by Kagro X
Just a word about impeachment, and not the ones you've already heard, as in "the Downing Street memo builds a real case for impeachment," or even, "impeachment is a pipe dream as long as there's a Republican Congress."
I think impeachment is a pipe dream even with a Democratic Congress. Worse, I'm sure the Bush people know this. Worse still, I think they knew this even before Bush ran for president the first time.
What I'm asking is, did the failed impeachment of President Clinton make the next Republican president impeachment-proof, no matter what craziness he pursued once in office? Would "impeachment fatigue" settle in among the electorate, especially if the spectacle proved anti-climactic (the temptation to debase this discussion with a "no pun intended" here is overwhelming), as surely everyone knew it would?
No doubt there were those who believed that even a failed impeachment bid would help position whoever the eventual Republican challenger to Gore -- the presumptive Democratic nominee -- turned out to be. And no doubt it did help in some quarters. But the impeachment is generally regarded to have been a poor bet for Republicans, who suffered serious backlash from an electorate not particularly interested in institutionalizing their outrage, even where it existed. So might there have been a darker logic in pursuing it?
It seems a long shot, and it certainly carries all the markers of a conspiracy theory, but even if the plans for exactly what to do with the next Republican presidency were unclear at the time, it surely must have been clear to top-level operatives that no matter what the outcome of the Clinton trial, impeachment was going to be off the table for the foreseeable future, probably no matter what the circumstances. There would be a considerable "fatigue" factor, but even more obvious, it seems to me, is that this fatigue would facilitate the easy labeling of any discussion of impeachment in the near term as just more of the "partisan sniping" and "politics of personal destruction" that Americans are so used to seeing routinely rejected in the comments carried by the mainstream media. It would be all too easy to dismiss even the most serious and firmly-grounded discussion of impeachment this way, and thereafter to say no more about it.
And that's precisely where we stand today. Without passing on the merits of today's calls for impeachment, or even on the political realities that would appear to make it an impossibility no matter what the offense, it seems quite clear that any such movement would first be dismissed as partisan, before even getting to the question of feasibility, much less the question of the actual grounds for it.
So, to lend a properly tin foil hat-ish bent to this, consider that the neo-cons at the Project for a New American Century were pushing the WMD/regime change agenda on Clinton, as early as January of 1998. Then consider the laundry list of affronts to common sense and the supposed mission of being a "uniter, not a divider" that have ensued: the seemingly purposeful turning away from "hair on fire" warnings about al Qaeda; the lies leading to the Iraq war; the outrageous legal contortions on "unlawful combatants"; the new Gulag and the torture memos; the subsequent nomination of Alberto Gonzales in the face of those memos; the Schiavo insanity; the fraternity prank nomination of John Bolton; Cheney's complicity in the Senate's nuclear option plans; intransigence on stem cell research; etc. Taken together, are they not the likely answers to the question, slightly modified from its "motivational speaker" origins: What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not be held to account?
There are certainly any number of more plausible explanations for the Bush administration's undertaking of any or all of these projects and positions. More plausible, at least, than this one. But there need not be a grand, unifying theory of everything in order for the underlying assumption to be true: that the President and his advisors are quite aware of the uphill battle that even the most substantive and well-grounded impeachment movement would face, just to gain minimal legitimacy in the press.
And while that may present the most serious socio-political hurdle to impeachment, there are plenty of institutional ones that make worrying about this one a waste of time. My broader concern is that this also presents the most serious hurdle to even lesser exercises of checks, balances and overall accountability for an administration that believes -- and in practical terms they are so far correct -- that at the moment there are no bounds to its power, and no institution formidable enough to check its exercise.