“The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”
Ah yes, the outline of impeachable offenses in Article II, Section 4 of our good old U.S. Constitution – in all its glorious vagueness. Now, if I didn’t know better, I would say the Founding Fathers left that door so wide open that President Bush could have been impeached about 12 times by now. What does “high Crimes and Misdemeanors” actually mean? Whatever it is, the accepted norm is that it’s up to the House of Representative to decide. Once American politics became a charade of democracy chained to the whims of partisan sails (say, around 1800), what is and isn’t appropriate grounds for impeachment of a president depends mainly on which party is in power.
I’m sure President Clinton lied about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky, but you better believe that would not be an impeachable offense to a Democrat-controlled House. Similarly, only someone drinking the Bush/Cheney Kool-Aid straight from the punch bowl would argue that every thing the president told the country before invading Iraq was true. Whether Iraq had enriched uranium, or partially enriched uranium, or uranium that could potentially be enriched, or something that looked like uranium or whatever, clearly there was some fudging going on. Colin Powell said so, Richard Clarke said so and Bob Woodward seems to almost have the president on record saying so.
A quick recap: We went in for weapons of mass destruction because we were told they posed an imminent threat to America. We didn’t find weapons of mass destruction.
Oh wait – Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.) and Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Penn.) think we did find WMD, but they need to get a clue. What was found were a couple hundred old shells that weren’t in usable condition anyway. Even senior defense officials of this administration have declared that Hoekstra and Santorum’s WMD are “not the WMDs this country and the rest of the world believed Iraq had and not the WMDs for which this country went to war.”
OK, so no WMD, just a war based on false pretenses. Is that grounds for impeachment? Not to a Republican-dominated House, not when it’s filled with representatives like Hoekstra who will walk into what they swear is a gold mine, find a penny on the ground and pass it off as proof. But that’s what elections are for.
Last week, an op-ed page in the Daily highlighted key congressional races that could give Democrats control of one or both houses of Congress. These races are important, but any shift in the nation’s mood, any step toward “enough is enough” will have to go beyond these toss-up races. If a shift in partisan winds is to bring change, it must sweep up some “safe” Republican seats.
One such seat is the one occupied by Thaddeus McCotter, a Republican who represents my home district – Michigan’s 11th, just east of Ann Arbor. Thad’s been in Congress only four years, but boy, have they been hectic. When he’s not working to defeat disgusting menaces like federal financial aid for students and potentially lifesaving embryonic stem-cell research, Thad found time to party with the who’s who of Congressional douchebags, accepting thousands of dollars from disgraced representatives Tom DeLay (R-Texas), Bob Ney (R-Ohio) and Duke Cunningham (R-Calif.).
But if Thad’s been naughty, he’s counting on the good people of my district to look the other way. He’s outspent his Democratic opponent, radio host Tony Trupiano, by about 8-1, touting himself as a Reagan Republican. In community forums, he’s cold and brusque, barely acknowledging his opponents.
I am reminded in this case of Wyche Fowler, the Democratic senator from Georgia who once thought he was hot stuff too. He was smug and he had his head in the clouds – but before you knew it, he lost his seat to dark horse Paul Coverdell (who later died, yielding his seat to Two-Face – I mean Zell Miller).
Safe seats will fall, and if they do, they’ll fall to the Democrats. Trupiano’s election, though still far from likely, is closing in on conceivability. And he’s already made it clear that if elected, he would take the lead in the Bush impeachment process. With party leaders like Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) calling for impeachment and Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) also unofficially leaning in that direction, our state might be in an unexpected political spotlight this time next year.
So take this time to remove the impeachment of Bush from the “Democratic delusions” file in your brain and slip it into the “stranger things have happened” drawer. Impeaching Bush may not be the right thing to do, but it’ll be a whole hell of a lot more justified and relevant than Clinton’s impeachment. And as long as we deal in partisanship, a Bush impeachment is only fair.
Imran Syed is a Daily associate editorial page editor. He can be reached at email@example.com.