Does Bush know any limits?

Bush fired a prosecutor who was getting too close to Jack Abramoff. That gives you a clue about what he might do if Fitzpatrick gets too close to Rove.

Would BushRove really use one of Bush’s Skull-and-Bones classmates in the Justice Department to rein in Patrick Fitzgerald’s inquiry into who burned Valerie Plame Wilson?

Or will Bush pardon Rove, if I win my bet and Rove gets indicted?

Both notions seem far-fetched to me. But of course it also seems far-fetched for Bush to have sacked the prosecutor in Guam who was going after Jack Abramoff three years ago.

The truly scary thing is that, whatever Bush does, he can count on the support of a big chunk of the press, a big chunk of the blogosphere, and virtually every Republican on Capitol Hill.

The least the Democrats can do — and, I fear, the most they can do — is to make the Republicans pay as high a political price as possible.

The impeachment of a President is an extremely grave step, and should be taken only when his illegal actions threaten the Constitutional order. Unlike some other Bush-haters, I have not until now believed that he had crossed that line. Even if he lied us into war, lying the country into war is not the sort of thing the framers meant by “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

But obstructing justice by firing a prosector to keep him from pursuing a corrupt political crony is precisely that sort of thing. (No doubt Bush has deniability through Rove; if so, let him say so, and fire Rove. But, as Sam Spade says in The Maltese Falcon someone has to take the fall.)

The Guam matter calls for a Resolution of Inquiry, which is the first step toward impeachment and which is a privileged motion that must be brought to a vote on the floor. If the Goopers want to support corruption and cover-up, make them vote for it. Again, and again, and again.

The higher the political price, the less likely Bush will be to proceed to extreme measures to protect Rove, Libby, and the others from the consequences of their actions in the Plame affair. His slipping popularity gives him less running room than he would otherwise have.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com