Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The I-Word

For everyone out there wondering why President Bush hasn’t been impeached, Salon’s Greg Kamiya explains it for you:
The main reason is obvious: The Democrats think it's bad politics. Bush is dying politically and taking the GOP down with him, and impeachment is risky. It could, so the cautious Beltway wisdom has it, provoke a backlash, especially while the war is still going on. Why should the Democrats gamble on hitting the political jackpot when they're likely to walk away from the table big winners anyway?

The Democrats are keeping their powder dry for the presidential election just 18 months away. All polls point to a big Democratic win and they are playing it cautious--too often what Democrats do best.

Personally, I think the Democrats can’t afford not to impeach. Why? Because of the rest of Kamiya’s article:
What has saved Bush is the fact that his lies were, literally, a matter of life and death. They were about war. And they were sanctified by 9/11. Bush tapped into a deep American strain of fearful, reflexive bellicosity, which Congress and the media went along with for a long time and which has remained largely unexamined to this day. Congress, the media and most of the American people have yet to turn decisively against Bush because to do so would be to turn against some part of themselves. This doesn't mean we support Bush, simply that at some dim, half-conscious level we're too confused -- not least by our own complicity -- to work up the cold, final anger we'd need to go through impeachment.

Looking at the big picture, Democrats need to consider the long-term implications of not going through with impeachment. Because, as Kamiya notes, if the American people understand on a deeply-rooted psychological level their complicity in the Bush train wreck, then they also understand the need for actions to have consequences.

There is a strong punitive strain that runs through the American psyche, just as there is, as Kamiya put it, a “fearful, reflexive bellicosity.” It was that same “crime and punishment” element that caused so many Americans to support the impeachment of President Clinton, while still giving the president the kind of job approval ratings that Bush hasn’t seen in over a year. It was, as they said, the principle at work. Clinton was caught with his, ahem, pants down. No matter how much Americans approved of the job he was doing in the Oval Office, personal failings must always have consequences. It’s as much a part of the American psyche as good guys always winning and the rugged individualist triumphing over the machine.

It’s why in every TV drama, the teenage girl who gets pregnant always dies at the end, or loses her baby -- no matter how much she’s redeemed herself from the “original sin.” Actions have consequences, no matter how much the character has grown in the course of a TV miniseries.

Considering all of the horrible things we know about this current administration--and let’s face it, all but the Kool-Aid drinking cultists know that the Bush presidency has been a colossal failure--then not impeaching is letting them get away with it. Americans know this at a very deep level. Say what you will about the pragmatism of just putting the Bush nightmare behind us, to not bring those who have done wrong to justice goes against the American grain, and Democrats will be blamed for it down the road.

Oh, Democrats might win the next election; heck, they might win the next two. But mark my words, 10 years from now when we look back on this period of history, people will demand to know why Democrats didn’t impeach. In our political system, it’s the ultimate punitive act. Failure to bring justice goes against the American narrative. Democrats will again be called weak-kneed wimps, a label they’ve dogged for decades. Even worse, they will be vilified for not standing up for our democracy.

For the sake of the Democratic Party, for the sake (dare I say it?) of “the brand,” this story must be brought to its rightful conclusion. Failure to do so will bring serious consequences down the road.