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February 03, 2006


You know, I thought of one other person who it'd be appropriate to impeach. John Yoo. Don't know if we can prove the case against him, but after realizing he's tenured at Berkeley and so untouchable there I began to wonder, if he were impeached, could Berkeley get rid of him?

So what are the standards here, besides the obvious blow job criteria?

Anyway, my list:

Scooter Libby
Heckovajob Brownie and his boss Chertoff
John Yoo

Although he doesn't fit the criteria that RonK prefers, I think current circumstances make Alberto Gozales a fitting subject.

I'd add Judge Jay Bybee to the list. Here's why. Also, I'm not a lawyer (IANAL), but isn't Yoo a private citizen? Wouldn't he be subject to "plain old" indictment, rather than impeachment?

Speaking of Yoo.... Indictment or not, I think it's an insult to us all that he's a Distinguished Scholar at our National Constitution Center. (Delight at some of his wingnut ravings here in the "Constitutional Minute Archives.")

dumb question: can congresspeople be impeached?

Re: the comment I just posted

I feel I should add that respected commenter GDoyle over at Kos stood up for Judge Bybee when I posted a comment about impeaching him last year. So maybe he's not all bad. That said, he should not be a federal judge if he broke the law.

No. Not if they're currently sitting as Members, anyway. Members of Congress have their own procedure for ouster, as outlined in the Constitution: expulsion by 2/3 vote of the body to which they're elected.

It's never been tested whether an expelled Member may then be impeached, with an eye toward barring pardon and/or holding future offices of honor/trust/profit.

Would make an interesting test to impeach Cunningham, though. Pled guilty to bribery, and while nobody expects presidential pardon, why not preclude it with an impeachment? What would be the defense against such a motion? Redundancy? When has that ever stopped Congress?

You mean you didn't know that God lives in a cabin in the Green Mountains?

Well, God e-mails me through AOL, so I've never been able to track an IP address.

I urge you to think about this clearly before making impeachment the central issue -- and it will become the central issue, if pursued with any seriousness.

Bush is an unpopular president. His poll numbers are stuck in the low 40's. His major policy proposals, whether at home or abroad, tend to be unpopular with a fair amount of consistency.

That being the case, consider two scenarios:

First, where the president continues to limp along as the most unpopular two-term president of this generation, where he can't get major new initiatives passed, and where he generally makes Democrats look good as an alternative.

Second, where Democrats make a serious and sustained push for impeachment. Impeachment becomes the central political issue, sucking up all the political oxygen and making sure we talk about little else for the remainder of his term.

In the second scenario, the bar gets lowered (yet again) for this president. The question, then, is not just whether the president is *bad*, or whether Democrats are *better*, it's whether the president is *bad enough* to get removed. If he's just *bad*, in the minds of the average American, but not bad enough for removal, he ends up
*winning the argument* on the central issue of the day.

I'm asking, I guess, if you want to win or lose. The odds of winning, politically, under the first scenario are a healthy 75% or more, I would guess. The odds of successfully impeaching the president (the second scenario) are no more than 5% or 10%.

Which path makes more sense, if you're opposed to the president?

It's possible, of course, that something like the Abramoff or Plame scandals will escalate to an impeachment level. I say let those facts come out, if they do, and get behind impeachment if it looks like a winner.

Try this little test. If you were to randomly poll three Republicans who you happen know about impeachment, what would they say? I suspect three randomly selected Republicans who I know would all oppose the idea of removing Bush, on the currently known facts. To work, impeachment probably needs reasonably support -- it needs to be clear enough so that even some Republicans come across and support it.

Until you get a significant amount of independent and Republican support, your best option is Scenario #1 above -- taking advantage of Bush's unpopularity, but not shifting the debate to focus primarily on impeachment.

John Yoo? There are ways to get rid of tenured faculty. Other than doing away with the entire department he is in and reassigning the faculty they want to keep to other departments, they can always go with moral turpitude or something like that.

William, how about we try this little test instead?

Am I "opposed to the president?" Or am I opposed to permitting the president to continue doing what he's doing?

The answer to that question (#2, of course) immediate renders inapposite your question of whether I want to "win or lose."

The title of the post is "On the Necessity of Impeachment." Not "On the Strategic Value of Impeachment."

