Monday, May 21, 2007

Thoughts on Impeachment

Gary Kamiya has an interesting article up on Salon, in which he argues that we are all to blame for the lack of effort to impeach George W. Bush.

I don't agree with every point he makes, but it's a thoughtful and thought-provoking piece, and I do buy his overall thrust. I've long believed that the Bush's actions more than merit removal from office (not to mention lengthy punishment, featuring "enhanced" techniques). I agree with Kamiya when he says that letting this president get away with (insert humungously long list of atrocities here) is unjust, a terrible precedent, and therefore bad for the long-term health of our country. But I've never really argued for impeaching Bush. Here's why.

The first problem has always been, if you impeach George, you get Dick. Hard to feel like you'd be better off. Even getting rid of the two of them sometime during their first six years -- as if that would ever have happened -- meant getting Dennis Hastert.

The second problem is that it just would not have worked. It still wouldn't today, even after the most recent elections. Congress was controlled by Republicans until Jan 2007, and the GOP still has sufficient numbers to bog the process down, and to defeat the vote, assuming it made it that far.

Third, as much as I hate for my thinking to be lumped in with what Kamiya belittles as "cautious Beltway wisdom," we're now at the point where it's better -- or at least, less worse -- to play out the hand we have. The impeachment proceedings would paralyze the country and aggravate our divisiveness, and there are the risks of a backlash of sympathy for Bush and a corresponding portrayal of the Democrats as engaging in a "witch hunt." The process would take forever, especially given this White House's tendency to resist all requests for documents, and more generally, to play by the rules, or even obey the law. It seems more responsible, therefore, to concentrate on solving the problems that Bush has caused, rather than to put them aside to focus on an effort to punish him. It also seems more responsible not to decrease the chances of the Republicans being voted out of the White House in 2008.

There's an argument that says we shouldn't view impeachment as draconian, but more along the lines of a parliamentary vote of no confidence. This is another abstract point that I agree with, but the facts of life and history in the U.S. make this one a non-starter. Maybe it shouldn't be this way, but it is.

There's another argument that says that sometimes we just have to put aside practicalities and calculations, and instead, Do The Right Thing. Bush should be held to account and members of Congress should be forced to vote up or down on his criminality. It's time to stop accepting things with an apathetic attitude of "that's just politics." Forget about winning or losing the fight; it's more important to have it. I have no good answers for this argument, only the pragmatic ones listed above.

It's an awful thing to argue for letting Bush get away with what he has done, and Kamiya's piece definitely aggravates my feelings of guilt for feeling as I do. So go read it, and tell me why I'm wrong.


2007-05-23 09:11 EDT

This radio program makes a good case against mine. Here is a preview of the show, from one of the participants in the panel discussion.

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