The Impeachment Option

With sentiment on the question of impeaching Bush running at a pretty strong 39 percent for giving him the boot (with 49 percent opposed), I think this needs to enter the mainstream conversation. And, insofar as Bush appears determined to use his constitutionally granted authority to shield his subordinates from the consequences of breaking the law, I would say that removing him from the office which grants that authority is something that should be discussed.

The fact remains, however, that impeaching and convicting Bush means, in practice, only that Dick Cheney becomes President. In a weird way, it was the very trumped-up and trivial nature of the charges against Clinton that made impeachment plausible — replacing Bill Clinton with Al Gore really would have had a material impact on the quantity of tomcatting in the executive branch. Removing Bush doesn’t accomplish anything. I suppose you could impeach Cheney, and then impeach Bush before confirming a new vice president, and then Nancy Pelosi becomes president. And that, of course, is going to get 67 votes in the Senate sometime after they establish congressional representation for flying pigs.

UPDATE: I don’t think the “impeach Cheney” option makes much sense, though public support for it is quite strong. The problem is that the VP doesn’t have any independent legal authority from the President. If Bush delegates authority to Cheney, and Cheney uses that power in an illegal manner, then either Bush needs to hold Cheney accountable for that, or else congress and the public need to hold Bush accountable. Having the buck stop with Cheney creates a terrible set of forward-looking incentives.

The thing to do is to impeach Bush and Cheney on a dual docket and have Nancy Pelosi and Robert Byrd both say that they would decline the presidency in the event of a dual vacancy (they can even note that many scholars think putting members of congress in the line of succession is unconstitutional anyway), thus making Secretary of State Rice the heir apparent, in order to demonstrate a lack of partisan motivation.

You’re still left with the problem that this is only getting the requisite votes in fantasyland, but I think it’s a perfectly cogent political agenda.