The political case, though, is another question entirely. Impeachment is not merely a bad idea, but the single worst course of action that Democrats could possibly undertake -- the only thing they could do that might, in one stroke, convert Bush from the figure of contempt and mockery he is now into one of vague sympathy. Just as bad, it's the one move that would definitively alienate nonideological voters and, therefore, harm the Democrats' otherwise excellent chances for winning congressional seats and the White House in 2008. And that's just what impeachment would do to the Democrats. Even worse is what it would do to liberalism and to the country.I though the impeachment of Bill Clinton was not a good idea, but at least there was an actual perjury involved. Whether that rose to the level of high crime or misdemeanor is an open question.
You don't have to be as expert a nose counter as Lyndon B. Johnson to know that impeachment wouldn't succeed. You'd have to get both Bush and Cheney to make any difference, which makes it a heavier lift. Even if the articles of impeachment somehow got through the House -- a stretch, because 61 Democrats represent nominally "red" districts and thus may feel compelled to vote nay -- conviction would require 67 votes in the Senate. That means at least 18 Republicans would have to vote to remove a Republican president and vice president. (I'm assuming that Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, an independent, would vote no.) Of course, new bombshells could change all that. But for now, impeachment advocates are urging Democrats to start a fight they'd lose.
Well, the Sheehan camp says, Republicans' failure to convict President Bill Clinton in 1999 didn't seem to hurt them in 2000, when they took the presidency and retained control of both houses of Congress. True enough, but that argument assumes that the parties are identical beasts. They emphatically are not. Republicans would be far more adept at turning a failed impeachment effort to their advantage in 2008 than the Democrats were in 2000. Back then, Al Gore, his handlers and Democrats in general sought to run from Clinton and push the conversation back to that bland terrain to which defensive Democrats always scamper: "the issues." Republicans, who aren't usually defensive and don't generally scamper, would make impeachment the issue, and by Election Day 2008, the GOP would have millions of Americans believing that -- get this -- the really merciless partisans of the Bush era were the Democrats.
One of the Democrats' strongest arguments for 2008, regardless of their nominee, will be that it's time for the country to set aside rampant partisanship and ideologically driven government. Impeachment would take away that argument.
But of all the "crimes" Tomasky enumerated in his article, none are really crimes:
There's little disagreement among liberals about the substance. If any administration since President Richard M. Nixon's has committed high crimes and misdemeanors, surely it's this one; if lying about consensual sexual activity fit the bill, then surely lying about the reason for a war does, too. As Dave Lindorff and Barbara Olshansky argue in their indignant book "The Case for Impeachment," the bill of indictment goes far beyond Bush's grave lies about Iraq. There's also the arrest and detention without trial of U.S. citizens, the violation of international treaties such as the Geneva Conventions at the prisons at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and the "blatant violation" of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and the Fourth Amendment "by secretly authorizing secret warrantless spying on thousands of American citizens by the National Security Agency."Lying about consensual sexual activity is not a crime (if it were lots of teenage boys would be in prison), lying about consensual sexual activity under oath is a crime. Last time I checked, no member of the Bush Administration was under oath when talking about the purpose of Iraq--an there is substantial evidence to cause reasonable doubt as to the veracity of either sides claims. Abu Gharib was bad, but apparently none of it done at the insistence or direction of the white House. Detention of enemy combatants has a long history. There may be grounds for the wiretapping issue, but I imagine a could case can be made based on interpretation.
Tomasky is right though, impeachment does not advance the Democratic agenda and an impeachment all but guarantees a loss by the Democrats in 2008. President Bush's actions may not be popular, but no one can suggest that he is an inactive president. The same cannot be said of Democrats in Congress--which is where the leading Democratic candidates are working--or not.