Plan B

Don’t impeach Bush or Cheney. There are much nastier things to do.

George W. Bush and Richard Cheney have committed high crimes and misdemeanors and deserve to be impeached, removed from office, and be forever ineligible to hold any office of profit or trust under the United States. They have also committee war crimes and crimes against humanity, not to mention multiple violations of domestic law, and deserve to be tried and imprisoned.

That said, is there any substantive advantage for the country or political advantage for the Democrats to be gained by impeaching them, or either one of them? I can’t see it.

Impeaching them both together, with the aim of ending the Maladministration a year and a half early and putting Nancy Pelosi in the White House, would clearly do some substantive good if it worked. But it won’t work. Conviction on impeachment requires seventeen Republican votes (counting Lieberman as a Republican). I don’t think those votes are there, under any circumstances. No Republican is going to vote to change the party in control of the White House in mid-term, and I doubt most voters would be inclined to punish them for standing on the results of the 2004 elections.

If we impeach one or the other, what purpose is served? Would replacing Bush with Cheney be an improvement? Would allowing Cheney to anoint Fred Thompson as The Man for the GOP make it more likely that the Democrats capture the White House in 2008? I don’t think so.

So, although I have no sympathy whatever for the High Broderish notion that it would somehow be an outrage to impeach Bush and/or Cheney, I do think it would be mostly a waste of effort. Just because the pundits are against a course of action doesn’t, by itself, prove that the action ought to be taken.

As an alternative, consider Plan B.

Congressional Democrats create a crisis around the executive privilege/contempt citation issue by issuing a subpoena to Libby (with a grant of immunity), voting a contempt citatation when he doesn’t show up on Bush’s orders, making a referral to the U.S. Attorney that Bush blocks, and then voting a Congressional arrest warrant.

If Bush moves to block Libby’s arrest, I doubt the courts would back him; the precedents for Congressional arrest are old (none since 1934) but still valid. It’s hard for Bush to claim that Libby’s arrest would impinge on Presidential power, since Libby doesn’t work for him anymore.

So either Libby turns himself in and either testifies or sits in the DC jail, or he stays out, a fugitive from justice. Since LIbby doesn’t have Secret Service protection, the arrest warrant could be served without an armed confrontation. Either way, he’s not a sympathetic character.

In the meantime, one of the two Appropriations Committees zeroes out Cheneys White House office (leaving him his Senate office) and takes 95% cuts in the White House press office, political affairs office, personnel office, and whatever unit holds the agency liaisons, and forbidding details to any of the units getting a cut. That actually works, meaning that Bush and Cheney have much less actual capacity to do harm. Constitutionally, no one doubts Congress has the power to refuse to appropriate money. Substantively, the cuts are fully justified by the fact that the units being cut are units over which Bush says Congress can’t exercise oversight, because of his claims of executive privilege.

Can anyone think of an advantage &#8212 either substantive or political &#8212 of impeachment over Plan B? I can’t.

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: