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I recently attended a raucous town hall meeting in Brooklyn, billed as an end-the-war event. As it turned out, 90% of the questions were about impeachment, not the war(s).  Three U.S. Congress members attended: Jerrold Nadler, Anthony Weiner and Yvette Clarke.  Nadler and Weiner expressed a view on the politics of 2008 that showed me 2004 still rules in the halls of Congress.  They have not fully digested 2006, let alone 2008. So I took another stab at explaining impeachment to them in a long letter to Nancy Pelosi (odd format, I know, but I like the personal approach).  I tried to review the impeachment arguments in a 2008 context, hoping to crack their 2004 lens. My support for impeachment is based on policy and principle more than electoral politics, but the total concentration on politics at the town meeting made me think more deeply about what the focus of electoral politics in 2008 should be.  Part 1, posted yesterday, was a review of the policy aspects for and against impeachment.  Part 2 is my take on impeachment politics 2008, below.

I recently attended a raucous town hall meeting in Brooklyn, billed as an end-the-war event. As it turned out, 90% of the questions were about impeachment, not the war(s).  Three U.S. Congress members attended: Jerrold Nadler, Anthony Weiner and Yvette Clarke.  Rep. Clarke had already signed on as a co-sponsor of the Kucinich impeachment resolution, so she was let off with cheers.

The focus was on Reps Nadler and Weiner, who stuck to their position against impeachment under very tough pressure. Their arguments were adamant and repetitious, even canned – clearly the party line had been laid down, and they were sticking to it, Republican fashion. At one point, Nadler and Weiner agreed that Bush and Cheney were guilty of impeachable acts – but that was not the point. To them, everything boiled down to ELECT MORE DEMOCRATS in 2008, and the only place to get more Democrats is in blue dog territory, bad for impeachment, so progressive Democrats MUST oppose impeachment. That’s it. All of it.

Update: This town meeting took place before the November 6th vote on the Kucinich Resolution, which was referred back to the Judiciary Committee with 87 Democratic votes (86 + Kucinich).  The motion to kill the resolution was defeated primarily by Republicans intending to embarrass the House leadership, but the 87 Democratic votes probably represent real support for impeachment.  Nadler voted Yea, to kill it.  Weiner and Clarke voted No.  Since the resolution came to the floor with 22 co-sponsors, this strange parliamentary maneuver resulted in quadrupling the public support in Congress for impeachment. Not bad, Rep. Kucinich. Since then, Rep. Wexler, a member of the Judiciary Committee, has called for impeachment hearings.  There may be some life after all in this moldy old Constitutional safeguard.

Back at the town meeting, the views Nadler and Weiner expressed on the politics of 2008 showed me that 2004 still rules in the halls of Congress.  They have not fully digested 2006, let alone 2008. So I took another stab at explaining impeachment to them in a long letter to Nancy Pelosi (odd format, I know, but I like the personal approach).  I tried to review the impeachment arguments in a 2008 context, hoping to crack their 2004 lens. My support for impeachment is based on policy and principle more than electoral politics, but the total concentration on politics at the town meeting made me think more deeply about what the focus of electoral politics in 2008 should be.  Part 1, posted yesterday, was a review of the policy aspects for and against impeachment.  Part 2 is my take on impeachment politics 2008, below.  

Part 2 – Impeachment Politics.
My conviction is that impeachment is the principled, righteous response to the war, corruption, and incompetence of the Bush Administration. Our laws have not been faithfully executed; our Constitutional safeguards have not been respected. High crimes and misdemeanors have been committed.  It is that simple.  

Nevertheless, given the depth of hostility our leadership is heaping on impeachment, I have tried to understand the anti-impeachment positions, as outlined in Part 1.  What I have not addressed so far is the politics of impeachment going forward into 2008.  

