, we'd be hearing nothing but how the impeachment game is going -- lots of "he said, she said" stuff and sports metaphors about who's up and who's down.
We all know that these media guys can only cover one story at a time, whether that story is the campaign for president or Paris Hilton's experience in the slammer. What if the Congress was tied up with an impeachment? Do you think we'd learn anything about the campaign issues that are so critical to the nation?
However -- the two guests on Bill Moyers' Journal on July 13 were Wisconsin's own John Nichols, associate editor of the Capital Times and national correspondent for the Nation, and Bruce Fein, the constitutional lawyer who actually wrote the first article of the bill of impeachment against President Clinton. These guys really know whereof they speak. Nichols has obviously done his homework and has written an important book on the subject of impeachment, and Fein knows his (our) Constitution thoroughly. They make a lot of sense.
If we could just get past the notion of impeachment as the ultimate punishment; if we could think of it as a necessary constitutional corrective, a medicine for our ills; if we could keep the process from sounding like killer partisanship (as the Clinton impeachment certainly was); if we could somehow do it in a bipartisan manner (okay, at least get a couple of Republicans onboard), if - if - if...Well, it might be a cathartic experience and actually good for the nation.
After listening to the Moyers show discussion, I am most concerned about precedence, the idea that future presidents could use the fact that Bush was allowed to get away with so much by a compliant congress and wimpy press to develop their own uber-presidency. "As my predecessor, President George W. Bush, so wisely said..." If that doesn't send cold chills down your spine, you've been in a cryogenic deep-freeze for the last six years.
As of now, I agree with Nancy Pelosi and Dave Obey, and am still against impeachment. But I'm not ruling it out altogether. It might come to that, but not now, not yet.
July 22, 2007
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John Smart lives in Park Falls, is a member of the Wisconsin Governor's Commission on the United Nations, the board of the Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools and a frequent guest on Wisconsin Public Radio's Ideas Network.