Sunday Sermon: John Nichols on Impeachment

John Nichols, in an interview with Bill Moyers, clarifies a very important–and misunderstood–point about impeachment (italics mine):

JOHN NICHOLS: Bill Moyers, you are making a mistake. You are making a mistake that too many people make.
JOHN NICHOLS: You are seeing impeachment as a constitutional crisis. Impeachment is the cure for a constitutional crisis. Don’t mistake the medicine for the disease. When you have a constitutional crisis, the founders are very clear. They said there is a way to deal with this. We don’t have to have a war. We don’t have to raise an army and go to Washington. We have procedures in place where we can sanction a president appropriately, do what needs to be done up to the point of removing him from office and continue the republic. So we’re not talking here about taking an ax to government. Quite the opposite.

When the Republicans impeached Clinton over lying about a sexual indiscretion*, they managed to convince people that the legitimate exercise of Congressional power to prevent executive misappropriation of power was wrong. One of the weird side effects of the Compulsive Centrist Disorder that afflicts the punditocracy is the notion that political conflict is to be avoided. Sociopathic institutions**, like the Bush administration, count on that to survive.
So remember: impeachment–it’s not just for blowjobs anymore.
*The idea that lying about a sexual affair, particular when that has no consequence on public business and is ultimately found to be inconsequential to the legal matter at hand (and thus doesn’t constitute perjury) is somehow morally equivalent to the repeated abuses of power and of the system of checks and balances by the Bush/Cheney administration is absurd. It’s not that Clinton didn’t do a bad thing; it’s that Little Lord Pontchartrain has done many, far worse things to the point where the legitimacy of the Congress has been undermined. As Nichols notes, that is the constitutional crisis, not the process to rectify it.
**I have no idea if Cheney, Bush, and pals have antisocial personality disorders. I believe Cheney is a sociopath, and Bush a narcissist, but these medical diagnoses should be made by qualified professionals. However, the aggregate behavior of the administration does correlate nicely with the clinical definition of antisocial personality disorder.

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5 Responses to Sunday Sermon: John Nichols on Impeachment

  1. The Ridger says:

    Good post. It amazes me how many people actually buy that comparison…
    BTW I wanted to trackback and got an error message that your trackback URL “doesn’t appear to be valid” …

  2. llewelly says:

    Exactly – impeachment is not an attack on the government – it is surgical removal of a dangerous parasite.

  3. blf says:

    Mr Nichols may have also made an error, albeit a very common one: Impeachment is not the removal from office. That only happens if the impeached defendant is convicted at the resulting trial.
    Clinton and Jackson were both impeached, both tried, but neither was convicted, which is why both remained in office.
    So impeachment itself is not quite the cure. It is the first step of a two-step process. It is that two-step process (I don’t know if the full process has a name or not?) which is the cure.
    – ———————–
    And speaking of the highly dubious things the current regime does, it seems that start starting a third war, this time against Iran, is back on the cards! From Cheney pushes Bush to act on Iran:

    * Military solution back in favour as Rice loses out
    * President ‘not prepared to leave conflict unresolved’

    The balance in the internal White House debate over Iran has shifted back in favour of military action before President George Bush leaves office in 18 months, the Guardian has learned.

    The vice-president, Dick Cheney, has long favoured upping the threat of military action against Iran. He is being resisted by the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, and the defence secretary, Robert Gates.
    Last year Mr Bush came down in favour of Ms Rice, who along with Britain, France and Germany has been putting a diplomatic squeeze on Iran. But at a meeting of the White House, Pentagon and state department last month, Mr Cheney expressed frustration at the lack of progress and Mr Bush sided with him. “The balance has tilted. There is cause for concern,” the source said this week.
    Nick Burns, the undersecretary of state responsible for Iran and a career diplomat who is one of the main advocates of negotiation, told the meeting it was likely that diplomatic manoeuvring would still be continuing in January 2009. That assessment went down badly with Mr Cheney and Mr Bush.

    The Washington source said Mr Bush and Mr Cheney did not trust any potential successors in the White House, Republican or Democratic, to deal with Iran decisively. They are also reluctant for Israel to carry out any strikes because the US would get the blame in the region anyway.

  4. Andrew Dodds says:

    Sheesh.. the Iranian leadership(s) may not exactly be the model liberal democrats that we would like; but they face considerable internal pressure for reform. The best way to keep a lid on this pressure is war or other external threats.

  5. Jeb, FCD says:

    impeachment–it’s not just for blowjobs anymore.

    That needs to be a bumper sticker.
    Are any Dumbocrats seriously considering impeachment now? I still spit nails when I find Pelosi’s quote about no impeachment on her watch. Why the fuck not?
    What does a president have to do now to get impeached? Lie to get us into a war? Oh, wait a sec…

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