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May 31, 2005

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Interesting theory. And one that I would have laughed all the way to Saturday about had you offered something like it a couple of years ago. But, given these guys' incredible nose-thumbing chutzpah since then, who can be sure that a-GOP-president-will-be-impeachment-proof notion wasn't at least peripherally in certain high-level operatives' minds well before Bush stumbled into the Oval Office?

Even in Richard Nixon's case, it wasn't until Republicans in the Democrat-controlled Congress started looking askance at the White House's behavior and alleged behavior that Tricky decided departure was better than standing trial before the Senate.

I think there's about as much chance of an impeachment now as there is that Dubyanocchio could wind up before a war crimes tribunal at The Hague. We, of course, must continue to expose this Administration's crimes, but (unless the situation changes drastically) any energy directed toward impeachment is a colossal waste of time.

I was very reluctant to offer it up in public, but I think we ought to give it some consideration, if only to remind ourselves that if impeachment is impossible (for whatever reason), then it becomes all the more important to pursue other avenues for holding Bush to account. It might be politically smarter to simply focus on those other avenues. Or, it might first be necessary to challenge the press and the establishment to wonder for itself whether it's closing the door on a necessary inquiry for less than meritorious reasons.

I think impeachments is off the table, but more for the reasons MB mentions than for the Clinton impeachment hearings. In the minds of most Americans, the Clinton stuff was and remains a sex scandal. Had Iran-Contra moved further and become a failed impeachment, I think your theory would apply to it. But I think you're correct that the Bushies know Dubya wouldn't be impeached, but because they knew Congress would either be Republican or Democratic by the slightest and most unstable of margins. And unlike in the past, there are few candidates to be a Howard Baker and tell Bush his time is up. I mean, it's not like they'd ever listen to Chafee or McCain, and it's not like anyone else would ever have the courage, decency and patriotism to do the deed were the time to ever come.

There are many reasons why impeachment is off the table. My thoughts were more along the lines of why Republicans might have pressed forward with an impeachment they knew was doomed from the start.

Maybe, but you spent enough time in DC that you also know that one should never discount the possbility that it was just pure lunacy.

But at the time, people thought that invoking impeachment for a trivial sex scandal actually lowered the bar for this process, making it easier for future presidents to get impeached. If there was a long term plan, it was probably to facilitate Dubya's campaign as an outsider by tarnishing Democrats with the stench of corruption, not to make him impeachment-proof.

Impeachment, no, but the reach of the long arm of the law down the road, possibly yes!

If, or thinking positively, when political power shifts away from Bush's legions, I do not believe he inherits any immunity for actual crimes he and his administration have committed. His stupidity is probably what keeps him from seeing and worrying about such future actions coming his way as a result of what he has wrought on the American people. Unless I am missing some kind of immunity protection that he has NOW after leaving office, then I would almost expect that near the end of his term, he may begin to sense some vulnerability, and will then try to make himself prosecution-proof somehow!

Pure lunacy is almost certainly a part of it, as is the same sense of feeling that you're better off going forward, no matter how stupid the pursuit, than pausing to think things through that drove the nuclear option developments and so many others.

As for lowering the bar, that was certainly the refrain at the time. But we see now that nothing of the kind has happened, unless we want to cling to the very narrow notion that the bar is lower with respect to sexual peccadilloes and nothing else.

I'm sure the primary driver of the impeachment push was to make it impossible for Gore to run on family values/personal responsibility/yadda-yadda, but I also think that for anybody wavering over whether or not there would be backlash and whether it would outweigh the benefits of tarring Gore, they could have been won over with the argument that after this, nobody would want to hear the "I" word again.

But once again, I want to bring us back to this: there may never have been such a thought -- in fact, it's far more likely that there never was -- but what I think is more worthy of discussion is whether or not there is now a taboo against considering even a well-founded impeachment complaint, and if so, why?

When someone came up to me at one of the pre-war anti-war rallies wearing an Impeach Bush button my first thought was what a dumb idea--and that we were not likely to see another impeachment in my lifetime. Surely the country would not want to be put through that drama again except perhaps for embezzlement on a grand scale.

As with everything else, the motivations probably varied with the characters. The hypermoralists I think got so carried away with their righteousness and hatred that they lost any sense of proportion. I do think it was also designed to make "values" the exclusive province of the GOP. I think they thought it was a win-win for them. They would identify the Dems with the kind of '60's-'70's sexual license and selfishness, and if they got rid of Clinton, so much the better.

There is now a taboo on impeachment. Partly it is the much more partisan climate, which precludes any GOP Senator from putting country ahead of President and Party. But I think it is also the very personalized, almost cult-like (or mafia-like) power that Bush exercises. It is all about loyalty with him--preferably blind loyalty. This also feeds into the idea that he shouldn't even be criticized, much less raise something like impeachment. And the Press, for whom he has utter contempt, just goes along with it. It's not just Howard Baker we lack, but a critical Washington Post as well.

I don't think there is a taboo against impeachment. Indeed, I think it possible (albeit about as likely as it is for pigs to fly) for the GOP to impeach Bush when they realize he has doomed our country. It is POSSIBLE (albeit about as likely as it is for pigs to fly) that the GOP would see impeachment as a kind of penance for the sin of supporting this nutcase.

That said, if anyone is serious about impeachment again, I think the recent history of presidential pardons will dissuade them (except in the about as likely as it is for pigs to fly chance that the GOP sees impeachment as a public penance AND they want to game the outcome). We saw with Nixon that impeachment resulted in legal immunity for almost all involved. We saw with Iran-Contra that presidential pardon resulted in immunity for almost all involved. Clinton's was the EXCEPTION here, in that it was personalized. His "crime" involved no one else but Monica, and she didn't commit a crime (although I believe she would have if she were in TX at the time).