I do not clutch my pearls and feel faint if a Republican shouts that impeaching Bush is just partisan revenge for the Clinton impeachment. The obvious answer to that is to present the facts – in the form of impeachment hearings. Anyone who professes not to see the difference between covering up a tawdry dalliance and sabotaging democracy is part of the hardcore opposition, not worth arguing with. Still, politics is more than partisan slime, and impeachment does factor into political strategizing.  As I see it, impeachment would have a positive effect for Democrats in the political campaigns of 2008.  This is why:

**One new feature of the 2008 political season has received little attention in political commentary. It is the unprecedented length of time between the presidential primaries (January-March) and the actual nomination (August), a period of four to six months before the official campaign begins. This is usually a lean time financially, when spending for the primaries is past, but general election spending cannot begin. Democrats usually use this time to mend the divisions created during the primary season.  For the public, it is a lull in the political season.  

**This "lull" represents a target of opportunity for the Republicans.  If, as Karl Rove predicted, Republicans have a major scandal waiting in the wings, this is their time to release it.  The Democrats will have already chosen their candidate; it will be too late to vote for the second in line.  As noted, this is a tight time for money, and an effective rebuttal to a scandalous revelation at this time would have to be national, very costly. Also, this is usually a dry spell for the news media, where celebrity and conflict matter so much more than issues.  Even an anemic little scandal could go on and on in the media, yielding maximum benefit for the Republicans. In our current politics, scandal is the supreme distraction.  This target of opportunity affects the presidential nominee most, but to a smaller extent it is true for Democratic nominees all down the federal-state-local slate.  (All this applies to Republicans as well, but Republicans don’t seem to lose sleep worrying about Democratic dirty tricks.)

**Distraction fits perfectly into another predictable element of Republican strategy, to make George Bush disappear.  A Republican campaign of 2008 will surely be about how bad the Democrats are and how great Ronald Reagan was.  GWB will not have a chapter in the Republican playbook.  The GOP will be the party of "change" – that’s change from the "Do-Nothing Democrat Congress."  This will be true of Republican congressional candidates as well as the presidential candidate. Congressional Republicans in every state will be attacking Democrats, hiding their own pro-Bush voting records.  

**So, putting these pieces together, to counter the Republican strategy scenario,
o Democrats need to fill a hole in the campaign timeline
o with something that is bigger than day-to-day politics,
o something that deflates the smears against Democrats, and that
o keeps the wrongdoing of the Bush administration front and center in the voters’ minds.

Perhaps other remedies might fit this description, but only one occurs to me: Impeachment Hearings.  As noted, the corporate media reacts primarily to conflict and celebrity, not issues. Impeachment rises above legal and administrative minutiae; it is High Conflict, and its focus is Celebrity. The media will follow it. Impeachment will capture the public’s attention.  In every Congressional district, the Democrat can campaign on Republicans’ uncritical support of the Bush agenda.  Most damaging, if the process should, goddess willing, go as far as a full House vote, every Republican incumbent will be saddled with a dilemma, to support impeachment or Bush.

Impeachment is not an impediment to Democrats’ success; impeachment may be the one thing Republicans cannot ignore or hide or lie or slime away.  Impeachment can steal the march on Republicans in the media and make their tricks look like attempts to distract people from the exercise of justice.

Finally (and first), there is us. The American public. We do not loathe impeachment, or yearn to see Republicans and Democrats holding hands and crooning love songs.  We want results. For me it is not just that the polls show a majority of us favoring impeachment.  It is my own experience of leafleting and petitioning and just wearing an IMPEACH THEM button. Anywhere I go, people brighten and express their agreement at the mention of impeachment.  Yes, activists love it, but so do nonpolitical inactive people.  Impeachment may be a bete noir to the political elite, but it is a winning, or at least intriguing idea with most of the public.  

Do not listen to the consultants and pundits, Speaker Pelosi. Trust us. Trust your instinct that, at least this one time, taking a chance on us will pay off.  It is time to live up to the "small d" rhetoric you espouse in your speeches.  Speaker Pelosi, unleash the Judiciary Committee, and begin impeachment hearings.

Yours truly,

P.S.  With impeachment, Democrats could throw a bone to the Hillary-haters out there, because if George Bush and Richard Cheney should be impeached and removed from office, it would be impossible for Hillary Clinton to become the first female President of the United States.  Just a thought.

"The prospect of an impeachment inquiry by the House judiciary committee would concentrate the minds of the president and vice president wonderfully on obeying rather than sabotaging the Constitution." Bruce Fein, http://www.slate.com/...  

