There seems to be an argument developing in the progressive blogosphere about impeachment that has nothing to do with whether or not there’s a case or whether or not Bush/Cheney deserve to be impeached and thrown out of office. That’s pretty much a given on which everyone agrees. The argument is over practicalities vs moral imperatives.
Digby, as far as I can tell, started it three weeks ago with a post arguing that impeachment couldn’t work because there was no clear crime around which to center it.
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.
Thomas Nephew at newsrack blog then took Digby to task, arguing that her reasons were inadequate or just plain wrong.
For all that digby has earned her many accolades over the years (including many from me), she has no business writing about Holtzman — the youngest woman ever elected to the House of Representatives, a key participant in the House Watergate hearings, a district attorney, and a comptroller for the state of New York — as if she were some hand waving flower child from a commune somewhere. As Holtzman has argued, no one thought at first that the Nixon impeachment hearings would get as far as they did.
There are a number of highly arguable premises in the rest of digby’s post as well. For instance, much of what’s impeachable has been placed on the public record already, either by the administration itself, via ACLU and similar lawsuits, and reporting by journalists like Hersh, Priest, Marshall, and many others. More investigation and a clear constitutional discussion of what precisely does and does not merit impeachment will be good things, but there’s no need to search for even more “smoking gun” evidence when we’ve seen so many already, and found so many hot bullet casings, as it were, littered on the White House lawn. We’re also not necessarily running out of time.
eRobin at Fact-esque waded in on Digby’s side, offering a strong condemnation of Democrats as her primary reason.
I don’t operate from the position that the Congress is going to bring this President to justice. They do not have the fortitude, the imagination, the courage or the character to do it or to end the war, for that matter. Those jobs are falling to us. So I want a People’s Impeachment (capitalized to give it real heft!) that will convict these criminals in the court of public opinion where the verdict is insulated from the very serious voices of the establishment. I want Overton’s Impeachment Window moved. I want polls in favor of impeachment in the 70s – which will only happen as more and more people at the grassroots level push for it. We should keep pushing for impeachment with our friends and neighbors, get towns across the country to officially call for the same, call on Congress to impeach Abu G., make BushCo a laughing stock, weaken him at every opportunity. It’s all good. And I want something else – but to get it, I think I’ll have to step into the realm of fantasy: I want all the presidential candidates to, at every opportunity, condemn specific steps this president has taken to undermine the Constitution and to pledge to reverse them ALL on his/her first day in office. I am vastly more concerned with their reluctance to do that than I am even with BushCo’s persistance on his unconstitutional path. (from BushCo I worry that we’ll get another 9/11) The damage he’s done can be contained not only by impeachment (which would be my first choice in a reasonable world but is not in this one) but also by immediate repudiation of what he’s done over the last two terms by whoever gets elected to succeed him.
In point of fact, this argument – while substantial on both sides – is apples and oranges. Here is how Thomas ends the post I linked to above:
I don’t claim I’ve got a finely honed, prize-winning answer, but basically I think that not even trying to impeach Bush and Cheney — especially in a House and Senate with majority opposition — would say something far worse about this country, and have worse consequences, than trying and failing would.
We are the patriots in this fight. We, the people, are defending the Constitution of the United States of America — still a legacy to the world and the future, and still our best defense against criminal rogues like Bush and Cheney.
That Constitution gives us a tool called “impeachment” to fight an overreaching, scofflaw executive more concerned about his political allies, his own hide, and his claim to act without constraint, than about the country or our rights. It’s right to use this tool, we should use it, and I think indeed we must use it. Otherwise we essentially forfeit the Constitution as a dead letter — something to be studied by historians, but no longer relevant to our country, our ideals, or ourselves.
Where Digby and Rob are looking closely at the practical and political ramifications of impeachment in an age when conservatives all but own the major media, Thomas is saying none of that matters, that what’s important is standing up and refusing to let the Constitution continue to be shredded just because it’s perceived as a fight that can’t be won and may do more harm than good.