What was once considered marginal is now mainstream. A majority of the country supports beginning impeachment proceedings against Vice-President Dick Cheney; and when it comes to his partner, Bush, the nation is evenly divided.
Legal experts make the case that the grounds for impeachment are stronger now than when the House threatened to impeach Nixon. The list of criminal acts and instances of executive overreach grows longer with each passing day. Constitutional crisis looms. And as my colleague John Nichols has said, (and written in our magazine this week)– at a time of constitutional crisis, impeachment proceedings are the proper tonic.
That said, I’ve had as many questions as answers about the political value of pursuing impeachment proceedings–and The Nation has published strong views for and against. (For one of the strongest cases "For", see Elizabeth Holtzman’s rigorous and powerful cover story, "The Case for Impeachment," published in January 2006; I’d argue that it was central spark to launching a movement that has now acquired extraordinary popular groundswell.)
What’s fascinating to watch is how pragmatic political commentators are now beginning to see that impeachment may not be that radical a remedy–especially when confronted with a defiantly lawless Administration. Today, for example, respected political analyst/blogger/ writer Josh Marshall posted a must-read blog at TalkingPointsMemo.com.
He’s still opposed to the movement to impeach Bush, but in a sign of how this political moment is shaping Marshall’s reasoning, he writes:" Without going into all the specifics, I think we are now moving into a situation where the White House, on various fronts, is openly ignoring the Constitution, acting as though not just the law , but the Constitution itself , which is the fundamental law from which the statutes gain that force and legimitacy, doesn’t apply to them. If this is allowed to continue, the defiance will congeal into precedent. And the whole structure of our system of government will be permanently changed."
Marshall admits that his position on impeachment hasn’t changed. Yet. But it is clear that he is a man on an intellectual and political journey when it comes to this issue. He ends by noting: " I think we we’re moving on to dangerous ground right now, more so than some of us realize. And I’m less sure now under these circumstances that operating by rules of ‘normal politics’ is justifiable or acquits us of our duty to our country." That is a central question: How do we acquit ourselves of our duty to our country? Marshall remains opposed to impeachment proceedings on pragmatic grounds. I understand his thinking and reasoning.
And while, like Marshall, I’ve wrestled with the political value of impeachment proceedings, in these last weeks and months it seems increasingly clear that we as citizens have a higher moral duty to our country, its fate and future generations. While some have argued that impeachment may create a constitutional crisis, it may well be that Impeachment is the cure for our constitutional crisis.