Op-ed: Impeachment threat is real
David Edwards and Ron Brynaert
Published: Tuesday March 27, 2007
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The impeachment threat is real, argues The Nation's John Nichols, as shown by talk show pundits who have begun to discuss it seriously.

"Former Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough had me on his MSNBC show Monday night to talk about impeachment," Nichols writes. "It was smart, civil discussion that treated the prospect of impeaching the president as a serious matter."

"No, Scarborough is not jumping on the impeachment bandwagon," Nichols adds. "He is simply treating the prospect seriously, as did CNN's Wolf Blitzer earlier in the day."

According to Nichols, "We are nearing an impeachment moment."

"The Alberto Gonzales scandal, the under-covered but very real controversy involving abuses of the Patriot Act and the president's increasingly belligerent refusals to treat Congress as a co-equal branch of government are putting the discussion of presidential accountability onto the table from which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has tried to remove it," Nichols writes.

On Scarborough County, the former Republican Congressman who hosts the show noted that it's not just "left-wing lunatic[s]" talking about impeachment.

As RAW STORY reported, Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who is considering running for president in 2008, stopped just short of threatening impeachment against President George Bush on ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos on Sunday morning.

"Well, any president who says 'I don't care' or 'I will not respond to what the people of this country are saying about Iraq or anything else' or 'I don't care what the Congress does, I am going to proceed,' if a president really believes that, then there are, what I was pointing out, there are ways to deal with that," Hagel said.

Hagel added, "This is not a monarchy."


Excerpts from Nichols' column:


Does this mean Bush and Cheney will be impeached? That, of course, will be decided by the people. Impeachment at its best is always an organic process; it needs popular support or it fizzles — as with the attempt by House Republican leaders to remove former President Clinton in a process that, fairly or not, seemed to be all about blue dresses.

While the people saved Clinton — by signaling to their representatives that they opposed sanctioning a president's personal morals — it does not appear that they are inclined to protect Bush.

With each new revelation about what Gonzales did at the behest of the Bush White House to politicize prosecutions by U.S. Attorneys, the revulsion with the way this president has disregarded the Constitution and the rule of law becomes more intense. And citizens are not cutting their president much slack.



Clip from Monday's Scarborough County as broadcast on MSNBC:

Excerpts from transcript of Scarborough County:


JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST: George W. Bush is the loneliest man on the planet. This according to conservative columnist Robert Novak, who says, quote, “With nearly two years remaining in his presidency, George W. Bush is alone. In half a century, I‘ve not seen a president so isolated from his own party in Congress, not Jimmy Carter, not even Richard Nixon as he faced impeachment.”

Now, Novak cites GOP members who are calling the president and his administration incompetent, while one Republican senator and presidential hopeful is even suggesting that Mr. Bush‘s arrogance could lead to impeachment, while others say his attorney general can‘t be trusted. This during a time when the president‘s troop surge actually seems to be working. And yet as Mr. Novak writes—and as I‘ve been saying for some time—George W. Bush does stand alone. Is he determined or delusional, a latter-day Churchill or a poor reflection of his father?

Here now to talk about it, Joan Walsh—she‘s editor-in-chief of Salon.com—John Nichols from “The Nation” and MSNBC contributor and “Boston Herald” columnist Mike Barnicle.

John Nichols, let me begin by reading you what Republican senator and possible presidential candidate Chuck Hagel said involving the impeachment of George W. Bush. He said, “You can impeach him, and before this gets over, you might see calls for his impeachment. It depends on how this goes.”

Now listen, John, to what Chuck Hagel said this weekend when pressed on the topic of impeachment.


SEN. CHUCK HAGEL ®, NEBRASKA: No president can dictate to this country, nor should he. Any president who says, I don‘t care, or I will not respond to what the people of this country are saying about Iraq or anything else, or I don‘t care what the Congress does, I am going to proceed—if a president really believes that, then there are—what I was pointing out, there are ways to deal with that.


SCARBOROUGH: John, should we expect to hear more talk of the president‘s impeachment as Democrats start consolidating power, Republicans start to get antsy as we move to 2008 and as we move into a long, hot summer?

JOHN NICHOLS, “THE NATION”: I think it may be a real tough spring, frankly. Look, impeachment always happens toward the end of a term. The discussion arises when a president has made a lot of enemies not merely in the opposition party but also in his own party, and thus the base of defense starts to fall apart.

There‘s no question we will hear a much more aggressive discussion of impeachment as the spring turns towards summer. I‘m not saying we‘ll reach the impeachment moment, but I have no doubt that in coming weeks, you will see an article of impeachment submitted by some probably more renegade Democratic member of the House, and with that, a growing discussion.