You're playing a different game than I am, and your game is quickly coming to an end. Dalliance around the margins has gotten us as far as it's likely to take us: locked into a battle for a record-low number of competitive Congressional seats that would require us to run the table to even have a shot at a three seat majority, which we could then use to no effect, especially as against a completely realigned constitutional order entrenched in a judiciary we'll be similarly powerless to change.

In short, it's not about winning Congress. It's about keeping Congress worth winning.

Actually, the title of the post is "Impeachment: Let's Get Weird." Which is, of course, something quite different. But my answer would have to be largely the same, since William effectively diverted us from the topic of state-initiated impeachment, and back to the issue of impeachment itself.

The point remains the same: If you're thinking of impeachment as a game to be played for immediate electoral advantage, we're not on the same page.

Of course, there's an argument to be made that impeachment in the context I propose it is in fact about electoral advantage -- that has to be acknowledged. But in that sense, we're talking about a much longer term. That is, preserving a constitutional order under which it will make any sense at all to run for office as anything other than a neo-conservative Republican or a collaborator.

Ah! So the Green Mountain Boys are coming to rescue of what's right and good again. Hurrah! Huzzah!


One of the principles we're playing around with (at least I think we are--Kagro, Ron?) is that impeachment ALSO means you can't get hired back in government. So you impeach a citizen rather than indict him, to make sure he's never rewarmed as a SCOTUS nominee.

...or goes from death squad maven to top security chief.

I'm struggling, I guess, to see the positive impact of an impeachment campaign on any of the issues you raise -- whether it's "permitting the president to continue doing what he's doing", "keeping Congress worth winning", or even "preserving a constitutional order".

Impeachment will either become a serious matter of concern for a substantial portion of Congress, or it will be a popular movement that is pressed by the activists, but not taken up by the professionals.

In the first scenario, there's a high probability that it loses -- e.g., it never gets a majority vote in Congress. It becomes the central political issue and sucks up all of our media attention and all the discussions we all have about politics. It probably never gains majority support in the public (at least on the currently known facts), and, I would wager, you don't get a single crossover vote from a Republican in the Congress (and it ends up dividing the Democrats).

On the second scenario, it becomes a rallying cry for the left, with little institutional support. It becomes part of the ongoing debate, as such, but just one element of that debate.

In either case, getting back to your list of concerns, the president still keeps doing what he's doing, Congress continues it's slow decline in true representation of the people (you need redistricting reform, not impeachment, to change that), and the constitutional order is just as threatened as before.

The only way impeachment impacts those issues is if it wins, or comes close to winning, and I don't think it does so without some additional revelations on current scandals.

The only (likely) practical solution on the issues you raise is to elect a new president in 2008. I see it as more and more likely, actually, that this will happen -- not just in the obvious sense that we'll have a new president, but that we'll get someone with real leadership skills and a decidedly different understanding of their role than the current president. I think Bush's presence in the executive is actually shaping the forces that will ensure real change. If Bush fatigue continues to grow, even the Republican side will yearn for someone like McCain rather than a party loyalist like Guiliani or a Bush-clone like George Allen.

Meanwhile, Democrats are starting to gell behind a real talent, Mark Warner, and shying away from the electoral trap that is Hillary Clinton.

If either McCain or Warner gain their respective nominations, they will win . And both of those guys respect the constitutional order and bring talent and intelligence commensurate with the job.

In short, real change is going to come with a new president. Impeachment is unlikely, and 2008 is looking juicy in terms of finding a quality president. It seems that the push for impeachment can't help with that dynamic, and is likely to hurt.

Meanwhile, Democrats are starting to gell behind a real talent, Mark Warner, and shying away from the electoral trap that is Hillary Clinton.

Where do you get this? I fear that the Dems are not gelling behind anything or anyone. I think that Dean is shoving fingers in the dike all over bejezzus while trying to guide the civil engineers around him to shore up the whole party. The dike itself (the party as it now stands) is crumbling and may crash, leaving Dean standing there awash in mud and water, with a VERY big mess to clean up from scratch.

Another (lesser) sign from God...?

R.I. candidate calls for Bush impeachment


Well, yes, Democratic support is divided among a lot of people, and will remain so well into the 2008 campaign year.

There was a sense, however, prior to the recent governors election in VA, that Hillary was in the driver's seat for 2008, and that few of her likely opponents had much chance of unseating her. Warner got a pretty strong push out of the VA governors election, and there seems to be a lot of support for him on the left, among a lot of activists, and in the middle. I saw a comment recently that all the brightest people in Washington now want to work for him. There's something brewing.

