Most Americans know that Bush, Cheney and the boys have committed impeachable offenses.
But they assume it is “too late to impeach” them.
Are they right?
Well, in 1876, Secretary of War General William Belknap (who served in the administration of Pres. Ulysses Grant), accused of accepting a bribe, resigned just hours before the House was scheduled to consider articles of impeachment. The House went ahead and unanimously impeached him, and by a vote of 37-29 the Senate rejected the argument that Belknap’s resignation should abort the case.
Indeed, numerous constitutional experts have stated that Bush and Cheney can be impeached even after they are out of office (see this, for example).
If articles of impeachment can be introduced even after Bush and Cheney are out of office, it is obviously not too late to introduce them now, while they are still in office.
What Good Would It Do?
Many people respond, “I know we can do it, but what good would it do?”
Well, for one thing, it could prevent war against Iran or another Middle Eastern country.
But there is another important reason to impeach. Impeachment was designed to be a deterrent, not just a punishment. The Founding Fathers included impeachment provisions in the Constitution so that if a president tried to act like a king, Congress could nip the tyrannical impulse in the bud, and tell all future presidents “Don’t try it . . . We’ll stop you!”
Unless Bush, Cheney and the whole lot of them are impeached, Congress will be ignoring the wishes of the framers and instead be loudly saying to future administrations “Go ahead . . . Bush and Cheney got away with it, and so can you”.
As Professor Kalt of Michigan State University College of Law writes:
Structurally, impeachment is designed not just to remove but to deter, and this effect would be severely undermined if it faded away near the end of a term.
And see this discussion with Constitutional scholar Bruce Fein.
Many rank-and-file Democrats have bought Pelosi’s line that impeachment would be a “distraction”, and that we should just focus on getting Obama elected.
Even putting aside the fact that a new war or terror attack would help McCain, the issue of election fraud (could McCain steal the election?), or the possibility that Bush might suspend elections in case of a “national emergency”, impeachment is arguably a good election strategy for Democrats.
In any event, even from a strictly selfish, partisan perspective, the Democrats must learn the lesson that failing to impeach Richard Nixon and hold him accountable enabled Bush and Cheney to do what they’ve done. Unless the Democrats want to face an even more tyrannical White House in the future, they have to stand up and hold these guys accountable NOW.