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Impeachment Talks: Why Not?

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As Bill Moyers and his guests, constitutional law expert Bruce Fein and political journalist John Nichols, made abundantly clear in their discussion on PBS' Journal (catch the whole episode here), the question that ought to be asked isn't, "should we be discussing impeachment?" but, "why haven't we seriously started discussing impeachment yet?" Even though a recent public opinion poll from the American Research Group revealed that 45% of Americans favored impeachment hearings for Bush and a majority, 54%, favored impeachment for Cheney, the MSM has largely continued to dismiss impeachment as "extremist" and an option only favored by the "extreme leftist wing" of the Democratic Party. Lest we forget, in their eyes receiving a blowjob still constitutes a much more serious national crisis.

While the disastrous war in Iraq and Bush's repeated flouting of civil rights in the name of "executive privilege" have been the primary catalysts for his abysmal approval ratings and the electorate's foul mood, other recent developments, including the president's commutation of Scooter Libby's sentence and Cheney's refusal to surrender e-mails and documents under subpoena to Congress (he is, after all, his own branch of government), have continued to weaken his position and give ammunition to those who argue that impeachment should be on the table.

Given their penchant for playing it safe (some might say spinelessness), the Democrats certainly haven't helped themselves or the country by playing along with the media's portrayal of impeachment as an unprecedented and "extraordinary" move. While pundits and columnists have spent untold hours and words decrying even the notion of impeachment (let alone just bringing impeachment hearings), the American public, as John Nichols noted, has been way ahead of the Congress on this.

"People don't want to let this go. They do not accept Nancy Pelosi's argument that impeachment is, quote/unquote, off the table. Because I guess maybe they're glad she didn't take some other part of the Constitution off the table like freedom of speech. But they also don't accept the argument that, oh, well, there's a presidential campaign going on. So let's just hold our breath till Bush and Cheney get done," he told Moyers.

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Responding to a question from Moyers about whether the House judiciary committee should commence formal hearings of impeachment on Bush and Cheney, Bruce Fein (an avowed conservative who served under Ronald Reagan in the Justice Department) stated: "Yes. Because there are political crimes that have been perpetrated in combination. It hasn't been one, the other being in isolation. And the hearings have to be not into this is a Republican or Democrat. This is something that needs to set a precedent, whoever occupies the White House in 2009. You do not want to have that occupant, whether it's John McCain or Hillary Clinton or Rudy Giuliani or John Edwards to have this authority to go outside the law and say, "I am the law. I do what I want. No one else's view matters.""

Admittedly, the feasibility of getting impeachment hearings going in the Congress is low, if not nil. Even if the Democrats were able to rally all their own to support such a measure (and they wouldn't), they'd be unable get enough Republicans on their side to initiate the process. However, given the circumstances, the moment seems propitious to at least bring up the notion of impeachment as a valid constitutional tool. Whether or not you agree with its use, it is inarguable that the public is slowly but gradually beginning to give it serious consideration; this despite the fact that it has been almost universally poo-poohed in the media.

Some will say that talk is cheap. In this instance, until more are willing to throw their weight behind formal impeachment hearings, it may be that words will speak louder than actions.