Thursday, June 09, 2005

Could President Bush be Impeached?

That is the question asked by a lead article at Salon today (warning! If you aren't a member you have to watch a short advert before reading the article). They asked four legal scholars to evaluate the legality of impeaching President Bush for having lied to the American people in the run up to the Iraq war. All four basically said that from a practical standpoint there is no chance. Republicans control the House and no way are they going to pass articles of impeachment.

That said the argument seems to be over what the phrase "high crimes and misdemeanors" was intended to mean.
"But, to the Founders, the answer to that question was obvious. The impeachment provisions referred to behavior that amounted to extraordinarily serious political misconduct -- selling out the country to a foreign nation (treason), selling out the national interest for private gain (bribery), and similar political misconduct. You can have arguments around the edges of the category -- could a president be impeached for murdering his wife's paramour? (Sure, because even though the misconduct is not in itself political, it demonstrates an inability to lead sufficiently serious to justify removal prior to the next election) -- but lying to the American people to gain support for a foreign adventure that they wouldn't otherwise endorse isn't even a close case." - Mark Tushnet

". . . Nixon's misconduct did not justify his impeachment and removal merely because it was a bad act. What tipped the balance against Nixon was that it became clear, through the Watergate tapes, that he had malicious or criminal intent. The Constitution requires more than just a bad act to merit removal from office; it also requires bad intent. This requirement derives from the framers' explicit use of criminal terminology to describe the scope of impeachable offenses.

Yet the framers never suggested impeachment and removal were appropriate to address political leaders' mistaken judgments." -
Michael J. Gerhardt
Personally my interest in impeachment drops significantly once I realize it's a political impossibility, but it's worth considering as a theoretical issue, if nothing else.

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