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"Dedicated to exposing the lies and impeachable offenses of George W. Bush"

Be cautious about impeaching Bush
Chicago Sun Times
Andrew Greeley
February 16, 2007

Impeach the president? Impeach President Bush? We learned from the attempt to oust President Bill Clinton that there are few rules for indicting and convicting a president.

A high crime and misdemeanor can be anything that a majority of the House of Representatives says is a high crime or a misdemeanor, and proof of guilt is anything that two-thirds of the Senate says is proof. Thus, a man can be indicted (impeached) for an alleged perjury in a civil trial over private sexual behavior (usually meriting only a civil punishment), and he could be deposed if two-thirds of the Senate accepted the evidence. There is no appeal, no higher court that can declare that such perjury, while lamentable, is not a high crime. To get rid of a president, all you need to do is to have enough votes.

The only president ever forced out by an impeachment proceeding was Richard Nixon, and he was never indicted or convicted, but quit (wisely) before votes could be taken. For there to be a successful impeachment, the Congress and the public had to conclude that there was no other choice. There was no such consensus in 1998. Three-fifths of the American public approved of the way Clinton was doing his job, and everyone knew there were not enough votes in the Senate. The House voted for impeachment because, as Newt Gingrich said, "We can do it." It was an empty, partisan and vindictive choice. The national media hyped it into a big deal when it was only a shabby political trick.

What, then, about increasingly frequent cries for impeachment proceedings against Bush? There are certainly enough votes in the House to indict him, just as the Gingrich House indicted Clinton, but hardly enough in the Senate to convict him.

What would the charges be? Launching a war based on lying to the people, incompetent and corrupt administration of the occupation after the war, deceiving the people about conditions in Iraq and refusal to begin removing the troops when the public had made it clear that they wanted an end -- all substantially more serious than perjury in a civil trial. Not valid reasons for removing a president? If a majority of the House should say that they are valid reasons, then they become valid reasons. What better cause for dumping a president than monumental and stubborn incompetence that has caused tens of thousands of deaths?

Neither the country nor the Congress is ready for such a battle now -- though three-fifths of Americans wish his term was over. When U.S. Rep. Bob Drinan of Massachusetts, a Jesuit priest, introduced a motion to impeach Nixon in 1973, it was quickly shunted off the agenda. Yet, a year later it was voted out of committee, and Nixon left the White House. The public and Congress had all they could take of the man. Should Iraq keep deterioring until the end of the summer, impeachment might make more sense than cutting funds for the war, although both the president and the vice president would have to be convicted of high crimes at the same time.

I am not advocating the deposing of the president by congressional vote. Nor would I, unless the country was ready for it and enough of those senatorial Republicans up for re-election were eager for such a vote lest their future be tied to the fate of that swaggering, stupid man.

The firing of a president is a traumatic event. It would cause a deep wound in the body politic. It took a couple of decades to recover from the shock of deposing Nixon, though after the trivialization of the process by Gingrich it might be less shocking. It may be necessary to strike back at the pernicious claims of extra-constitutional presidential power by the administration. It is not true, as Garry Wills has reminded us, that the title of "commander in chief" magnifies the constitutional power of the president. Indeed, his title of commander in chief of the Army and the Navy is limited by the constitutional powers of the president. He is not the commander in chief of all of us, and perhaps that needs to be made clear. Yet, deposing a president is a savage and blunt instrument to be used only when absolutely necessary and at the risk of poisoning the political atmosphere for decades.

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