January 9th, 2006
Back to Opinion columns.
Will "chimpeachment" hearings begin soon?
With the emergence of the so-called "snoopgate" controversy, we are once again hearing calls to impeach President George W. Bush. Before we get too excited, let's think about it for a minute.
First, consider the calls for impeachment over the war in Iraq. For the sake of argument, let's assume Bush "lied" about the rationalization for invading Iraq. Assume Bush "knew" there were no Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq, and intentionally misled both the American people and Congress into thinking Saddam Hussein had WMD. Does this provide ample justification for impeaching the President? No, it does not. Even if Bush did "lie", lying in and of itself is not a crime. If lying was a crime, there would be a lot of elected officials and candidates for public office who would be behind bars right now.
What about the argument that the Iraq war is "illegal"? If we're going to impeach President Bush for that, we should be ready to impeach all of the members of the House and Senate who voted to give Bush the authority to go to war. We should also be prepared to pursue criminal charges against disgraced ex-President Clinton for his military actions in Bosnia, Haiti and Kosovo.
Now, some are calling for impeachment because of "snoopgate". There are a lot of questions regarding this controversy that will be explored in the weeks and months to come. There are questions as to whether or not the administration's policy (conducting electronic surveillance without a warrant of communications between Americans and foreigners with ties to terrorist groups) was against the law. John Schmidt, associate attorney general during the Clinton Administration, wrote an opinion column for the Chicago Tribune explaining why President Bush has the legal authority to conduct these "wiretaps" without a warrant.
The media has framed this story poorly. Headline after headline proclaims the President is "spying on Americans", when the full story is that the people being monitored are communicating with foreigners who have ties to terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda. The administration has made this point, but the mainstream media has failed to report the whole story.
I'm on the fence here. I understand that we are in a war with "Islamofascists" who literally want to destroy this country. However, I do not like the idea of the federal government doing any surveillance of American citizens (even those communicating with foreign terrorists) without a warrant. Since the President has the authority to seek some warrants in secret, I think that is the path that should be used unless it is absolutely absolutely necessary to do otherwise in the interest of national security.
President Bush has strongly condemned the person or persons responsible for leaking this story to the media. While Bush has a point that many national security matters should not be in the public eye, I think it is important to remember how valuable whistle-blowers can be in protecting individual liberties or exposing wrongdoing in government. We need much more information before we can condemn whoever tipped off the press.
Of course, the real motivation behind all of this impeachment talk is twofold. First, Democrats want revenge for the impeachment of disgraced ex-President Clinton in 1998. Notice how many times you will hear or read something like "Clinton was impeached for less."
Second, Democrats can't get over the fact that President Bush not only was elected in 2000, but was re-elected in 2004 by a margin of over three million votes. They can't believe they lost to this "idiot", who is not much more intelligent than a chimp. (Hence the word "chimpeachment" being used around the 'net.) While this does not apply to all Democrats, there is a significant portion of Democrats who do feel this way.
Well, folks, desire for revenge over Clinton's impeachment and/or being upset that you lost two elections is not sufficient grounds for impeachment. The Constitution allows for impeachment in the case of "high crimes and misdemeanors". Absent hard evidence of that, you should forget about Bush leaving the White House before January 20, 2009.