Washington Babylon — August 10, 2007, 2:05 pm

The Cost of Caving

A few days ago, I took issue with a Washington Post op-ed by Michael Tomasky that argued against publicly discussing the possible impeachment of President Bush on the grounds that to do so would hurt the Democratic Party’s chances in the 2008 elections. My view is that the possibility of impeachment should be pursued if Bush has committed high crimes and misdemeanors—and abandoned if he has not. Tomasky’s op-ed implied that even if there are solid grounds for impeachment, the president should be elevated above the law in order not to damage the political chances of the Democrats. Elsewhere, it has been suggested that the Democrats are not eager to impeach Attorney General Alberto Gonzales because he’s such a rich target and political albatross for the administration.

E.J. Dionne has a column in today’s Post that well illustrates the fallacy of this type of calculation. His piece, “Why the Democrats Caved,” says that last weekend, “about 20 House Democrats huddled in Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office to decide what to do about a surveillance bill that had been dumped on them by the Senate before it left town.”

According to Dionne, many of the Democrats “were furious.” They felt that they had “negotiated in good faith with Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence,” and given the administration all the room it needed “to intercept communications involving foreign nationals in terrorism investigations while preserving some oversight.”

But the administration wanted more and Democrats in the Senate gave it what it wanted. Hence, it was up to the House to draw a line:

At one point, according to participants in the Pelosi meeting, the passionate discussion veered toward the idea of standing up to the administration — even at the risk of handing President Bush a chance to bash Democrats on “national security,” as is his wont . . . But the moment passed. Even some very liberal Democrats worried about the political costs of blocking action before the summer recess. That Saturday night, the House sent the president a bill that, as a disgusted Rep. David Wu (D-Ore.) put it, with just a touch of exaggeration, ‘makes Alberto Gonzales the sheriff, the judge and the jury’.

Dionne describes the Democrats’ collapse as yet another example of how national security and civil liberties issues have been “debated in a climate of fear and intimidation, saturated by political calculation and the quest for short-term electoral advantage.” And he points out that the Republicans came out winners on two points:

They got the President the bill he wanted and, as a result, they created absolute fury in the Democratic base. Pelosi has received more than 200,000 e-mails of protest, according to an aide, for letting the bill go forward.

Which makes you wonder about the wisdom of this sort of political calculation. And it also makes you wonder what sort of political advantage there is in betting on this type of Democratic Party.

Share
Single Page

More from Ken Silverstein:

From the November 2013 issue

Dirty South

The foul legacy of Louisiana oil

Perspective October 23, 2013, 8:00 am

On Brining and Dining

How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy

Postcard October 16, 2013, 8:00 am

The Most Cajun Place on Earth

A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits 

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

August 2015

In the Shadow of the Storm

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Measure for Measure

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Trouble with Israel

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

A Camera on Every Cop

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Post
“The campaign music stopped. Hundreds of people, their faces now warped by the dread of a third bomb, began running for cover.”
Photograph © Guy Martin/Panos.
Article
Part Neither, Part Both·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Eight months pregnant I told an old woman sitting beside me on the bus that the egg that hatched my baby came from my wife’s ovaries. I didn’t know how the old woman would take it; one can never know. She was delighted: That’s like a fairy tale!”
Mother with Children, by Gustav Klimt © akg-images
Article
What Recovery?·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Between 2007 and 2010, Albany’s poverty rate jumped 12 points, to a record high of 39.9 percent. More than two thirds of Albany’s 76,000 residents are black, and since 2010, their poverty rate has climbed even higher, to nearly 42 percent.”
Photograph by Will Steacy
Article
Rag Time·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

From a May 23 commencement address delivered at Hofstra University. Doctorow died on Tuesday. He was 84.
“We are a deeply divided nation in danger of undergoing a profound change for the worse.”
Photograph by Giuseppe Giglia
Article
The Trouble with Israel·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“We think we are the only people in the world who live with threat, but we have to work with regional leaders who will work with us. Bibi is taking the country into unprecedented international isolation.”
Photograph by Adam Golfer

Acres of mirrors in Donald Trump’s Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City:

10

Rhesus macaques, who normally are not self-aware, will, following brain surgery, examine their genitals in a mirror. Similar evidence of self-awareness was previously limited to higher primates, dolphins, magpies, and an elephant named Happy.

In New Hampshire, Huckleberry Finn was arrested for sexual assault.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Subways Are for Sleeping

By

“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”

Subscribe Today