What began as something of a joke on far left websites like Daily Kos and the Democratic Underground has hit the big time as one of the left’s leading lights has jumped on the impeachment bandwagon and started it rolling toward an uncertain future.
Lewis Lapham, the iconoclastic intellectual whose lucid, well written essays and columns have been a source of inspiration and thought provoking debate to two generations of American liberals has written an essay in Harpers Magazine calling for the impeachment of President Bush.
It doesn’t matter that Lapham has chosen to base his decision on the “investigation” of Representative John Conyers, a 121 page screed compiled by the Congressman’s staff that charges George Bush with, as Lapham puts it, “crimes against the American people” for perpetrating the war in Iraq. Lapham’s stature alone assures that more serious, sober minded liberals will begin to examine impeachment as a serious issue and will now most assuredly support it if the Democrats were to win the House in November.
The case that Lapham makes is weak, speculative, and full of holes wide enough that George Bush could drive a 10 ton semi through. After all, much of the “evidence” was heard during Conyer’s quixotic and curious hearings on the war and the “untold story” of 9/11. Lapham summarizes the case:
On December 18 of last year, Congressman John Conyers Jr. (D., Mich.) introduced into the House of Representatives a resolution inviting it to form â€œa select committee to investigate the Administration’s intent to go to war before congressional authorization, manipulation of pre-war intelligence, encouraging and countenancing torture, retaliating against critics, and to make recommendations regarding grounds for possible impeachment.â€ Although buttressed two days previously by the news of the National Security Agency’s illegal surveillance of the American citizenry, the request attracted little or no attention in the pressâ€”nothing on television or in the major papers, some scattered applause from the left-wing blogs, heavy sarcasm on the websites flying the flags of the militant right.
Readers of this site could find rebuttals in the archives to each and every one of those charges (with the possible exception of torture although it may be a stretch to say that the Administration encouraged it to any great degree or countenanced it at all). As I said, it doesn’t matter what evidence Lapham is basing his decision to support impeachment; what matters is that he is influential and that he’s serious.
Dan Riehl is disgusted:
Scratch Harper’s From The List – [t]he list of magazines I’ll ever take seriously, again. What rubbish. As if the majority of America would be interested in anything that idiot Conyers has to say…
Mr. Riehl has a point. In order for there to be impeachment, first one must have a case. Conyers “report” would not be taken seriously anywhere – except a Democratic House. And there’s the rub. If the Democrats take the House in November, they can pretty much do whatever they please up to and including opening impeachment hearings in the Judiciary Committee. The media circus that would follow would guarantee an end to the President’s influence and would destroy the remainder of his second term.
It would also almost insure a cycle of impeachment inquiries – formal and informal – on every President of either party for the foreseeable future. Coupled with the Republicans sometimes unhinged pursuit of Bill Clinton, if the Democrats figure they can base impeachment on demonstrably false allegations or, as in the case of the War in Iraq, carrying out United States policy of regime change then it’s open season on the presidency. It will hamstring the office as future Presidents may feel constrained to act in the national interest for fear of the Judiciary Committee’s gavel.
While that might appeal to a certain libertarian segment of the population, it first of all was never the intent of the founders to have impeachment act as a hangman’s noose dangling in front of the executive. A brake, yes. But when you have the other party gunning for you the minute you sit down in the Oval Office, I daresay such an atmosphere would have an excellent chance of getting a lot of Americans killed given the kind of war we are fighting. More importantly, the power of the legislative branch would be increased enormously if it was a given that a sitting President from an opposing party would need to walk on egg shells lest his political enemies seize the first suspect decision he makes and turn it into an impeachable offense.
Has Lapham gone off a cliff by calling for impeachment? Not hardly. For the left in America these days, there is no cliff to jump off of. As Lapham’s essay proves, they are already in free fall with the bottom of the gorge nowhere in sight.