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I came late to the piece by Michael Tomasky in last Sunday’s Washington Post that argues against the impeachment of President Bush or Vice President Cheney–or even discussion of the possibility—on the grounds that it would be bad for liberals and the Democratic Party. “[T]he I-word is being tossed about pretty freely in some left-leaning circles these days,” Tomasky writes. “Today, my e-mail inbox bubbles with notices of fresh and scandalous counts just waiting to be added to the bill of indictment.”
Tomasky, who at one point labels the pro-impeachment crowd as “the [Cindy] Sheehan camp,” argues that impeachment is “not merely a bad idea, but the single worst course of action that Democrats could possibly undertake,” and would badly harm the party’s “otherwise excellent chances for winning congressional seats and the White House in 2008.”
Let’s assume for the moment that Tomasky is right in arguing that pushing for impeachment is a political loser (and I’m not sure that’s correct given what polls on the issue show). But Mike, even if that’s true, should the decision on this matter be based on whether impeachment is good for the Democratic Party and liberals? Shouldn’t the relevant question here be whether the president committed high crimes and misdemeanors—grounds for impeachment under the constitution?
There are other arguments I have with the Post piece. Tomasky acknowledges that Republicans didn’t suffer politically when they impeached President Bill Clinton in 1999 and even “retained control of both houses of Congress” in the following year’s election. But he says the reverse would happen now because the Republicans are ruthless whereas “defensive Democrats” are always quick to scamper back to the safety of “bland [political] terrain.” So maybe the Democrats should be more like the Republicans instead of following Tomasky’s advice and scurrying back to bland terrain.
He also says with alarm that the country is evenly split on the question of impeachment, and predicts a bloody fight if impeachment goes forward. “Do we really want to drag the country through that?” he asks. “The thought of it—months of rancor, name-calling and mud-slinging that would almost certainly end in defeat for the impeachers—depresses me beyond words.” I would expect (and hope) that the 2008 elections will be filled with rancor, name-calling and mud-slinging. Should the Democrats spare the country that and just concede defeat now?
Finally, Tomasky blasts the administration, writing, “Bush and Cheney—and conservatism in general—have wrecked our civic institutions and darkened our civic impulses. Nothing is beyond politicization . . . When everything is subordinate to politics, civic institutions and impulses suffer.” But the whole crux of Tomasky’s argument is that in the case of impeachment, everything should be subordinate to a politics, specifically an analysis of what’s best for the Democratic Party.
In the end, impeachment should be pursued if Bush violated the constitution and put aside if he did not. No one knows for sure what the political consequences of that course would be but that’s not the fundamental question. And here’s one thing we do know: when the Democrats decided not to seek the impeachment of President Reagan following the Iran/contra affair, the result was the weakening congressional branch and enablement of the all-powerful executive as practiced under George W. Bush.
More from Ken Silverstein:
Commentary — November 17, 2015, 6:41 pm
The Clintons’ so-called charitable enterprise has served as a vehicle to launder money and to enrich family friends.
i. stand with israel
I listen to a lot of conservative talk radio. Confident masculine voices telling me the enemy is everywhere and victory is near — I often find it affirming: there’s a reason I don’t think that way. Last spring, many right-wing commentators made much of a Bloomberg poll that asked Americans, “Are you more sympathetic to Netanyahu or Obama?” Republicans picked the Israeli prime minister over their own president, 67 to 16 percent. There was a lot of affected shock that things had come to this. Rush Limbaugh said of Netanyahu that he wished “we had this kind of forceful moral, ethical clarity leading our own country”; Mark Levin described him as “the leader of the free world.” For a few days there I yelled quite a bit in my car.
The one conservative radio show I do find myself enjoying is hosted by Dennis Prager. At the Thanksgiving dinner of American radio personalities (Limbaugh is your jittery brother-in-law, Michael Savage is your racist uncle, Hugh Hewitt is Hugh Hewitt) Dennis Prager is the turkey-carving patriarch trying to keep the conversation moderately high-minded. While Prager obviously doesn’t like liberals — “The gaps between the left and right on almost every issue that matters are in fact unbridgeable,” he has said — he often invites them onto his show for debate, which is rare among right-wing hosts. Yet his gently exasperated take on the Obama–Netanyahu matchup was among the least charitable: “Those who do not confront evil resent those who do.”
Average number of Americans who are injured by chain saws each year:
A farmer in Kenya bit a python who tried to eat him.
A former prison in Philadelphia that has served as a horror-movie set was being prepared as a detention center for protesters arrested at the upcoming Democratic National Convention, and presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump fired his campaign manager.
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“Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'”