Originally posted to LoisC on Sun Nov 18, 2007 at 08:10 AM PST.

Poll

Do you support impeachment of Bush and Cheney?

100%48 votes
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| 48 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  for any real reason (5+ / 0-)

    After clicking your poll, it occurs to me that there are a number of impeachment supporters out there who want to see this bloodstain removed because of the "war" in Iraq. Unfortunately, this most egregious offense is one that is protected, both by the constitution itself and by the enabling AUMF.
    Many acts peripheral to the invasion are impeachable, notably reallocation of resources from Afghanistan, outing of Valerie Plame, and manufacturing fictitious 'evidence' of Saddam's misbehavior.
    So, in true Diebold fashion, I'd like to amend my vote to any real reason.

    thanks for the diary and your efforts to right this wrong.

    Apparently only elections of Republicans have consequences. My bad.

    by kamarvt on Sun Nov 18, 2007 at 08:21:21 AM PST

  •  Yes, and not for "any reason." Cripes. We have (6+ / 0-)

    the "smoking gun," and have had it for a long time.

    Item 1: The President has violated an international agreement, the UN Charter, which is the law of the land, according to the Constitution of the United States.

    Item 2: The president has begun to dismantle the Bill of Right by suspending habeas corpus and holding American citizens and others without charges, without counsel, and other elements of due process of law under the Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments.

    Item 3: The President usurps the power of Congress and legislates from the Oval Office with his signing statements

    Item 4: The President and Vice President have caused death and grievous injury to thousands of our people, and misappropriated hundreds of billions of our dollars as a result of his campaign of lies which enabled him to wage an illegal and unnecessary war against Iraq.

    Item 5: The President and Vice President continue to endanger national security by their crimes and blunders, including leaking the identity of a CIA agent engaged in tracking the sale of material to make nuclear armaments.

    These are HIGH CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS, Americans. We have more than enough cause to  impeach and remove from office the  President and Vice President and to try them as criminals as well.

    Restore constitutional government in America. Impeach Bush and Cheney.

    by revbludge on Sun Nov 18, 2007 at 08:22:00 AM PST

  •  This is perhaps the most well-argued (4+ / 0-)

    pro-impeachment post that doesn't sound like some hysterical rant. And so for that reason I have to say that I respect your arguments, although I disagree. Here are my reasons:

    1. There is a little more than a year left in the Bush administration.

    This point is the most relevant against impeachment because frankly I don't see what you would hope to achieve. So, against all odds, somehow impeachment removes Bush. That leaves us with Cheney. And even if you could have Cheney removed, that leaves no one. You would then have Pelosi elevate herself and I don't the public would want that. They'd see it as a power grab. And by the time that it would happen there would only be a few months left in the Bush administration. She would be a lame duck.

    1. The votes aren't there.

    This is my next argument. I just don't see how you would get the votes to bring it to the Senate. When you factor in the number of Democrats who come from moderate to conservative districts where Bush and the GOP are still (relatively) popular, they aren't going to vote for impeachment. And even if you have a Senate trail, to get a conviction, you will need 67 votes. I don't see all 51 Democrats (including Lieberman here for the sake of argument) supporting. I don't see Landrieu, Pryor, Salazar, Lincoln, and other Democrats from red states voting for it. I don't see any Republicans crossing over either.

    1. The pro-impeachment forces failed to connect with normal people.

    At the risk of insulting the pro-impeachment forces they have failed to make their case to the general public. There is no public agitation for it. They didn't use PR or fashion their message in a way that could connect with regular folks. To be blunt the pro-impeachment forces come as being these crazy, leftover left-wing radicals from the McGovern era. They come off as being irrationally extreme and freakish. And that is their failure because they didn't take their message to regular folks in terms that they could understand.

    1. The Clinton impeachment didn't work for the GOP.

    Even though you could argue that Republicans pushed for Clinton's impeachment under false pretenses, as opposed to there being more legitimate grounds for Bush, the same dynamics apply. My instinct is that Americans would view impeachment, especially one with such little time left in the Bush administration, in the same vein. They'd view it as a distraction.

