August 2007
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Day August 11, 2007

Taking Impeachment Seriously

Over the last year, I’ve gone from not wanting the Democrats to waste political capital on impeachment proceedings to feeling that the effort is critical to the health of our democracy.  I think I’m ready to articulate why, and more importantly, outline the issues for which I still believe that the normal electoral process is the more appropriate cure.  This "sea change" in my thinking on the issue corresponds roughly to a change from thinking tactically about the 2006 election to thinking more broadly about the health of our democratic progress, although that tactical thinking was simply wrong from a constitutional standpoint — no matter what the stakes in that election.  I’ll also recommend John Nichol’s excellent small book, The Genius of Impeachment:  The Founder’s Cure for Royalism.  I started writing this before I read Nichols, and in fact I bought his book precisely because it’s got great references to early English custom and American history that I hope to use in arguing my case, but I strongly recommend his treatment, which is obviously better documented, more detailed, and often much better written than my comments below.   

In short, I’ve become convinced that impeachment proceedings against President Bush and Vice President Cheney are not just the appropriate remedy for the massive executive overreach we’ve seen in the last eight years, but an essential corrective for ensuring that future administrations — Democrat or Republican — do not simply continue where Mr. Bush leaves off.  Given massive expansions of executive power during the 20th century, and especially from Nixon onward (including the Democratic Clinton Administration), we have ample evidence that normal electoral process is insufficient as a corrective to executive overreach.  Stronger medicine is required.  And fortunately, strong medicine is precisely what the Founders gave us, in the form of impeachment.