Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Is Nancy Pelosi the Enemy?
Constitutional scholar and conservative Bruce Fein has been arguing for the impeachment of both President Bush and Vice-President Cheney for their abuses of constitutional authority. In a column in Slate, he takes Speaker Pelosi to task for taking the option "off the table." I rarely understand polls, but I think the current ultra-low rating for Congress makes lots of sense. Conservatives, naturally, don't like Democrats being in control, and liberals - who hoped and expected more from Democratic control (probably too much) are disappointed. In that sense, she's exacerbating the decline in congressional approval, not preserving any real moderate support. All things considered - Bush running roughshod over the Constitution, War still raging with no end in sight, earmarks and lobbyists still running business - I'm not sure why Congress' approval is as *high* as it is, even at or near all-time lows.

But until recently I've agreed with Pelosi that going forward with impeachment hearings only makes things worse and alienates the few people left who think they're doing a good job. And I've thought that for a pretty simple reason: I don't think it would work, and I fear the repercussions of a failed impeachment attempt (I don't mean a failed trial like Republicans got with Clinton, I mean a failed attempt to even bring it to trial). It's questionable whether it could get out of committee, and far-fetched to think it could get out of the House, with so many conservative Dems unwilling to risk their seats.

Still, Fein makes a couple of good points, here and elsewhere: 1) Even if it fails to get out of Committee, there are gains to be made in principle by holding impeachment hearings, namely to warn future Presidents that this kind of abuse will not be accepted without resistance. 2) Once in the public eye, attention may be focused in a way that brings some of those wishy-washy representatives around. 3)It's just the right thing to do in defense of our Constitution, all political calculations aside. 4) As he says, "According to public opinion polling, the percentage of voters supporting the impeachments of both President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney are now approximately 45 and 54 percent, respectively."

Like I say, I'm not totally convinced, but I'm no longer where I was - and where Pelosi is - unwilling to even hear about it.

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