    1. Bush would use the Senate trial as vindication.

    As it is all but impossible to get 67 votes for a conviction, should the unlikely event occur where there is actually a Senate trial, Bush would use the inevitable acquittal as vindication for his administration. It would enable him to argue that everything that he did as president was "legitimate and legal under the law because the Senate acquitted him". He would spin it as a mandate to claim that he was right all along. It would be a ratification of his policies.

    1. The evidence isn't there to convict.

    I don't think that there is that proverbial "smoking gun" out there to prove impeachment. Secondly, while Clinton's impeachment was about sex, the charges that Congress would level against Bush would be very technical and legal. That is, most ordinary people wouldn't understand the complex, arcane, and intricate legal issues. There's no clear and simple issue that could rally the public. The "smoking gun" necessary to push such a case just doesn't exist.

    It is those reasons why I don't support impeachment. Had the pro-impeachment forces been aggressively pushing the issue a year or two ago, had they used effective PR and convinced the public at large that there was a legitimate issue, the dynamics might be different. At this point I just don't see what it would achieve.

    •  Blast (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      nancelot, NonnyO, LaFajita

      I honestly see both sides of this argument.  Bush and Cheney broke the law of the United States.  Impeachment might further the damage of those two bastards.  They won't be removed.  What's good for the goose, etc.

      But, Repugnants will have to vote for Bush.  He turns into a millstone around their necks.

      Hell.  F it.  Impeach the jerks.  Air out the laundry, call the witnesses, and put them in jail if they don't show after being called.  Waterboard them if it's not torture.  "It's just enhanced interrogation."

      or.......

      Just take out an ad, thanking Repugnants for their large increase of executive power.  We'll be happy to use it next year when a Democrat is in the White House.  Investigation?  What investigation?  Amendments to the Constitution?  Well, GWB showed them to be just guidelines.  After all, if the 4th can be suspended for "national security," then SO CAN THE SECOND!!!!  Gimme all your guns.  GIMME GIMME GIMME!  We're fighting terrorism, after all.  :)

    •  Tase this bro (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      peace voter, NonnyO

       title=

      "As individual fingers we can easily be broken, but all together, we make a mighty fist" Watanka Tatanka (Sitting Bull)

      by Tinfoil Hat on Sun Nov 18, 2007 at 08:58:16 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Impeachment Rocks (0+ / 0-)

      See NonnyO below.  The comment responds pretty well to your concerns, plus my Part 1 post yesterday addressed it. Instead of repeating the anti-impeachment arguments, if you explain how our ideas are not persuasive, we can keep thinking about it, perhaps get a better idea.  For example, I contend that the timetable in 2008, six-eight months, is an asset, a problem-solver, not a disadvantage. It seems to me that it would be harder, if impeachment hearings were underway, for Bush to attack Iran as his legacy, or for Republicans to run their campaigns pretending Bush never happened.  Think about it.

    •  Impeachment Rocks (0+ / 0-)

      See NonnyO below.  The comment responds pretty well to your concerns, plus my Part 1 post yesterday addressed it. Instead of repeating the anti-impeachment arguments, if you explain how our ideas are not persuasive, we can keep thinking about it, perhaps get a better idea.  For example, I contend that the timetable in 2008, six-eight months, is an asset, a problem-solver, not a disadvantage. It seems to me that it would be harder, if impeachment hearings were underway, for Bush to attack Iran as his legacy, or for Republicans to run their campaigns pretending Bush never happened.  Think about it.

    •  Impeachment Rocks (0+ / 0-)

      See NonnyO below.  The comment responds pretty well to your concerns, plus my Part 1 post yesterday addressed it. Instead of repeating the anti-impeachment arguments, if you explain how our ideas are not persuasive, we can keep thinking about it, perhaps get a better idea.  For example, I contend that the timetable in 2008, six-eight months, is an asset, a problem-solver, not a disadvantage. It seems to me that it would be harder, if impeachment hearings were underway, for Bush to attack Iran as his legacy, or for Republicans to run their campaigns pretending Bush never happened.  Think about it.

