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22 May 2007

Why Bush hasn't been impeached To impeach Bush would force us to directly confront our national core of violent self-righteousness -- come to terms with it, understand it and reject it. And we're not ready to do that.
I'm ready to do that.
posted by birdherder 22 May | 11:09
I read that article this morning, and I think the author is overreaching.

The best explanation is the simpler one he gives right off the top: it would be bad politics. A) it would look like a revenge move, getting back for Clinton's impeachment, which could lead to backlash.

B) they might fail, which would break the Dems' winning image that they've had since last year's election.

Also, C), Bush is going to be the best campaign ad the Dems could hope for in 2008- if they send him packing now, his screw-ups might already be fading from public memory by election time, and they definitely don't want that to happen. They want the GOP candidate to have to split his efforts between running against the Democrats AND running against George Bush.
posted by BoringPostcards 22 May | 11:14
Cro-Magnon tribesmen huddled around the campfire at the feet of the biggest, strongest warrior. Even when it is unequivocally shown that a leader lied about war, as is the case with Bush, he or she is still protected by this aura.

Call me crazy, but I don't Bush ever managed to even create a convincing simulation of that aura. He's not MacArthur, he's an idiot son. And sometimes I think he didn't really want to be president, that he'd be happy riding around on his ranch, but only got into it because he's the son of a powerful man.

/armchair psychoanalysis

(also I think the main reason that impeachment hasn't happened is that people would rather just let him play out the string. He'll become even more unpopular which will help a Democrat win next election)
posted by jonmc 22 May | 11:17
I'm eager to do that. I'm just doubtful that Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney are going to be willing to give up power - ever. It's probably wiser to wait them out and try to pre-empt any plans currently afoot to prevent a Democrat from ever setting foot in the White House again than to push a "constitutional crisis" that would give them an excuse.
posted by wendell 22 May | 11:19
Yeah, I read the article this morning too, and agree with BP. Bad politics.

But oh, how the idealist in me hates the idea of politics informing the decisions of government. *sigh* Not that it's ever going to change.
posted by gaspode 22 May | 11:20
I think the author is overreaching

Perhaps, and I think it might be politically bad, but I thought it was a pretty good look into US thinking, which is as foreign to me these days as a Chinese crepe. But politics follows public thinking (Congress and the media both gain courage as the polls sink), and if the public were more ready to impeach, I'm sure we'd already be seeing it. It would at least put a freeze on his insane policies, one would hope.

I don't Bush ever managed to even create a convincing simulation of that aura

not to you or I, but to many many Americans, no doubt he did.
posted by Hellbient 22 May | 11:45
The impeachment process would be delayed and confounded every step of the way by the White House. To impeach now would mean that Bush would be removed from office sometime in 2011. It'll be quicker just to let his term expire. Impeachment, at this point is irrelevant.

(which on preview is pretty much what wendell said)

I think it would be more fun to turn him and his administration over to the World Court for war crimes trials. Heh.
posted by Doohickie 22 May | 11:57
I think it's more complicated than that. I think there's also a level of wanting to reserve the right for future non-idiot administrations to do what's necessary if, in fact, it ever really becomes necessary. I'm not endorsing the viewpoint, because I'm all about accountability. I'm just saying that I think there's a real fear in the halls of power that impeaching Bush would set a precedent that might hamstring future leaders when tough choices need to be made.
Flo, I'm not seeing where a hamstringing precedent would be a BAD thing... (my apologies if your hamstrings are still hurting).
posted by wendell 22 May | 12:37
I think I understand what Flo is saying. We don't want to see a situation where 6 months after every president is elected, the opposition party starts impeachment proceedings, just as a partisan move.
posted by BoringPostcards 22 May | 12:43
It's even more complicated than that. The Clinton impeachment (and prior attempts --Whitewater et al) was done not so much out of hatred for Clinton (though there was plenty of that) but in order to sicken the American public of impeachments, and give the Republicans a free hand to do whatever they wanted when they came into power. It was all part of a long-term plan hatched up by Cheney and Rumsfeld in the 80's.