I don't know whether the Democratic party will fracture between now and 2008. I do feel there are substantial opportunities to offer alternatives to Bush's policies, and to shine by comparison. Some policy areas are dicy, and divisive for Democrats, but some aren't, and the president isn't any more likely than before to pursue appealing directions on the major issues.

I know it's hard in some ways to oppose a president who's party controls all the levers of power, but a president who hovers at 42%, and who lacks solutions, is bound to be vulnerable.

The problem with sitting on your hands and waiting for a new president is that the new president inherits Bush's remade constitutional order. That's something that, once it gels, isn't simply undone with the election of a president who preferred the old one.

It's also worth noting that sitting on your hands locks in the set of "known facts" where it stands today, retarding all further development such that no serious opposition materializes, and the new constitutional order is ratified without objection.

Redistricting reform, by the way, is worth next to nothing under a constitutional order that has ratified politcal "preclearance," as this administration has done.

The point is that what separates bad policy from the emergence of a new constitutional order is that bad policy is made piece by piece, whereas a new constitutional order is an overarching philosophy of governance that perpetuates and reinforces itself. Under a new order, you can't undo discriminatory redistricting without changing "settled law" (remember how that phrase was used?) Under a new order, you can't undo "inherent powers" to conduct warrantless surveillance. You can elect a president who chooses not to engage in it, but that doesn't undo it, and the next president after that gets to keep it in his pocket, because it, too, is now "settled law."

The political discomfort is entirely beside the point, and there's really even less point in discussing them, since you've already apparently defined for us the known universe of possibilities and outcomes.

There was no majority for the impeachment of Richard Nixon at the outset of the Watergate hearings. But hearings there were.

It's also about quite a bit more than controlling the levers of power. It's about removing them once you're finished using them, and replacing them with something entirely different.

To restate the case in simpler fashion, parliamentary rules used to be a lever of power, but the nuclear option has rendered inconvenient ones useless. Statutory prohibitions, such as those recently passed forbidding torture, used to be a lever of power, but signing statements are now claimed to render inconvenient ones useless. Constitutional separation of powers doctrine used to be a lever of power, but the unitary executive and the president's claimed "inherent powers as commander-in-chief" have rendered inconvenient ones useless.

And in due time, the removal of those levers -- which we've taken for granted as part of the old constitutional order, but which have now been taken from our arsenal -- will be ratified by the courts, whose province it is (emphatically so) to say what the law is.

But surely, the charming magic of Mark Warner will change everything. The Supreme Court would hardly be able to contain itself in its rush to overturn its own precedent and constitutional theory, because... uh, well, because he's just so damned amiable!

I understand the principle now, emptywheel and Meteor Blades--impeachment as a cure for recidivism. Sensible. Thanks for spoon-feeding; I can be pretty thick at times. I'll go back and reread the last few threads with this point in mind.

"There was no majority for the impeachment of Richard Nixon at the outset of the Watergate hearings. But hearings there were."

I like that example. At the beginning of those hearings, if you asked congressional Democrats how many of them supported impeachment, how many of them would have said "yes"?

Very few, I suspect.

It grew to a majority view because some of Nixon's key subordinates flipped, and because he was stupid enough to tape himself.

Now, Democrats don't have the power to force hearings, but there is a special prosecutor in the Plame matter, and I understand there's a growing interest in a special prosecutor on Abramoff. Either one of those, or both, could produce the kind of near-term structural change you're calling for. Abramoff could end up gutting (or seriously wounding) Congress.

I have this sense that if Scooter Libby were to flip the way John Dean did, it might pretty quickly produce the same effects that Dean's testimony had on the Nixon White House -- that is, it could clear the corridors.

But he hasn't, even under quite a bit more legal pressure than was applied to Dean. Odd that a guy named "Scooter" would be a tougher nut to crack.

But that's how it works. If investigations uncovered the kind of glaring evidence we saw in Watergate, support for impeachment would grow and even draw in some Republicans. If it doesn't, then it won't. Calling for impeachment early in the process doesn't do much, either way, and it tends to make people take you less seriously.

Instead of rallying around the word "impeachment", try rallying on the issue of investigating corruption. That's the key. If it roots out the ugly stuff, then "impeachment" becomes a word of interest.

investigating corruption. That's the key. If it roots out the ugly stuff...

illegal war
illegal wiretapping

what kind of "ugly stuff" were you hoping to root out? some deleted emails?

And the Lord said, "Dude!"