And I have to be blunt with you. The Gonzales circumstance is really central to this because while it certainly doesn‘t go to the core of what most Americans object to with President Bush, it does sum up a lot of their concerns. And you hit it right on the head. It‘s the arrogance in the refusal to cooperate with Congress.

SCARBOROUGH: Well, actually, you know, that was Chuck Hagel that said that. I‘m trying to think back to the Clinton administration. There were a lot of Republicans suggesting that Bill Clinton should be impeached starting in 1993, 1994. I never heard a Democrat say anything about it, and that was way before Monica Lewinsky. That was the China scandals. That was the fund-raising scandals. But no Republican ever came out and said what Chuck Hagel‘s saying right now. And Hagel‘s not some left-wing lunatic...

NICHOLS: No Democrat. No Democrat...


SCARBOROUGH: I‘m sorry. Yes, no Democrat ever said that about Bill Clinton. What‘s going on?

NICHOLS: Well, there‘s a subtlety here that‘s important to understand, and that is that Bill Clinton always practiced the care and feeding of fellow Democrats. He was very conscious of them, even as he tried to triangulate with Republicans. George Bush has lost a lot of his connections to his Republican allies, and you see that not merely in Chuck Hagel, but watch what you saw over the weekend with Orrin Hatch and Arlen Specter and Lindsey Graham coming out and saying incredibly aggressive and negative things as regards Alberto Gonzales.

SCARBOROUGH: Very harsh. And Mike Barnicle, you know, Democrats bring up impeachment. Bob Novak is suggesting that Republicans may not rally to his cause. Novak says Mr. Bush stands alone in part because his own party thinks he‘s incompetent. Read what Novak said. “The ‘I‘ word for incompetence is used by Republicans in describing the Bush administration generally. Several of them I talked to described the trifecta of incompetence: the Walter Reed hospital scandal, the FBI‘s misuse of the Patriot Act and U.S. attorney firing fiasco.”

And Mike, I‘ve been hearing Republicans, heck, since I was back in Congress in 2001 speaking angrily about the Bush administration‘s arrogance. Do think the arrogance and the incompetence may be why this president does stand alone and would stand alone even in the worst of political crises from his own party?

MIKE BARNICLE, “BOSTON HERALD,” MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think what you have going on here, Joe, is you have almost a perfect storm of ingredients that lead up to a groundswell in both parties of discontent toward this president. He‘s isolated. The administration is arrogant. As John just pointed out, at least Bill Clinton—I mean, they were very sophisticated in terms of their dealings with Congress. They always kept talking. And yet, this administration, when they do talk, they tend to anger people. No matter what you have to say about the war, if you stand up and you have any, any, any sense of an opinion against this administration on the war, for years now—not months, for years—they say, Well, they don‘t support the troops. They‘re basically...


SCARBOROUGH: Mike, I can‘t—you know what? I want to underline something that you‘ve said because you‘ve touched on something very important here. I cannot tell you how many Republican senators and congressmen have told me that they were shocked that they were treated with more dignity and respect by Bill Clinton than they have been by George W. Bush. Is it all coming home now to George W. Bush? Is this what...


BARNICLE: Joe, you‘re a former member of the House, a Republican member of the House. I mean, you probably have much more—I know you have much more insight into this than I do. But can you imagine carrying the load of this administration, if you‘re up for reelection, whether it‘s in the House or the Senate next year, and you‘re carrying the load of the war in Iraq? You‘re carrying the load of his absolute incompetence in terms of dealing with things like Hurricane Katrina, Walter Reed. You‘ve got the attorney general, who you wouldn‘t hire to do a house closing. He‘s basically a gofer for the president of the United States. He can‘t explain himself. People get this, and...


BARNICLE: ... Republicans out there in the country having to sell this?

SCARBOROUGH: And Mike—and that follows up on Harriet Miers. You have this pattern of people...


SCARBOROUGH: ... that George Bush wants people around him. And you‘re absolutely right. I think, you know, a lot of Republicans that are just absolutely fed up by it. And you know, Joan, while George Bush was never loved by his own party, he‘s in a more dangerous position than that, not being loved, because he‘s not feared. And Bob Novak writes this. “Republicans in Congress do not trust their president to protect them.”

And this, Joan, is of course because the president was not able to protect them in 2006. And again, I hear what Novak has been hearing, whether it‘s about Walter Reed or whether before it, it was about the handling of the war, or whether it was Hurricane Katrina or all these other crises, these Republicans in Congress feel abandoned like (ph) this administration‘s incompetent and that the administration can‘t protect them.

So what does that mean for the president? Is that the kiss of death for a president‘s effectiveness, when you lose your own party?

JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM: I think what it means is that you have all of these Republican Congresspeople, as well as pundits like Novak, who are feeling really desperate because they believe that Bush is in danger of turning them into a long-term minority party. This man has squandered the political capital he had.

