Richard Nixon, facing impeachment, was forced to resign the presidency in August
of 1974 - twenty-one months after a record-breaking victory. With nineteen
months in which to work, and following a disputed razor-thin reelection, it’s
time to focus on the elections of 2006 - and George W. Bush’s removal from
office in 2007.
What are the odds of pulling it off? Historically, it’s a long-shot. Short of
death, no American president has ever been removed from office. Andrew Johnson,
in 1868, was impeached but acquitted; Bill Clinton was impeached in 1998,
acquitted in ‘99. Mr. Nixon simply saw the writing on the wall and made a quick
The numbers, too, are daunting. Currently, there are 232 Republican members
of the House of Representatives, to 202 Democrats (and one Socialist, Bernard
Sanders of Vermont). In the Senate, the Republicans hold 55 seats to 44 for the
Democrats (with one Democratic-leaning independent, James Jeffords - also of
Vermont). The House requires a simple majority to pass an article of
impeachment; the Senate requires a two-thirds majority for conviction.
So it might sound like wishful thinking, or perhaps outright fantasy. But
keep in mind - America went from record budget surpluses to record deficits
virtually overnight. In less than two years we witnessed what was generally a
democracy embrace disturbing elements of fascism.
We are living in a tumultuous era of extreme action and extreme reaction.
How vulnerable is Mr. Bush? Just more than two months into his second term,
Bush has put himself on the line twice - regarding Social Security privatization
and federal intrusion into the Terri Schiavo case. In both instances - thus far
- he seems to have miscalculated. There is a growing sense that second-term
impotence may be setting in quicker than usual for Mr. Bush.
The challenge, then, is to galvanize Democrats with a singular sense of
purpose. The anti-Bush forces need to coalesce around a powerful issue backed up
with disturbing images. An issue that could put substantial Democratic
majorities into both houses of Congress, that could incite impeachment charges
against both George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.
With, of course, a well-chosen Speaker of the House waiting in the wings to
assume presidential duties.
Waging an illegal war should have been a sufficient issue, but too
many Americans have already shrugged off this particular atrocity - as John
Kerry learned in 2004.
The issue that needs to be driven home to Americans - in a visual and
visceral context - is Mr. Bush’s "culture of torture."
From the New York Times, 3/6/05: "The Bush administration’s secret
program to transfer suspected terrorists to foreign countries for interrogation
has been carried out by the C.I.A. under broad authority that has allowed it to
act without case-by-case approval from the White House or the State or Justice
Departments…In public, the Bush administration has refused to confirm that the
rendition program exists…But former government officials say that since the
Sept. 11 attacks, the C.I.A. has flown 100 to 150 suspected terrorists from one
foreign country to another, including to Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and
Pakistan. Each of those countries has been identified by the State Department as
habitually using torture in its prisons…[The practice has] faced sharp
criticism, in part because of the accounts provided by former prisoners who say
they were beaten, shackled, humiliated, subjected to electric shocks, and
otherwise mistreated during their long detention…before being released without
Off the record, a "senior United States official" explained that the purpose
of sending these prisoners to such countries is to avoid "the costly,
manpower-intensive process of housing them in the United States." Is there one
rational American who truly believes this spendthrift administration could not
find the money for domestic incarceration of a couple hundred prisoners, if they
so desired? The only purpose of foreign internment is to avoid due process of
law - and to inflict torture.
Bob Herbert, columnist for the Times, has been a consistently strong
voice opposing these actions by the Bush administration: "Any government that
commits, condones, promotes or fosters torture is a malignant force in the
world. And those who refuse to raise their voices against something as clearly
evil as torture are enablers, if not collaborators."
If the American public can’t be educated and convinced that this ongoing
process is both illegal and grossly immoral - if they don’t fundamentally agree
that removing the Bush administration is essential to restoring honor and
legality to America, both here and abroad - then, simply put, this country
deserves the dark fate it is building.
Certainly this is a challenge of historic proportions; and certainly - as Mr.
Bush has proved - it is easier to create bad history than good. But this
scenario is not only a light at the end of the tunnel - the first step toward
this country’s salvation - but it is also an opportunity for Americans to show
the world that we are willing to correct our own mistakes.