For all you partisan Democrats, obsessed with tactics, who say we should hold off on talk of impeachment until after November, try this one on for size: Nancy Pelosi is against it, even if the Democrats win the House.
On May 10, Pelosi spoke to the Democratic caucus and “dismissed the idea” of impeachment and “restated her opposition to the idea of censuring Bush over his decision to invade Iraq in March 2003,” according to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle. It reported that “she said impeachment wouldn’t be on the table.”
This amplified her comment’s on “Meet the Press” May 7, when Tim Russert tried to corner her on the subject. (Russert even urged her to have John Conyers take down his website, where he calls for the creation of a select committee to investigate the “grounds for possible impeachment and the censure of President Bush and Vice President Cheney.)
Russert asked her point-blank whether impeachment was off the table.
She fudged at first and then said, “I don’t see us going to a place of impeachment. . . . That is not what we are about.”
But evidently she didn’t think that was clear enough so she told the Democrats in the House that impeachment isn’t in the cards.
(For an account of how Pelosi should have responded, go to Bob Fertik’s blog.)
Russert’s badgering of Pelosi echoed Chris Matthews’s questioning of Bob Shrum a month before.
Matthews: “Can you promise that if the Democrats win the majority of House seats this fall, they get to the 218 magic number, that they will not use the subpoena power to go after the president?”
Shrum, to his credit, said: “I think they will use the subpoena power and should use it to investigate a whole range of issues.” (See the account at Media Matters.)
But now Pelosi has forsworn impeachment. And you can bet that the gatekeepers of the mainstream media and the doyens of the Washington establishment will be pressing the Russert/Matthews line. They will urge the Democratic in-crowd to be “above politics” and to “take the high road,” and all the other platitudes they use for selling out. Democrats like Pelosi will, in turn, say that the Democratic agenda is more important than “settling scores,” and piously they will go off to the burial of impeachment.
Meanwhile, Bush and Cheney will never be held to account, and our Constitution will have their poison on it. Future Presidents and Vice Presidents would also be able to cite their lawlessness as precedent, and our system of government will remain infected.
This shows how bankrupt the Democratic leadership is.
They worry that the mere mention of the “I” word will so galvanize Republicans that Democrats won’t gain control of the House or the Senate and won’t therefore be able to slow Bush down, much less impeach him.
This argument has two key flaws.
First, it’s unprincipled. Impeachment is not a partisan issue. It goes way beyond which party is in the White House or who controls Capitol Hill. It’s about whether we’re a democracy or not.
You should support impeachment if you believe in the Constitution, whatever party allegiance you have.
But even for those who only speak tactics, it’s foolish.
If your goal is impeachment, you need to clamor for it now. You need to build a mass base for impeachment, otherwise Pelosi will continue to abandon this issue.
And if I were a Democratic strategist, and I’m not, I’d favor impeachment because it galvanizes the Democratic base, and Karl Rove has proven time and time again that you need to get your base out to win. For years, Democrats have taken their base for granted.
Now, with impeachment, they are doing so again.