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Tuesday, July 03, 2007


by digby

Has there ever been a president who deserved it more? I don't think so. Looking at this as someone who believes that until we hold them accountable for their crimes, these zombie crooks will keep doing this over and over again until our country is unrecognizable, my instinct is to scream it from the rafters. But I'm still not convinced that the Democrats should try to impeach. The problem for me is threefold and it has nothing to do with the merits of the case or the desirability of doing it. It's about the political landscape.

First, I've never seen specific high crimes that could get voted out of the House (Elizabeth Holzman is dreaming if she thinks her charges could ever get a majority vote --- the national security questions are going nowhere without a lot more information which we won't get while Bush is in office, and the torture question was rendered pretty much moot by that "bi-partisan" military commissions act travesty.)

Second, time is not on our side. The executive privilege claims are going to take forever to litigate. And, of course, the conservative judiciary is likely to back them, if only by helping them run out the clock. During Watergate, the judiciary committee had the work of the Washington Post to go on ---- and then John Dean and the tapes --- in an easily understood narrative. Ken Starr gave Henry Hyde a nice little case about dirty sex all wrapped up in a pretty little pornographic package. Nobody had to do any investigation. The job of the congress, in both cases, was pretty much just seeing if impeachment applied to acts that had already been revealed. Things moved quickly.

This requires much more original investigation, particularly on those national security issues, which are going to be very touchy subjects and nearly impossible to get evidence or testimony on. (I think the national security stuff is going to have to be investigated in a different way, a la the Church committee, after Bush is out of office.)

Finally, there is the most important and indisputable fact that Bush and Cheney will never be convicted in the Senate. This isn't the GOP of 1974 and they will never cross over in enough numbers. They won't do it even if video tapes of Bush personally giving hush money to Scooter Libby turn up. Let's not kid ourselves about that reality. The fact is that impeachment will probably bring their caucus together.

But even so, that's not necessarily a good enough reason not to do it. It could be useful, if only to tie the administration up in knots until they leave the scene. But the risks are high that if you don't have a specific (and somewhat simple) crime to point to and a good chance of at least getting a quick impeachment vote in the House, that it could blow back pretty hard on the Dems. This is not because people like Bush and don't want him out of office. It's because they see that the presidential campaign is in full swing and know that Bush will be out of office soon anyway. That means many of them will likely be susceptible to the inevitable GOP screeching that the petty Democrats are playing politics, going for payback, wasting time etc. And the media will be thrilled to help the Republicans make that case.

Still, it still might be worth it if we could be sure that all this stuff is publicly aired and the Republicans are exposed for the crooks they are. For that we need a narrowly focused investigation on a specific act. To that end, I'd certainly be for holding hearings into whether this commutation constitutes a cover up of Bush and Cheney's crimes, with the explicit purpose of seeing if it leads to impeachment. (See Marcy Wheeler's article in The Guardian, here.) There is a certain symbolic simplicity to this particular event, that I think might work to open up the whole argument. And this is the one Bush crime where a nice information package already exists --- there have been years of investigation already into this crime and a full trial. (Perhaps Fitz might be persuaded to turn over his non-grand Jury material to the committee if they subpoenaed him nicely.)

But whatever they do, it's important to remember that impeachment is a nuclear political act, and because it's a nuclear political act it has to be judged on that basis with a clear view of the political playing field. The consequences of voting impeachment out of committee and failing to get a majority in the House --- or if we get a vote, failing to convict in the Senate (which is inevitable) are what's really at issue. I'm willing to consider that it's worthwhile anyway. But regardless, everyone needs to decide this course based upon the reality that Bush will not be convicted and barring an untimely demise, will not leave office before January 20, 2009.

So the question I ask is this --- is a failed impeachment going to hold them accountable? If so, then I'm for it. But if it actually ends up getting them off the hook, then not so much. It's not such an easy call.

And then there's the bigger question. What's the alternative?

Any ideas?