A common comment by cynics, including many Democrats, goes like this:
"It takes two thirds of the senate to vote to convict to get the bastards out- it ain’t gonna happen. I have no interest in impeachment unless the bastards are out."
That sentiment, like Pelosi's fiat taking impeachment "off the table," expresses no faith in our Constitution and seems not to understand the process. In what follows, I am assuming that the process would start with the impeachment of Dick Cheney, because that is the resolution presently on hand in the House Judiciary Committee (H. Res. 399/799). But at a whole number of points, Cheney and Bush were joined at the hip (e.g., in the outing of Valerie Plame). A thorough impeachment of Cheney will inevitably lead to Bush. He could be named as an unindicted co-conspirator. The evidence uncovered in the process of impeaching Cheney could uncover clear evidence of felonies committed by Bush that could force his resignation. So, let's take a look at what an enlightened leadership could do, if they thought strategically.
FIRST, you start the impeachment. This means investigations by the House Judiciary Committee, with subpoena powers that are superior to normal subpoena powers.
SECOND, Conyers (Committee chair) can keep the investigations going in the House JC until Republican representatives start to support the Articles. Pile up evidence for crime after crime, outrage after outrage. There is no shortage of evidence, which sits in piles all around waiting for attention. Establish guilt in public hearing after public hearing, on CSPAN, until the major TV news organizations are clamoring to provide coverage of the sensational details, as happened during Watergate.
Conyers can control the number of Articles of Impeachment, and the thoroughness of the investigation compiling evidence for each Article. In this way, he can control the timing. He can be watching his Republican colleagues and their responses, and the degree of their resistance. Even though it seems like time is short, that is not as important as to allow the impeachment to properly "ripen," not rushing the process until it is time to report the Articles to the House floor. Then, and only then, after counting noses in the House to ensure enough Republican votes for a bipartisan result, do you send the Articles of Impeachment to the floor of the House for a vote.
The order and presentation of evidence in the HJC can be designed to excite the interest of key Senate Committees, perhaps (but not necessarily) to elicit the formation of a Senate Select Committee such as was appointed during Watergate.
THIRD, when the HJC reports its Articles of Impeachment to the House floor, the House gets to debate the Articles. The leadership can control this debate, rushing it through, or taking more time to develop support for the Articles through the process of debate. The House Leadership could choose to watch carefully as the knees of Republicans up for re-election start to wobble. Now it is true that one of the arguments against impeachment is that this stage could preoccupy the attention of the House as a whole for a long time, preventing work on other business. But this won't happen if the questions are addressed in the HJC adequately. My point is that the debate and vote on the floor can be managed by the leadership to maximize the impact of the Articles in the Senate.
FOURTH, when the Articles reach the Senate, it has its own process of debate. Evidence from its own committees can be brought to the floor. The leadership could keep the debate going in the Senate on the Articles until enough Republicans flip.
This is not rocket science. Conyers, Pelosi, and Reid should be able to figure out how to manage the process for optimum results.
In addition, once an impeachment process starts, there is no telling where it will end. The cynics and pessimists think that they know exactly what will happen, but they are wrong. Watergate is an excellent example, and is very instructive.
Finally, we must trust the process and hold the process long enough at each stage. The process is the key. If November 2008 comes and you’re not done, ’sOK! Watch the Republicans squirm as they try to defend Bush & Cheney against Article after Article of Impeachment. Hit’em hard on the campaign trail about their collusion with the Bush, Cheney & Co, crime syndicate. Remember that it is not necessary for the process to run all the way through the Senate trial. Nixon was not actually tried for the articles of impeachment raised against him because he resigned first. The process is the key! Trust the process!
Chances are, if this is done, a committee of Republicans will rise up and march over to the WH to tell first Cheney, and then Bush, that the gig is up. There will be a stately little dance whereby Cheney will resign for health reasons, a Gerald Ford figure will be appointed to take his place, and then a few weeks later Bush will resign like Nixon did, allowing the Gerald Ford clone to occupy the WH for a few symbolic months.
So, please, none of this defeatist tripe about it can’t happen. It CAN happen. and it SHOULD happen. What is needed is some leadership in the House and in the Senate with enough backbone to insist on, and use, Congress's Constitutional prerogatives. Otherwise, that leadership is, in effect, complicit in the high crimes and misdemeanors that Bush, Cheney & Co. are perpetrating. And history will remember them, as such.
Bob in HI