I think they've been mistaken-- till now. While I've agreed that Bush and Cheney deserve impeachment --have said, indeed, that no one in American history has deserved it more-- I've never considered that to be a sufficient basis for making such a judgment about what should be done. My approach has always been more strategic than that. I'm concerned not only with the rightness of an action, but with its impact. And a premature effort to move toward impeachment, I thought, might actually have strengthened the Bushites by weaking their opponents.
When many were condemning Nancy Pelosi for declaring impeachment to be "off the table," I did not join in the criticism. I thought it a politically prudent statement to make, given the apparent skittishness of the American electorate at that time about impeachment and, more generally, about so-called "partisanship." For that time, it was probably reassuring to many in the public and it in no way impaired the ability to put impeachment back onto the table when circumstances changed.
Well, now they've changed. And now it is time to begin the drumbeat and the march toward impeachment. (Pelosi's situation does remain delicate, however: if Bush and Cheney are both impeached, guess who is next in the line of succession.)
There have been three important changes since last November's election.
First, in the first half year of this Congress, after years of virtually no congressional oversight, the investigative hearings conducted by the Democratic Congress have brought a whole stream of administration wrong-doing to the attention of the American people.
Second, and likely at least partially as a result of the first, the proportion of the American public now favoring movement toward impeachment has reached a stunning level. Almost half of the public (46%) favors the impeachment of the president, and more than half (54%) favors the impeachment of the vice president. These are already numbers that greatly limit the political risk to the Democrats in pressing forward with impeachment. And it can be assumed that the actual impeachment process --if it is conducted with reasonable political and prosecutorial skill- would raise those numbers considerably. It looks as though about 30% of the public will support Bush regardless of any facts presented about any high crimes he has committed, but there remains an additional quarter of the public whose support might still be won over to supporting impeachment.
Then there's the third important change --and in some respects it might be the most important one. And that is that the Bushites --by their arrogance, their stonewalling, their imperial usurpations-- have quite blatantly and publicly blocked every other recourse.
Just in the past month:
**Their indefensible assertions of "executive privilege" are thwarting the other, lesser forms of congressional investigation into the wrongdoings of the Bush presidency. Battling these issues out in the courts would drag on for so long as to give this lawless regime a victory by default.
**Meanwhile the vice president's machinations have compounded the message of contempt for the public's right to oversee what is being done by their elected leaders with the power entrusted to them.
**The president's commutation of Scooter Libby's sentence has made a mockery of the ability of the justice system to deal with criminal activity on the part of this cabal and, moreover, has blocked the ability of prosecutors to get to the root of the crimes committed.
With all these maneuvers, the Bush administration has laid down the gauntlet. It has precipitated the ultimate in constitutional crises: will America be ruled by an all-powerful president, accountable neither to Congress nor to the courts nor to the American public?
The answer to that question must be "No!" For the sake of future generations, American cannot afford to allow this profound constitutional challenge to go unmet.
Andit is the Bushite regime, by blocking every other recourse --for oversight, for accountability, for checks and balances-- that has made impeachment the sole remaining way to defend the integrity of America's constitutional system and the rule of law.
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