But the real problem isn't the White House, it isn't Congress, and it isn't the Supreme Court. The problem isn't even lobbyists. It's the bureaucracy; more specificaly, it's the gutting of the bureaucracy's seasoned, competent higher-level employees in favor of political operatives. Thousands of federal employees have been fired for voting Democratic, and replaced with party faithful who are simply reaping the spoils of support. This has never been done before, and unfortunately, the response by the next Democratic administration will probably be a similar house-cleaning. Those seasoned workers and their Rolodexes are gone, ushering a new era of true government incompetence. Thought Katrina was bad? Just wait. That fiasco was caused by exactly what I'm talking about, and it'll get far worse before it gets better, if it ever does.
posted by Hugh Janus 22 May | 12:50
As I said, I don't personally endorse the idea, but I honestly think that those seeking power are going to be very cautious in taking legal steps that they might see as limiting their own powers in the future.
On lack of preview, very good point Hugh.
Thousands of federal employees have been fired for voting Democratic

Hugh, do you have something that backs this up? I've never heard thousands.

I hope you're being overly cynical in your vision that things will get worse WRT cronyism, but I tend to think the Gonzales affair will send a red flag for this sort of behavior.
posted by Hellbient 22 May | 13:09
It is thousands, but I don't do much of my reading online, so I'll have to go through my periodical library and talk with my dad about his sources (a retired federal employee himself, he's been watching this issue since GWB's first term).

I just don't trust the Democratic party to operate in a significantly different manner than the Republicans, and I don't trust the Republican operatives in place to do their jobs for Democratic bosses. Maybe someone will have the courage to restore the bureaucracy, but I fear not.
posted by Hugh Janus 22 May | 13:50
I just don't trust the Democratic party to operate in a significantly different manner than the Republicans

I generally don't either, but I do trust them to operate significantly different from the Bush administration.

I think you're absolutely right about the bureaucracy thing though, I'm not sure people even understand the scope of danger involved in the Gonzales case.
posted by Hellbient 22 May | 14:09
I know for sure it's happened all over Defense, even down to the GS14 level; it's obvious that any agency that's been subsumed by the new DHS is housecleaned (FEMA, for example), the DOJ stuff is in the papers, Interior is screwed, HUD is fucked, OSHA gutted; seriously, poke around a little and you see a lot of shady shit going on with our bureaucracies. It's like a DC Barry administration or something.

And it's not just done in the name of back-patting cronyism. Like the K Street project to blacklist Democratic lobbysits, this scheme has done an excellent job of getting Republican managers, competent or not, into all levels of the bureaucracy, promoting Republicans and demoting and firing republicans.

Every once in a while the Washington Post runs an article on it, and occasionally it's given a mention in the odd book review or journal, but it's not making the headlines it should. It's been spun as an abberation at DOJ, or a bizarre crony hire at FEMA, but it's not. It's a campaign, and it's been very effective.
posted by Hugh Janus 22 May | 14:34
Let's just make sure we impeach Cheney 1st.
posted by theora55 22 May | 16:40
The Clinton impeachment (and prior attempts --Whitewater et al) was done not so much out of hatred for Clinton (though there was plenty of that) but in order to sicken the American public of impeachments, and give the Republicans a free hand to do whatever they wanted when they came into power. It was all part of a long-term plan hatched up by Cheney and Rumsfeld in the 80's.

Now, that, I'd like to see some unassailable documentation for. Not asserting it's untrue, but it's the kind of large-format, long-term thinking that's pretty rare in US politics, where it's mostly all about the next election cycle (two years) and seldom any further.
posted by PaxDigita 22 May | 18:41
The kind of documentation that leads to narratives like this is rarely unassailable, as the principles in the story, at every step along the way, are concerned with (obsessed with) covering their tracks.

There was a great Didion piece on Cheney a while ago that illuminated some of the long-term thinking these strategists have been engaged in; this is by no means complete or even germane to my specific theory, but it's definitely relevant in a broad sense (I hope the link works -- I have a subscription so I can't tell -- because it's a great read).

I read mostly newspapers, journals, and reviews on paper to save my eyes, and the documentation is as misty as my eyesight. There was profile of Newt Gingrich recently that I wish I could find, seemed to point to a larger strategy than just to embarrass or bring down Ol' Bill.

