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I was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator and am now a journalist. I am the author of three New York Times bestselling books -- "How Would a Patriot Act" (a critique of Bush executive power theories), "Tragic Legacy" (documenting the Bush legacy), and With Liberty and Justice for Some (critiquing America's two-tiered justice system and the collapse of the rule of law for its political and financial elites). My fifth book - No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance State - will be released on April 29, 2014 by Holt/Metropolitan.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Powerline Boy: Impeachment is anti-democratic -- except when the GOP uses it

The fact that the U.S. has two political parties which, in effect, rotate in holding Government power creates endless opportunities for jaw-dropping hypocrisy. One side loudly advocates a certain viewpoint when their party is out of power, only to immediately abandon it and -- without batting so much as an eyelash -- adopts the exact opposite viewpoint when they are in power.

The Bush-worshiping boys over at Powerline wallow in this gross intellectual dishonesty more frequently and more transparently than just about anyone else around.

This morning, John (the one with the Rocket obsession), commented on the just-released Eleanor Clift column in Newsweek, in which Clift reported on burgeoning speculation in Washington that Bush could face impeachment if it is proven that the Administration knowingly lied about pre-war intelligence in order to lure Americans into supporting the war in Iraq.

The Power Rocket proclaims today that he is disgusted by this "flight of fancy," and he scorns what he calls "the far left's dream of regaining power." This is because the Power Rocket finds talk of impeachment outright offensive because -- get this -- impeachment is so very anti-democratic. He thus spits out this oh-so-principled argument:


As usual, the left's preferred approach doesn't involve the inconvenient necessity of actually winning an election.

This is the kind of thing I really don’t get. When Rocket Boy says stuff like this, does he just block out of his mind the fact that the GOP tried to dislodge the highly popular and twice-elected Bill Clinton from office using this same device of impeachment? When the GOP was holding its Monica impeachment trial, were Rocket and his Power buddies decrying that spectacle as an anti-democratic effort to nullify two elections? Do you even need to hear from him in order to know the answer to that? (See UPDATE below if you want the painfully predictable answer).

This is the type of outright corruption that makes wallowing in hard-core partisan "debate" so draining and depressing. There is no shame and, worse, there is no obligation to operate under even a pretense of intellectual honesty.

As a result, we get "arguments" like this:

(1) It is an honorable and legitimate exercise of Constitutional power to impeach an overwhelmingly popular, twice-elected President because he lied in an ultimately-dismissed civil lawsuit about whether he had an extra marital affair, but . . .

(2) It is horribly un-democratic to impeach an overwhelmingly unpopular President if it is proven that he deliberately lied to American citizens in order to trick them into supporting a war he wanted to wage.

If it is demonstrated that the Administration deliberately and knowingly lied about (or severely exaggerated) intelligence in the run-up to the war -- and, at this point, that is still an "if" -- then nobody who supported the Clinton impeachment can argue that impeachment itself is undemocratic. At least nobody who wants to be at least a little bit intellectually honest can do that.

After all, the GOP, unable to defeat Clinton in two national elections (or even to dent his popularity among Americans), were the ones who took the impeachment weapon out of the bag. As a result, they cannot be heard to argue that the weapon which they so gleefully fired less than 10 years ago as part of some sex scandal is now some sort of illegitimate anti-democratic tool of tyranny.

But people like PowerJohn will argue exactly that, because intellectual honesty is the last thing they care about.

UPDATE: Via Eric Muller at Is that Legal?, here is what Rocket John and his PowerFriend, Scott, had to say on December 17, 1998 -- 2 days before the House voted to impeach Clinton:

Like many others, we have been frustrated by the apparent inability of much of the American public to take the Clinton scandals seriously. "It's not about sex," we have patiently repeated to our benighted friends. "It's about perjury. It's about obstruction of justice. The sex is only incidental. At most it was the motive for the crimes. You wouldn't think murder was unimportant just because the motive for the murder was sex, would you?" So goes our argument.

How odd that John wasn't railing against impeachment back in 1998 by complaining that the GOP's "preferred approach doesn't involve the inconvenient necessity of actually winning an election." And yet now, here he is in 2005, saying exactly that about the prospect of impeachment. I wonder what accounts for his radically changed feelings about impeachment?

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