We investigated corruption in Iran-Contra. Now the same actors are back, sticking it to us one more time.

Impeachment will be the natural consequence of an investigation of corruption, so by no means would I oppose such an investigation. But what I'm proposing is that impeachment is necessary as something that differentiates between an investigation of corruption (even one which ends in criminal conviction), which is routine, and the identification of a threat to the settled constitutional order, which is not.

Now, it's quite possibly true that even impeachment wouldn't be shameful enough a message to deliver to these guys to convince them to stop peddling their bullshit. In fact, it's most likely true. But we already know that widespread public knowledge of past investigations of corruption have proved no barrier to recidivism. I merely propose taking it to the next step, and seeing if impeachment improves the public memory.

william swann cares a lot


says a lot of sensible things,

by my lights.

it would be a good idea, i think, to listen to him carefully,

not critically.


impeachment is not a personal option, or an individual intellectual option.

it is a social process.

Of course. And part of that social process is putting resistance to rest.

i'm reposting these from kagroX #1.

i think it is important not to get too far out front of the public. that is usually where politicians run into trouble.

at this point the strategy i would favor would be to began systematically assembling a collection of bush, bush minions, bush administration, and republican congress' misconduct, deceit, incompetence.

i have referred elsewhere to the entirety of this effort as "nailing the 91 theses to the whitehouse door".

but one of the "problems" with writing up a ticket on this administration, is that it is so out of control,

the president himself simply does not function as we have reason to expect a president to function,

as a consequence,

the corruption, public lying, and incompetent administration of programs and departments is continuous and overwhelming.

each month there is a new revelation of misconduct, mismanagement -- nsa spying, prescription drug program, flu epicemic planning, etc, etc, etc, etc.

there is a temptatiopn to just keep writing about and criticizing each new act of incompetence or dishonesty.

so, at this point,

i think it is time to begin cataloging, with concise detail, specific acts of mismanagement and misconduct that bush and his administartion have engaged in over the last five years.

my own list would begin with the failure to protect from the world trade center attack, the unnecessary tax cuts, and go from there.

make your own list. anybody can play.

what i would hope would result from this effort is that it would be possible for any interested citizen to see in, say, 10 typed pages, a fairly comprehensive list of misconduct and mismanagement with simple, accurate descriptions of the details of each act of misconduct, incompetennce, or dishonesty.

once this "bill of indictment" (i'm no lawyer), "91 theses", call it what you will, has been constructed then it whould be possible to use it to begin collecting serious support.


even if there is no stomach for impeachment,

a concise list of misconduct and mismanagement would be of great use to democratic candidates around the country in 2006


a great vehicle to control the debate that rove will, over the next few moths, try to control with fear.

and it would be a good document to deploy against the main stream media.

best of all,

it would be a very, very good document to post on a web site for any and all to read and download and send to friends and fellow concerned cittizens.

Posted by: orionATL | February 03, 2006 at 11:39


thanks. i take your point. i did not write with the thought in mind that impeachment was a strategy.

i'm just suggesting a strategy or "technique" that might prove useful in getting from A to B, make that A to I,

which technique would also be useable at the same time in other venues

--the 2006 congressional elections and

-- the "national discussion" in the media that rove will try to implement in the coming months.

there is a growing sense among americans that things ain't right with our leadership, both bush and the republican party.

the "technique" i refer to is creating a catalogue of mismanagemnt, misinformation, and misconduct of the president himself, the bush administration, and the republican party.

i would expect a catalogue of this sort would go a long way toward providing concrete evidence to support this general feeling among the populace of things gone awry.

in putting together this "catalogue" (i've previously referred to it as a "bill of indictment" or "the 91 theses"), one would have the opportunity to "frame" or "develop narratives" at will for each of the individual items, or "case studies" of mismanagement, misinformation, or misconduct.

in putting the list together, one could set up different major categories such as

administrative incompetence, e.g.,

-- fema and katrina in 2005 vs fema and florida in 2004

-- the implementation of the drug prescription benefit,

-- the failure to properly equip troops for their safety,

-- the faliure to capture bin lasen at tora bora.

once you have a good list in a category such as "administrative incompetence", you can select from that list those situations that best exemplify the message of incompetence and write them up as a set of "case studies" on that issue.

understand i'm talking here of a few paragraphs for each entry, not pages and pages. this document needs to be transportable over the internet.

Posted by: orionATL | February 03, 2006 at 14:44

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