As Lorie pointed out earlier, the “impeach Bush” movement is kicking back into high gear. This is betraying a lot of typical ignorance on the left, who seem to think that if they use the word “impeach” enough, President Bush and his entire administration will just disappear in a puff of good karmic smoke.
I went over the whole Constitutional process just a few months ago, but I’m going to recap it again for those too lazy or to dull-witted to read that again.
First of all, an impeached president is NOT automatically removed from office. (Just ask the Birthday Boy, who was only the second president in history to be impeached — and neither was removed from office.) An impeachment is the equivalent of an indictment — and with two presidential impeachments as precedent, no one should take seriously the potential argument that “Bush should step aside until the matter is settled.”
The Constitution is extremely vague on what grounds for impeachment are. They say “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” Technically, those could be most anything — the next time President Bush works a rope line on a street, he could be impeached for jaywalking.
But historically and practically speaking, it takes a hell of a lot to bring about an impeachment. Andrew Johnson was impeached for violating the law governing how he manages his cabinet officers, and in the end the law was struck down for being an unconstitutional intrusion by the Congress into the Executive branch. Bill Clinton was impeached not for his extramarital liaisons, but for raising his hand, swearing to tell a United States court the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and then lying through his teeth to save his miserable ass from public embarassment. And in the end, neither man was convicted and removed from office.
Richard Nixon was on his way to being impeached over his role in the Watergate scandal and coverup, but resigned before the process could reach that far. There is little doubt he would have been impeached and quite possibly convicted, but he circumvented the whole event. The corruption of his administration, however, set the bar of “impeachable offenses” at a very high level.
Anyway, let’s dispense with the actual charges against Bush and just presume that at least one member of Congress files the appropriate paperwork. (Cynthia McKinney and Dennis Kucinich spring to mind as likely candidates.) And to make it simple, we’ll say that the vote for impeachment goes strictly on party lines. It only takes a simple majority to impeach the president, so it would take 217 votes (there are currently two seats vacant) to successfully pass the impeachment.
Currently, the Republicans hold 231 seats, the Democrats 201, and 1 is an independent (but Vermont’s Socialist Bernie Sanders might as well be a Democrat, so we’ll move him into that column for this discussion). Right now, that impeachment ain’t going anywhere.
So, how about after the mid-term elections? The Democrats would have to pick up a total of 16 seats to wrest the majority away from the Republicans. Assuming they win the two vacant seats, they would still have to take 14 seats from Republican hands to wrest power in the House and have a prayer of passing an impeachment.
Of course, that also presumes that the Republicans don’t follow the lead the Democrats started over the matter of judges and pass on filibustering the impeachment process. If that happens, it’s dead.
OK, so the Democrats pull off a miracle and win the House. Then they intimidate the Republicans and get their bill of impeachment passed. Then what?
Why, then it goes to the Senate, where they hold the trial.
The trial is a big deal. It is presided over by the Chief Justice, and the entire Senate sits as jury. And if the Senate votes for conviction, President Bush is removed from office.
That’s the dry stuff. Here’s where it gets juicy:
1) The Chief Justice, John Roberts, was appointed by President Bush. Even if people say he ought to recuse himself, there is no Constitutional provision for him to do so.
2) It takes a 2/3 vote by the Senate to convict. Currently, the Senate has 55 Republicans, 44 Democrats, and 1 independent (who, again, is a Vermonter who tends to vote with the Democrats. And again, if we wait until after the November elections, it STILL won’t help — only 33 Senators are up for re-election, and only 15 are Democrats. Even if they take every single one of those seats (and 9 are considered “safe” for the Republicans), they’ll only have 59 (plus the Vermont seat, possibly) — still short of the 67 needed for conviction.
OK, setting aside all that, let’s presume that the utterly impossible happens and President Bush is impeached and convicted. What happens next?
Why, he goes back to Crawford Texas, Cindy Sheehan sells her house, and President Cheney steps up to become president.
You know, I could almost go along with this impeachment silliness. The thought of the left devoting all that time and effort into removing Bush, then realizing that they’ve just handed the Oval Office to Dick Cheney, warms the cockles of my heart.
In the meantime, though, I hope they have a lot of fun with their little “impeach Bush” movement. While they’re engaging in that particular form of political masturbation, they ought to be too busy to cause any real mischief.