Sunday, December 14, 2008


Peter Baker in the Week in Review section of The New York Times, noting the tenth anniversary of Bill Clinton's impeachment:

... the impeachment represented the triumph of partisanship on both sides of the aisle, a partisanship that remains today. Democrats made a calculated decision to stick by a president of their party no matter his transgressions and to promote partisan division in the Congressional proceedings so they could discredit the other side. Republicans were so intent on turning out Mr. Clinton that they turned away from opportunities for a bipartisan solution.

Yup, that's right -- it was a "triumph of partisanship on both sides." Not bending over and acceding to the attempt to drive Clinton from office for sex lies was just as partisan as trying to drive him from office for those lies.

By this logic, if you're brutally assaulted in a dark alley and you scratch up your assailant's face trying to defend yourself, the proper characterization is that there is "violence on both sides."

Wait -- there's more:

The result has been a distaste for impeachment but little appetite for consensus. Liberal Democrats agitated to impeach Mr. Bush in connection with the Iraq war, warrantless surveillance and interrogation policies, but party leaders had no interest in going down that road again. "Although there are powerful arguments that President Bush has committed high crimes and misdemeanors, there are questions about whether it is prudent to do so," said Bruce Ackerman, a Yale Law School professor.

Mr. Bush's defenders would strenuously disagree. In their minds, the very talk of impeachment over policy differences represents the real cost of the Clinton clash.

That's right -- if a few back-bench Democrats (and powerless commentators and bloggers) merely talk about impeaching a president who committed genuine abuses of power in direct violation of the oath of office by which he swore to uphold the Constitution, that's just toxic partisanship, even if impeachment never came close to happening. It can't possibly be seen as an appropriate response to significant offenses.

I was skeptical about calls for the impeachment of Bush and Cheney throughout their term -- but not because they didn't deserve it. I was skeptical because, given the unity of the Borg Republicans, the chances of conviction were essentially zero -- and because the idea could never get a fair hearing, given Beltway groupthink, as exemplified by people like Peter Baker.

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