I mean, there are really interesting differences with Bill Clinton. I think Bill Clinton got better at the care and feeding of members of his own party, as well as the opposition party, as his terms went on, as he learned from mistakes, like the health care mess, like gays in the military. He started to consult people and let them know his plans, telegraph his plans. This president has gotten worse and worse. And you know...

SCARBOROUGH: You know, and Joan—and let me tell you really quickly about Bill Clinton, and then I‘ll let you follow up.

WALSH: Sure.

SCARBOROUGH: Funny thing. One time, I was walking out of the Capitol, and one of the people that worked for President Clinton said, Hey, Scarborough, take it easy on my boss. I said, Oh, your boss, he doesn‘t watch TV. This was back when I went on cable news a good bit, criticizing the president. I said, Your boss doesn‘t watch me on TV. He doesn‘t even know who I am. And he—but if he did, he‘d hate me. And the guy said, Well, actually, Congressman, he knows who you are and he hates you.

And yet he always kept calling me back to the White House. The people always stayed engaged. Bill Clinton constantly was working with the opposition and his own party members. And yet with this White House—and I know you‘ve heard it from Democrats. I‘ve heard it from Republicans. They just have—they‘ve never reached out. They‘ve always made congressmen and senators feel like they were beneath the White House.

And so is that what—you think that‘s what Novak‘s hearing now?

WALSH: I think that‘s what he‘s hearing. I think that the president, you know, is reaping what he‘s sown. He is allegedly very loyal to people close to him, but we both know, you know, he stood up with Donald Rumsfeld and then he dumped him the day after the election. There were so many Republicans who were furious about that. Either they had come out and supported Rumsfeld or they had opposed Rumsfeld and wished that he had done what he did before the election and given them a fighting chance.

I mean, the other really kind of funny tragic story from this weekend was John McKay, the U.S. attorney in Washington, talking about the way Harriet Miers kind of scolded him, like, Do you know why people in your party might have a problem with you, Mr. McKay?

You know, Novak talks about incompetence. They have married incompetence with corruption, and that‘s what‘s really going to be intolerable, in the end, to the American people.

SCARBOROUGH: Well, you know, I don‘t know if I agree with that. We might have a disagreement on marrying arrogance...

WALSH: I think we do.

SCARBOROUGH: ... incompetence with corruption. I think it may be a marriage of arrogance and incompetence, which politically is deadly.

Mike Barnicle, I want you to look at this clip from “Saturday Night Live.” You know, Ronald Reagan was considered less than engaged all the time, but he was very, very successful in many areas. Not so with George Bush. Look at this clip.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I believed for one minute that anyone on my staff acted in an unethical manner to fire these prosecutors, I can assure Alberto would be the first to go. The buck stops here when it comes to any wrongdoing in this administration. But there hasn‘t been any wrongdoing. Alberto will not step down. He‘s my guy. He‘s loyal. He‘s honest. And he‘s a hard worker. He‘s doing a heck of a job.


SCARBOROUGH: Mike Barnicle, Ronald Reagan was always called, basically, a lovable buffoon by his critics, and of course, Ronald Reagan always beat the pulp out of his critics. Not so with George W. Bush, though. This is sticking with him, isn‘t it.

BARNICLE: Well, you know, Joe, the president is a baseball guy, and the job he probably would have had, the job he really wanted was to be commissioner of baseball in 1996. But forces prevented him from getting that, unfortunately for the country.

But when you look at the baseball metaphor, when you look at Reagan, when you look at Clinton, when you look at George Bush, Reagan and Clinton for staffs had a major league ballplayers. This particular president has surrounded himself consistently with AA players from the get-go, from Brownie to this attorney general to the secretary of defense, who was so arrogant, he wouldn‘t listen to anything. And he‘s now reaping the rewards of the poor staff that has surrounded him since he arrived in Washington.

SCARBOROUGH: Hey, John, so when do the Republicans finally throw the president overboard? Or the president‘s attorney general overboard.

NICHOLS: I think that there‘s going to be immense pressure on the White House to have the attorney general step down before he testifies before the Senate. If he goes there and testifies, it will be a national, you know, 24/7 story. This will be one of the first stories of a real crisis within the administration that has gone to this level, and I don‘t think they want that.

Frankly, I think they‘re very concerned about the coming days. I think they have real fears about members of Gonzales‘s own staff who might turn in Senate testimony. And I believe that‘s why one of them decided to take the 5th today.


SCARBOROUGH: ... not a good sign when you‘ve got someone in your administration having to take the 5th on a matter...

NICHOLS: Well, and if I...

SCARBOROUGH: ... that could have been handled simply by just telling the truth.

John, Joan and Mike, thank you so much for being with us. Greatly appreciate it.