The conventional wisdom – virtually across
Washington’s political spectrum – is that the impeachment of President
Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney is unthinkable, and without doubt,
it would be extremely difficult to engineer.
But a better answer to Americans interested in
holding Bush and Cheney accountable is that impeachment is
possible – if enough voters want it to happen.
Say, for instance, 75 percent of voters favored
impeachment and considered it a decisive issue in how they will cast
their ballots. Would politicians facing such a popular groundswell risk
their own jobs to save Bush and Cheney?
Or, put differently, what would happen if voters –
beginning with state and local elections on Nov. 8 – rejected every
Republican on the ballot? Would the public hunger for accountability
begin to sink in then?
Crazy? Well, there are signs that even in Red
States, Bush is becoming a drag on Republicans.
In Virginia, for instance, a Washington Post poll
discovered that only 26 percent of voters said they were more likely to
vote for Republican gubernatorial candidate Jerry Kilgore because Bush
endorsed him, while 47 percent said Bush’s endorsement was a negative,
with the rest either saying it made no difference or they had no
opinion. [Washington Post, Oct. 30, 2005]
So, in a state that favored Bush in 2000 and 2004,
barely one in four voters see Bush’s endorsement as a plus and nearly
one in two voters see it as a minus.
And what if Bush went from being a drag hindering
Republican candidates to being an anchor pulling them under? What effect
would that have in the congressional elections of 2006? Might the
Democrats achieve more than incremental gains?
Yet, while a political tidal wave starting in 2005
and gaining force in 2006 would have the potential of making
accountability a reality, the tougher challenge of impeaching Bush and
Cheney comes from the lack of an adequate infrastructure that can make
the case consistently with the American people.
Despite some bright spots for progressives – from
Internet blogs to Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” to
talk radio programs such as “The Stephanie Miller Show” and “The Randi
Rhodes Show” – not nearly enough resources have been invested in media
to reach enough Americans to transform the political dynamic from a
general dislike of Bush into a collective decision to fire him.
Conservatives, like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity,
still dominate the AM dial, while also holding important beachheads in
TV, such as Fox News, and across dozens of print publications. Plus, the
mainstream news media seems to have learned few lessons from the Bush
administration’s exaggerated case for war with Iraq.
While more and more journalists acknowledge they
were duped in 2002 and 2003 on Iraq’s supposed weapons of mass
destruction, they continue to buy into Bush’s more recent exaggerations
about the threat from al-Qaeda and the dire consequences if the United
States doesn’t “succeed” in Iraq. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Bush’s
Latest Iraq War Lies.”]
Though progressives have long prided themselves in
their “grassroots organizing,” that area also seems to be lacking when
it comes to focusing on a specific political issue, such as demanding
Bush’s impeachment. Many of the old divisions come to the fore.
In an echo of the Ralph Nader campaign in 2000,
some progressives refuse to unite behind Democratic candidates even to
oust the Republican congressional majority, a change that would at least
open the potential for investigating Bush’s misdeeds.
Other progressives, who e-mail us, insist that
balloting is now so thoroughly rigged that engaging in the electoral
process is a waste of time. Then, there are liberals who warn that talk
of impeachment sounds so radical that it could offend the political
center and further marginalize progressive politics.
Another argument is that it would be difficult to
prove that Bush and Cheney committed specific crimes justifying
impeachment under the constitutional standard of “high crimes and
The Impeachment Case
Though there’s some truth to all these concerns,
there are counter-arguments as well.
While the Founders didn’t spell out exactly what
they meant by “high crimes and misdemeanors,” certainly such offenses as
violating U.S. treaty commitments – like the Geneva Conventions and the
U.N. Charter – could be regarded as impeachable offenses.
Bush and Cheney also have presided over an
administration that bent the rules on torture and tolerated the leaking
of a CIA officer’s identity as part of a broader strategy to silence
dissent as the nation was led to war under false pretenses. Without
doubt, Bush and Cheney either participated in these acts or had
Similarly, Bush and Cheney could be faulted for the
crony-driven incompetence in handling natural disasters and the
mismanagement of the federal budget, taking it from record surpluses to
record deficits. Widespread malfeasance in office could well be regarded
as an impeachable offense.
In response to the tactical concerns about
impeachment, it could be argued that holding Bush accountable would give
momentum – and immediacy – to a political reform movement that otherwise
might drift as it awaits the traditional electoral cycles.
One of the reasons for today’s Republican dominance
is that conservative operatives have long understood that modern
politics has morphed into a year-in-year-out, day-in-day-out struggle,
not a process that gears up for a few months once every two or four
Over the past three decades, the Right has spent
billions of dollars building a political/media machine that never rests.
So, when Republicans were defeated in 1992, they
didn’t withdraw and wait for the next election cycle. They turned to
their expanding media apparatus, especially talk radio, to go on the
offensive against the new Clinton administration.
That aggressive strategy paid huge dividends in
1994 when the Republicans seized control of both houses of Congress and
solidified conservative dominance over large swaths of the American
countryside, now known as the Red States.
Meanwhile, the progressive community largely
ignored the need to build a counter-media-infrastructure that could
compete with the conservative message machine. [For details, see
Left’s Media Miscalculation.”]
Today, a focus on holding Bush and Cheney
accountable could act as a catalyst for increasing the number of media
outlets and supporting the creation of journalistic content that could
compete with the Right’s media machine.
Then, even if Bush and Cheney do struggle to the
end of their terms in 2009, the chances would be much less that their
policies would survive them.
By standing up now, the American people also could
say to the world that when the U.S. political system went awry – when an
administration invaded another country under false pretenses and when
the White House winked at torture – the people didn’t treat such
transgressions as business as usual.
Indeed, if impeachment at least is put on the
table, the American people could point to how they demanded
accountability from those responsible and did all they could to set