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Friday, May 11, 2007

Ask Steph If It's OK

by digby

Cliff Schecter makes an excellent point today that I think is worth looking at a little bit further. He writes:

4 in 10 Support Impeachment

I'll offer this with little comment, because frankly, not much is necessary. Except that President Clinton had a 60% approval rating when they were trying to impeach him.

Meanwhile 39% of Americans think this is a fate befitting our current commander-in-chief.

More here.

Ah yes, the impeachment poll question. Remember this Washington Post chat (via FDL) with pollster Richard Morin from December of 2005?

Naperville, Ill.: Why haven't you polled on public support for the impeachment of George W. Bush?

Richard Morin: This question makes me mad...

Seattle, Wash.: How come ABC News/Post poll has not yet polled on impeachment?

Richard Morin: Getting madder...

Haymarket, Va.: With all the recent scandals and illegal/unconstitutional actions of the President, why hasn't ABC News / Washington Post polled whether the President should be impeached?

Richard Morin: Madder still...


[W]e do not ask about impeachment because it is not a serious option or a topic of considered discussion --witness the fact that no member of congressional Democratic leadership or any of the serious Democratic presidential candidates in '08 are calling for Bush's impeachment. When it is or they are, we will ask about it in our polls.

Has anyone asked George Stephanopoulos what he thinks about this, because it's his opinion that really carries weight among our betters? From Media Matters:

A January 1998 Post poll conducted just days after the first revelations of Clinton's relationship with Monica Lewinsky asked the following questions:

"If this affair did happen and if Clinton did not resign, is this something for which Clinton should be impeached, or not?"

"There are also allegations that Clinton himself lied by testifying under oath that he did not have an affair with the woman. If Clinton lied in this way, would you want him to remain in office as president, or would you want him to resign the presidency?"

"If Clinton lied by testifying under oath that he did not have an affair with the woman, and he did not resign, is this something for which Clinton should be impeached, or not?"

Morin was the Post's polling director at the time, and he wrote the January 26, 1998, article reporting the poll results.

On the same day the poll was released, the paper published this breathless story:

In the whirlwind five days since the story first broke, nothing has been conclusively proven about the truth of the allegations that Clinton had an affair with Lewinsky, urged her to lie about it in an affidavit in the Paula Jones sexual harassment lawsuit, and then lied about it himself under oath when questioned by Jones's lawyers.

But it is a measure of the political and legal explosiveness of the allegations that they immediately provoked discussions of impeachment, a prospect raised the morning the story broke by former presidential adviser George Stephanopoulos and discussed at length on yesterday's TV talk shows.

Back in the day all it took to turn the entire media establishment upside down with impeachment talk was George Stephanopoulos "raising the prospect" and a bunch of gossipy gasbags twittering about it on TV for the Washington Post to immediately started polling like mad. Today, it makes the polling director "madder and madder" to even be asked about the question and a rule has been set forth that it takes a call from Democratic members of congress or a "serious" presidential candidate for him to even broach the question.

Back in 1998, Clinton had roughly the same amount of time left in office as Bush does today and yet, as Schecter points out, had a job approval rating more than twice as high as Bush's right now. The mere asking of the question by the Washington Post put impeachment on the table before anyone out in the country had even contemplated the idea. (After all, Clinton was "trashing" their sleepy little village with his naughty behavior and had to be stopped for our own good.) Today, other polls show that the president is dramatically unpopular, his war of choice is an unmitigated disaster and nearly 40% of real live citizens are in favor of impeachment without it even being raised by George Stephanopoulos. But that will not be worthy of discussion until someone "important" tells us it is.

It's long been clear that we citizens are superfluous as far as the political establishment is concerned, but it's always bracing to be reminded of it nonetheless.