Anyway, I should definitely point out that that's a pet theory of mine, but one I wouldn't be surprised by, and though I don't have unassailable documentation for it, there's a cottage industry of assailing documentation these days, and none of this would likely ever see the light of day even if I was right.
posted by Hugh Janus 22 May | 19:09
Okay. So I can put this down to "Hugh's pet theory" -- well, I like hearing conspiracy theories, so thanks for the brief entertainment.
posted by PaxDigita 22 May | 19:30
At least read the Didion piece; it's a great article by one of our greatest living writers.
posted by Hugh Janus 22 May | 19:32
On the one hand, while I tend to agree with their dogma to a greater extent, I recognize that the Democratic Party is basically no different than the Republican Party in terms of how it would handle unchecked power. Either way sucks.

However, I think the Bush administration is unique in how homogenous the individuals in the administration are- the bulk of policy is being made by Texas oil men (and women), and defense contractor cronies. Period. There is no weighing of views, no compromise. Just.... what's best for the oil industry and the defense companies.

One thing that really alarmed me early on, and it still disturbs me that it wasn't more vigorously challenged by the Democrats in 2000, is the fact that both Bush and Cheney are Texans, and the Constitution forbids Electoral Voters from voting for a president and a vice president that come from the same state.

Cheney said that, no, he was from Wyoming and after the conflict was pointed out, he registered to vote there to make it all legal and stuff. But my understanding is that it is legal residence that is the important point. When all this was going on, Cheney had a Homestead Exemption on his Dallas home. The Exemption provides certain benefits to the homeowner such as protections against repossession and tax breaks, provided the owner signs a form stating that the property in question is his or her primary legal residence. Cheney signed that form and got the tax break. So.... either he was a Texas resident (and ineligible to be on the ticket with Bush) or he was committing tax fraud. Which is it, Dick?

I thought that issue should have been exploited to crisis proportions during the campaign, but the Democrats just let it drop. It was decided by a federal court and that was that. If I were a Democratic strategist, I would have slowly dragged the issue through the legal system and put Cheney's status on trial in the court of public opinion.

Water under the bridge, perhaps, but it set the tone of unchecked authority exercised by this administration, and set up a White House that was so narrowly focused it could not see the good of the country apart from what was good for big oil.
posted by Doohickie 23 May | 22:50
Doohickie, it's hard to call Cheney a "Texan" when he represented Wyoming in Congress for ten years. Yes, he was living in Texas, but that's one I'll let 'em punt on. He was born and raised five states away. He certainly wouldn't be the first politician to fudge on his residency a bit to get elected.

Anyway, there's a bit in Kamiya's piece about "criminalizing politics" being a line used by Libby defenders. There's a long history of voters "forgiving" scandals that are seen as extensions of policy, like Iran-contra. Yeah, they say, he (Reagan) shouldn't have done it, but he had a right to push the policy levers. Some of his underlings got caught, sure, but he took responsibility for it himself. On the other hand, Nixon clearly went beyond policy and started fucking with the constitutional balance of power, spying on Congress and Democrats, using the FBI as his personal detective service, and so on. Nixon wasn't forgiven for that.

So there is a deference to authority that is combined with public responsibility -- "...when after all, it was you & me."

For myself, my support for the war was something I derived from wishing for a more robust problem-solving foreign policy under Clinton/Albright, and I almost explicitly didn't "believe" the Bushies' lies. I found support for my position in Democratic circles and figured most of those people were in a position to know something. That was piss-poor reasoning, I know now. Kamiya doesn't address people like me, but I know I didn't represent a big block of people either.

Anyway, that gives me a clean conscience, and I still think impeachment is a bad idea. Oh, I'd relish it, certainly. But I just think it isn't nearly as important as some other things, given that it just wouldn't work. But then again, I thought the Iraq Study Group had no chance of being sidelined. (The internal Bushie -- Bush family and loyalist -- politics on that one will probably be worth a Bob Woodward book all by themselves.)

Anyway, I still haven't squared the circle in my mind about why the Bushies want the executive to have so much damned power. Don't they lie awake at night worrying about what Hillary could do with all of that?
posted by stilicho 24 May | 01:47
Doohickie, it's hard to call Cheney a "Texan" when he represented Wyoming in Congress for ten years.

Far be it from me to defend Cheney, but I agree that for all intents and purposes (and recent Texas residency aside), Cheney's most certainly from Wyoming. (In fact, he and my dad grew up together in Casper and went to college together in Laramie.)
posted by scody 24 May | 14:41
Bill Maher's tribute to Jerry Falwell. || Note to South Park. THIS is how to do truly subversive humor,