Impeachment and Political Strategy

Impeachment and Political Strategy

I have long argued against the war in Iraq on strategic grounds. I don’t object to war when war is absolutely necessary, but I believe that when war is waged for the wrong reasons, conducted improperly, or for unattainable goals, however good those goals sound, that war is a tragedy and is immoral. Killing is such a terrible thing that one must weigh very carefully one’s decision to take that route.

Now we have a situation of political strategy, and I think the various factions are taking just as little consideration for strategy in the political conflict as others have in the planning for war. Recent polls show a substantial amount of support for impeaching President Bush and even more for impeaching Vice-President Cheney. It would be nice if one could believe that most of those who favor impeachment actually knew what impeachment is, and for example which house impeaches and which tries impeachments. That is probably too much to hope. I suspect the answers in favor of impeachment include a large number of folks who simply want Bush and Cheney gone, and the sooner the better. One should also recall that this is the same electorate who once produced an approval rating for Bush in the 80s.

I don’t really like either man. I didn’t vote for them, and I abhor their war policy. I think very often their domestic strategies in terms of home security have been crude and ineffective while unnecessarily threatening civil rights. I think Bush’s use of signing statements to ignore portions of the law is wrong. I think his efforts to continue the war right now are misguided. He’s missing an opportunity to at least control the mode of exit. One aspect of the strategy of war is the political support one has for the action. Ignore that portion, and you ask for trouble.

Now I’m no legal expert. I’m not going to argue what congress can and cannot use as the grounds for impeachment. I’m pretty sure, however, that the final answer is going to be that they can use pretty much anything they can get a 2/3 majority of the Senate agree on for conviction. Violating the constitution is a form of violating the law, but it doesn’t have fixed penalties. “Abuse of power” is a rather hazy sort of concept. I actually think it’s quite reasonable to have 2/3 of the Senate agree on what it might be.

But the question is just how valuable is this particular means of getting rid of a president? We’re already into the election campaign for the next presidential election. In a little more than a year we’ll be voting on who we want to succeed Bush and Cheney. Is it a good idea to go through the contentious process of impeachment right now? One question, of course, is whether 2/3 of the Senate would agree to convict on any particular charge. I suspect the answer is no.

The impeachment talk is, I think, directed to the hardliners in the Democratic party and those who are to its left. It shores up the base, and provides a means to keep from losing those supporters to third party candidates. At the same time there are quite a number–a growing number–of people who are like me in one respect. We don’t have party loyalty. We believe both the Democratic and Republican parties have forfeited any right to our support as parties. When all the partisan bickering has played out (on this topic; there will be another by then), some one of you is going to need our vote, and we’d like to see you show some good strategic sense, an ability to see all aspects of a problem and to find the best strategy to get where you’re going.

Cindy Sheehan has told Speaker Nancy Pelosi she’s going to run against her if she doesn’t work to impeach President Bush. I think this is a good opportunity for Pelosi to demonstrate some good strategic sense. Not statesmanship; that would probably be too much to ask–just good strategy. She can say, “No, that’s a bad idea. I’m interested in keeping and building a Democratic majority. I’m more interested in withdrawing from Iraq successfully than I am in scoring revenge points on the current President.”

She’s played this one right so far; hopefully she’ll continue.

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