How to Lean to Love Impeachment and Forget About Dick
So many people have written to ask about what happens if President Bush is impeached, concerned that this would leave Deadeye Dick Cheney in charge, that I think it's time to explain how this all would play out.
Impeachment, as anyone who lived through the Nixon or Clinton impeachment dramas knows, is a long, drawn-out process. It could easily take two years to go from the submission of a bill of impeachment to the House Judiciary Committee, through committee hearings on articles of impeachment, to a debate and vote in the full House.
In the event that the House were to vote out one or more articles of impeachment, it would then take months for House impeachment managers and the president's legal team to prepare for a Senate trial, which would then also be a rancorouos and drawn-out affair.
None of this is likely to happen at all until after the November election.
In other words, even if Bush were impeached and removed from office, Cheney (assuming his cold and artificially sustained heart holds up that long), would at best only get to sleep in the Lincoln Bedroom for a few months. He would, that is, be the lamest of lame ducks imaginable, especially if his public support stays down in the teens where it is today (18% support in the latest polls).
Moreover, any impeachment inquiry into the crimes of President Bush would almost certainly involve investigating and exposing the crimes of his regent, Cheney. More likely than not, we'd see indictments brought against the vice president even before Bush's impeachment proceedings got very far--much as happened to Nixon's corrupt vice president Spiro Agnew.
The reality, though, is that we're almost certainly not going to see Bush removed from office, which would take a 2/3 vote by the U.S. Senate. Since only a third of the Senate is up for re-election this Novemenber, and as it is Democrats need a net gain of six seats just to take control of that body, there is no way that kind of a super majority will exist anytime before 2008.
So why bother? Two reasons.
The first reason to pursue impeachment is because this president has committed, and continues to commit, crimes of such magniture, crimes that undermine the Constitutional separation of powers, most articles in the Bill of Rights, basic rights of citizenship, and the fundamental rule of law, and international law, that not to impeach him would be a historic failure of national will and principle.
The second reason impeachment should be an important goal of progressives, even though ultimate conviction by the Senate is almost impossible to imagine, actually has a two-part answer. Firstly, impeachment is an excellent progressive campaign strategy. Over half of all Americans, according to recent polls, want the president impeached, so even if the Democratic Party leadership is full of bird flu candidates, progressives should respond to public demand for an aggressive challenge to the president's many crimes.
If those candidates who run on an impeachment platform win in November, it will be a mandate that more timid Democrats in the House will have to accept.
Secondly, if Democrats manage to take over control of the House this fall, and a bill of impeachment is submitted, a Democratic Judiciary Committee, under the leadership of Rep. John Conyers, would finally have the subpoena power to really investigate the administrations' five years (six by then) of criminal and unconstitutional behavior.
As we saw during the Nixon Watergate scandal, Congressional investigations can expose big scandals that we didn't even know about before. It was in the Senate Select Committee hearings into the Watergate scandal that evidence first came to light of the Nixon Oval Office tapes. Who knows what stunning evidence of criminality would come out in Bush impeachment hearings, once Conyers and fellow Democrats were able to apply legal thumbscrews to the likes of Rove, Libby, Rice, Hadley, Cambone, Wolfowitz, Feith et al.
So relax about dark lord Cheney. He'll be history anyway.
Right now the focus should be on electing House candidates who are pledged to submit a bill of impeachment against President Bush.
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