  •  Impeachment could lead to good things (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    peace voter, revbludge

    ... like, for instance, ending Dickie's and Georgie's illegal war in Iraq, ending torture and closing Gitmo... which would then free up funds for domestic programs such as educating our kids, Medicare, et cetera and so on and so forth.  It would be a domino effect.

    We need to impeach Dickie first, Georgie second.

    There's MORE than ample evidence in public records already, even in Lamestream Media sound bytes, to convict Dickie and Georgie for their multiple lies, lies, and more lies to cover up the original lies (and, as the Clinton impeachment proved, lying is grounds for impeachment!), the invasion of Iraq is a war crime under the Geneva Conventions (part of our Constitution under the treaties clause), as is torture and holding people without charging them for crimes at Gitmo.  As long as Dickie and Georgie are in charge, there will be no ending their war and bringing the troops home, nor ending the shameful practices of torture and illegal incarceration.

    The claim that there aren't enough votes doesn't hold water.  No prosecutor would poll a jury before evidence at a trial could determine guilt or innocence.  Not enough time?  Horsefeathers.  The legislation that gave Georgie and Dickie their extralegal and unconstitutional powers was passed with little or no debate in under two weeks (Patriot Acts, MCA '06, FISA 'fixes,' etc., not to mention they allow the executive orders and signing statements to stand without any bleat of protest).  There IS time, if Congress Critters get off their collective arses and DO SOMETHING to rid us of the war criminals "leading" this nation!

    Impeachment could be the Dem's winning strategy.  The poll ratings for Congress as a whole are lower than Dickie's or Georgie's, fer cryin' out loud, and more than 50% of the people of this nation know they've committed impeachable offenses, and more could be discovered in the course of a trial.  As I see it, the ONLY way to get the poll ratings up for Congress is to impeach (1) Dickie and (2) Georgie.  The Clinton impeachment only took three or four months.  Congress could impeach both Dickie and Georgie by August or September '08 and install a caretaker prez and VP until inauguration day, just in time for people to pay attention to the presidential campaigns (most are not paying attention now, it's just an exercise in yawning boredom this far out from the actual election, and only hard-core political junkies are paying attention).

    We desperately need to restore the constitutional balance of power between the three branches of government as given to us by the Founding Fathers.  Without impeaching the worst pres/VP in our history, the next pres/VP will inherit their extralegal and unconstitutional claims to power and we will end up with a serial dictatorship, no matter if the pres/VP are Pukes or Dems.  I'm not ready to go down that road....

    "War is contempt for life." To Youth/Nordahl Grieg

    by NonnyO on Sun Nov 18, 2007 at 09:00:38 AM PST

  •  Pelosi's selective enforcement's a problem. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    peace voter, revbludge, NonnyO

    Remember her saying before the 2006 election"..impeachment is off the table"? An oath-swearing representative doesn't take anything off the table. An oath-swearing representative must follow the facts and act accordingly as per what the facts demand I.E. impeachment is never off the table including Pelosi's own impeachment!

  •  The DLC leaders must bring forward impeachment (0+ / 0-)

    if they don't understand that it is a major issue, the only way to stop this criminal war, this administrations Constitution shredding, and corrupt cronyism..then I can pretty much gaurantee the the DLC will be relieved of its post....the people are angry at the Bush administration and at the DLC for not pursuing our Constitutional rights under impeachment hearings....its gonna be a hell of an election..and don't expect the "people" to accept any "vote or election" tampering this time around...we are much wiser and much angrier this time..with so many not able to go to College,( can't pay for it) so many out of work or working only part time for little money, no benefits..we are becoming more and more able, to hit the streets in great numbers and loose nothing..(can't loose any thing if you have nothing)

  •  Pelosi has a hearing impairment, and (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    revbludge, LaFajita

    she doesn't like wearing her hearing aids.

    Shouting at her does nothing good. She still can't hear, and she doesn't know where she placed her hearing aids. Henny-penny. What to do?

    •  Pelosi's hearing problem (0+ / 0-)

      Good point. If she can't hear our shouts, perhaps we should rip off our clothes and streak her, sixties-style.  The naked impeachers are back.

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