If Bush has committed crimes worthy of impeachment, it's because he has been directed and aided to do so by Cheney, Rummy, Tenet, Rove, and a host of others. Even some of the same creeps who should have been tried after Iran-Contra. If you really wanted to cleanse the body politic of the crime, you need to force them out or wait, allowing the corruption to bring the whole mess down. Hopefully without tipping your own hand that you've got the goods on some of these people. Otherwise, they'll just show up again in 20 years time.

Otherwise, they'll just show up again in 20 years time.

Indeed. And, believe me, my by-then 80-year-old heart couldn't stand another round with Donald Rumsfeld as SecDef.

So, is there a similar taboo about impeaching Vice Presidents? Secretaries of Defense? What would the dynamics of a sub-presidential impeachment be?

Largely the same, I would imagine. But at least you'd get points for creativity.

An impeachment of any executive appointee is a direct attack on the President himself. It attacks his judgment in failing to remove the official, and his power to protect his subordinates. Depending on the perceived partisanship of the impeaching Congress, an actual conviction would either make a martyr out of the deposed officer, or destroy the credibility of a President who rode a sinking ship all the way down. Subpresidential impeachments never happen because an impeachable officer resigns as soon as the President withdraws support, which typically occurs before the articles of impeachment can escape committee.

The Vice-President holds a Constitutional office, and can't be fired by the President, so he might actually sweat out the trial without presidential sanction if he thought he could martyr himself to the cause (or stick it to the President). But the general rule is that anyone impeachable resigns as soon as they see the writing on the wall (Nixon, Agnew, etc.)

Practically, the biggest taboo against impeachment is time. Since the whole process seems to take about a year, it's not worth it to impeach after the midterm election since by the time you convict, it's time for a general election anyway. One reason Iran-Contra never reached impeachment is that it broke at the end of 1986 instead of 1985.

This is so true -- a totally great insight, put very well. I often thought that one of Reagan's great strengths, the one that made him "teflon," was simply the good luck to follow a period in which three presidents in a row -- Nixon, Ford, Carter -- had been rejected. (Four if you count LBJ.) There was a fatigue about throwing out yet another one. Bush's dynamic is a little different, but follows the rejection of his father, the rejection of Clinton in 94, and then the re-rejection in the impeachment. I think that helped his reelection as well as making all thoughts of another impeachment impossible. I don't want to argue that the GOP knew what it was doing, but the effect was to so cheapen and dirty the grave mechanism of impeachment that they can act with near-impunity, and for any Dem to think about impeachment sounds like just another partisan gambit.

I'm a little too young to remember this, but when people started talking about impeaching Nixon, it was taken very seriously, and it was very hard to create the impression that people like Rep. Peter Rodino were just playing a partisan game.

If we had to expend impeachment energy, which I'm not so sure is a good idea in any case for the reasons you lay out, sub-presidential impeachment is where all of our efforts should be focused. Leave Shrubya alone, just take away the head (Karl, Unka Dick, Rummy, Condi) and leave the shriveled corpse to flail about and decay there in the oval office.

TX Expat

You've given me a whole new enthusiasm for impeachment!

And you didn't even mention the possible biggest scandal...two stolen elections.

If we knew on Nov 10 that the Diebold machines had been rigged, if we had witnesses and documentation, and undeniable proof of Bush/Rove knowledge and complicity, Bush still would have served four years. Which is why I think the MSM never bothered to investigate Ohio very deeply.

Mark,

I was hoping that a theory that made more sense might arise from this. While it's highly unlikely that the wider GOP rank-and-file had any positive plan for impeachment-proofing, it does make a certain amount of sense that the public's fatigue can generate this immunity organically.

What a depressing thought, though, that we've gotten to the point that simply not being impeached or otherwise rejected will get a major airport named after you, move people to try to make your birthday a national holiday, and put you on the currency.

Mark, Kagro, you've got to add the war mentality to this. Absent 9/11 and the patriotic shell game, it is difficult for us to see the 'what might have beens' might have been. To put it differently, impeachment after 2000 but before 9/11 would not have been as difficult (assuming, of course, completely documented evidence) as now. We misunderestimated this sentiment in 2004.

Frankly, I don't really care about impeachment at all in this matter -- I think the important part is to hammer away at Bush's "integrity" level, his status as "likeable," a "good leader." Bring up more evidence of the activities of Bush's "associates." Imperil their images.

Dem,

9/11 undoubtedly made impeachment, and indeed all criticism, more difficult to discuss, but what I'm wondering about was whether it was off the table even before then.

Indeed, those with the tightest tin foil hats would probably argue that the events of 9/11 themselves (or at least the administration's reaction to it, if you've got a somewhat less snug-fitting topper) was made possible by a feeling, grounded or not, of invincibility.

But without getting into the more outlandish sort of speculation, what I was driving at was the possibility that the "courage" to perpetrate some or all of the things which might in fact have been impeachable offenses comes from the knowledge that the country has no stomach left for impeachment.

Soap, Ballot, Jury. . .

What's left?

I see someone else also wound up back here -- probably the same way I did, linking from a recent post.

All I can say is... over two years later, with a supposedly Democratic-controlled Congress, with Reid and Pelosi in charge, the original post and many of the comments here seem downright prophetic. Which makes Reid and Pelosi... pathetic.

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