The wisdom of the impeachment strategy

More follies in the House today, where Dennis Kucinich offered a privileged motion to impeach Cheney. The Dem leadership tried to sit on the motion, but then the Republicans decided to back it, forcing the Dems to either anger the base or (supposedly) waste time in a futile effort at impeachment. Finally, the motion was sent back to committee on Democratic votes.

My initial reaction to calls from Blue Blogistan for impeachment was contempt; the Senate would never remove, because that would require 17 Republicans who put country ahead of party, which will never happen. So what’s the point?

Well, Judiciary Committee Chair John Conyers just persuaded me:

House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), agreed that it was not in Pelosi’s interests to advance the articles of impeachment. “If she were to let this thing out of the box, considering the number of legislative issues we have pending … it could create a split that could affect our productivity for the rest of the Congress,” Conyers told Fox News.

The Democratic leadership must get this through its head: the Republicans will do anything to stop your productivity for the rest of the Congress. They have already shattered the record for filibusters in one Congress, and this one isn’t even half over yet. The GOP is not interested in having you govern.

This is a permanent campaign, and it will continue to be so until, to paraphrase Jefferson, movement conservatism is sunk “into an abyss from which there shall be no resurrection for it.”

Thus, the best strategy for the rest of the Congress is simply to investigate away, dramatize the administration’s contempt for the rule of law and the lies that created the greatest strategic disaster in American foreign policy since the 1920’s.

Perhaps Conyers and the rest of the leadership knows this, and is simply refraining from saying so. I hope so: as much as the Democrats seem to have been hapless over the last few weeks, they may be crazy like foxes. Just keep plugging away and losing on the floor, and let the Republicans’ rating keep tanking. If today’s election results are any indication, that strategy seems to be working. Pretty soon the GOP will be competitive only in the deep South.

But if they genuinely think that avoiding divisiveness will yield productivity, they are even more clueless than I thought.

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.