Monday, March 27, 2006

The Democrats Impeachment Problem

The strategy is to first take back the House and Senate with extra support going to candidates who support impeaching President Bush, then to remove him and Vice-President Cheney. With Bush's popularity at a low point, Democrats need have no fear of voter anger for voting this way.

The impeachment movement has become a rallying cry across the country with cities passing resolutions and PACs being formed to support anti-Bush candidates.

There is one important group that has not signed on - Congressional Democrats. Even Bush-hater and conspiracy-monger Conyers hasn't gone further than calling for a committee to investigate impeachment charges. There are several good reasons for this. You cannot impeach a president unless he has broken the law.

The pro-impeachment crowd point to President Clinton and say that if a president can be impeached for lying about sex, then one can be impeached for lying us into a war. They overlook several factors. One is that Clinton's guilt was established by the time of the impeachment. Another is that Clinton was not impeached for lying about sex, he was impeached for perjury - lying under oath in official court documents. This is a felony.

So to impeach Bush, Democrats are going to have to come up with some real charges. Here are the ones most often suggested:

Phone taps. There might be something here but there probably is not. By most accounts, the phone taps are on terrorist suspects living overseas and US residents are only being listened to when one of these suspects calls the US. The White House says that between Bush's roll as commander-in-chief and the powers given him after September 11, he has the authority to authorize foreign wiretaps, even when a call to the US is involved. Further, other presidents have authorized wiretaps.

The Democrats' problems here are that 1) Bush's position may well prevail in court. 2) Even if it doesn't, can you impeach the president for following the recommendations of the White House legal staff?

Torture. This is really three items: what happened in Iraqi prisons, what happened at Gitmo, and what Democrats think happened at Gitmo. The first one is a non-starter. Unacceptable practices did occur but there is no proof that it was approved from higher-up. The second it also a non-starter. The closest thing to an abuse I have seen documented was a prisoner left hogtied for hours. This happens regularly in city jails. Democrats will have to come up with some specifics on what has been done and who ordered it.

WMDs. This is the big one - the one that all of the pro-impeachment crowd rallies behind. It's also the toughest to prove. It is true that bush-haters can find people who said before the war that Saddam had not re-started his weapons program. To rely exclusively on these people is to engage in the same cheery-picking of intelligence that they claim Bush did.

It has been reported several times, most recently last week on NBC, that Saddam was more worried about Iran invading if they thought he was without WMDs than he was of the US invading because we thought he had them. He kept the world guessing, sure that France, Russia, and China (recipients of Oil-for-Food payoffs) would block an invasion.

You cannot impeach a US president because a foreign leader lied. Moreover, the Clintons and Gore are on record as saying that Saddam had WMDs during the period that they were getting security briefings. It will look very bad for the Democrats to have their standard-bearers at witnesses for the defense.

In fact, the whole case against Bush is so weak that any efforts to push it will help Bush and besmirch the Democrats.

That's a problem for them. Their activist base is expecting, even demanding an impeachment if they take Congress. If an impeachment fails then these same activists will stay home in droves in 2008 or even bolt to the Green Party.

Even if the Democrats fail to take Congress, the impeachment movement hurts them. It pushes more polarized candidates, one less likely to win, and it sucks money that could be used elsewhere.

For all of the problems confronting the Republicans in the next election, none of them look like as big of a landmine as this does for the Democrats.

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