I was on Joe Scarborough's MSNBC show last night, part of a panel discussing whether President Bush should be impeached. The other panelists were Tucker Carlson, Pat Buchanan, and Elizabeth Holtzman, the former Congresswoman who sat on the House Judiciary Committee during Nixon's impeachment, and who has called for the impeachment of Bush.
I'll get to my take on the impeachment question in a second (for those who might have skipped this post's title). But first I want to touch on the most interesting thing that happened during the Scarborough show: in the middle of a spirited debate, a consensus broke out. Not about Bush's potential high crimes and misdemeanors, but about the war in Iraq.
"Look at our panel tonight," said Scarborough. "We have got four people on the panel tonight. Two supposed conservatives, two supposed liberals. That's how most Americans would define the makeup. And yet all four of you oppose the war."
It was yet another demonstration that the old left-right divisions are becoming increasingly obsolete when it comes to the war and national security, and that what is perceived as Bush's greatest strength is his greatest vulnerability.
As Tucker Carlson put it: "I think the war is the issue the Democrats have traction on." He also called criticism of Bush's mishandling of Iraq "the winning argument for Democrats."
This burgeoning political realignment is Karl Rove's worst nightmare. He knows nation-building and lofty talk about seeking "the end of tyranny in our world" goes against the conservative DNA. And if the Democrats wake up to this fact, it could become the Mother of All Wedge Issues -- just in time for 2006.
Which brings us back to the question: Does George Bush deserve to be impeached?
So should Democrats rally around nascent efforts to impeach the president?
Holtzman and others have convincingly laid out the case that Bush has repeatedly violated the law and overstepped his constitutional authority -- lying to Congress in the run up to the war, over the torture scandals, and especially by doing an end run around FISA with his warrantless wiretapping program.
Nevertheless, a push to impeach would be nothing but a huge -- and pointless -- distraction.
Yes, I've seen the recent Zogby poll showing that a majority of Americans believe that if Bush "wiretapped American citizens without the approval of a judge... Congress should consider holding him accountable through impeachment." And the earlier poll where people said they favor impeachment if the president lied about Iraq.
But the House is controlled by the GOP and the votes are simply not there to impeach. Instead, the effort would just take up precious oxygen, energy, and passion better used demonstrating to the American public that the president and his party have made us less safe as a country.
This is the case Democrats need to be making: Bush's imperial adventure in Iraq has had devastating consequences on the real battle at hand -- keeping us safe and secure. And, as I've said before, the evidence is everywhere.
And let's dream for a second that Bush got impeached. Would you really be kicking up your heels at the inauguration of President Cheney?
Election Day 2006 is just eight months away. The best way to hold President Bush accountable for abusing his power is to vote his fellow Republicans out of office and give control of Congress (including the Judiciary Committee) back to the Democrats.
We need to do everything in our power to make that happen. If we succeed, give me a call on November 8th -- maybe then we can talk about impeachment.