Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Impeach Bush?

Brad Jacobson has an interesting post (a few days old now) about Nancy Pelosi opposing the attempts to impeach Bush. He supports the case for impeachment.

While admitting that Bush should be impeached, I think attempting to do so would be a distraction from the greater issues we as progressives face. Moreover, it reeks of the self-destructive and self-righteous actions the left so often engages in during election years (see Nader, R. 2000). If the votes were potentially there to impeach Bush, Cheney, and the whole crew, I would support it. But they aren't. There is no way impeachment would even pass the House, not to mention conviction in the Senate.

There are two realistic scenarios in which a president can be impeached. First, the president must have committed clear crimes that are so bad that members of his own party will vote him out. This is what happened to Nixon. While Bush has wiped his ass with the U.S. Constitution (to paraphrase Frank Zappa), what precisely are the charges? I'm not saying that he hasn't broken the law--I am saying that it takes something on the order of breaking and entering the opposing party's headquarters to wiretap their phones, having your thugs get caught, and then ordering a coverup to convince politicians to vote someone out. The clear crime that would offend enough Americans that their congresspeople would act seems unclear here.

Second, a dominant political party can punish a president of the other party for supposed political crimes. This is what happened to Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. Although Johnson nearly was convicted, both presidents were acquitted and rightfully so. Johnson was a horrible president but the Tenure of Office Act was blatantly unconstitutional. As for Clinton, well, the Republicans made a mockery of the government there. In any case, the votes simply aren't there to even impeach Bush.

Wouldn't you rather see progressives' energy go toward electing Obama, increasing the majority of Democrats in Congress, and building the party in the states? Wouldn't you rather see political capital be spent fighting for legislation to help the poor, to get us out of Iraq, and to protect the environment? I sure would.