2005-12-22 17:35:49 UTC
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Published on Thursday, December 22, 2005 by Editor & Publisher
'Impeachment' Talk, Pro and Con, Appears in Media at Last
NEW YORK -
Suddenly this week, scattered outposts in
the media have started mentioning the "I" word,
or at least the "IO" phrase: impeach or impeachable
The sudden outbreak of anger or candor-or,
some might say, foolishness-
has been sparked by the uproar over revelations
of a White House approved domestic spying program,
with some conservatives joining in the shouting.
White House correspondent for
Knight Ridder Newspapers
(known as "Hutch" to the president),
observed that "some legal experts asserted
that Bush broke the law on a scale that could
warrant his impeachment."
Indeed such talk from legal experts
was common in print or on cable news.
Newsweek online noted a "chorus" of impeachment chat,
and its Washington reporter, Howard Fineman,
declared that Bush opponents are
"calling him Nixon 2.0 and have already
hauled forth no less an authority than John
Dean to testify to the president's dictatorial
The 'I-word' is out there, and, I predict,
you are going to hear more of it next year -
When chief Washington Post pollster Richard
Morin appeared for an online chat, a reader
from Naperville, Ill.,
asked him why the Post hasn't polled on impeachment.
"This question makes me mad," Morin replied.
When a second participant made the same query,
Morin fumed, "Getting madder."
A third query brought the response:
Media Matters recently reported that
a January 1998 Washington Post poll
conducted just days after the first
revelations of President Clinton's
relationship with Monica Lewinsky
asked about impeachment.
A smattering of polls
(some commissioned by partisan groups)
has found considerable, if minority,
support for impeachment.
But Frank Newport,
the director of the Gallup Poll,
told E&P recently that he would
only run a poll on the subject if
the idea really started to gain
mainstream political traction,
and not until then.
He noted that he had been besieged
with emails calling for such a survey,
but felt it was an "organized" action.
Still, he added,
"we are reviewing the issue,
we take our responsibility seriously
and we will consider asking about it."
Conservative stalwart Jonah Goldberg
at National Review Online takes the talk
seriously enough to bother to poke fun at it,
practically begging Bush
foes to try to impeach him.
"The main reason Bush's poll numbers
would skyrocket if he were impeached,"
"is that at the end of the day the
American people will support what he
did [with the spy program]."
And the folks at conservative blog
RedState.org took issue with Fineman's
noting that for "all his fearmongering"
he "fails to note the essential point:
the more the Dems mutter
'impeachment' in 2006,
the more it helps the GOP,
because it just further entrenches
the notion that the Dems are out of
touch, partisan, and not serious
about national security."
But John Dean,
who knows something about these matters,
calls Bush "the first President to admit
to an impeachable offense."
The American Civil Liberties Union
threw more fat on the fire with a
full-page ad in The New York Times
on Thursday calling for a special
counsel to look into the secret
spy operations and urging Congress
to get involved in considering the
possible high crimes involved.
And one of those thoroughly unscientific
MSNBC online polls found about 88% backing
the idea through late Wednesday.
Washington Post blogger/columnist Dan Froomkin,
declaring that "The 'I-word' is back,"
assembled an array of quotes on the subject.
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.),
he pointed out,
sent a letter this week to four
unidentified presidential scholars,
asking whether they think Bush's
authorization of warrantless domestic
spying amounted to an impeachable offense.
Todd Gillman wrote in the Dallas Morning News:
"Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga.,
suggested that Mr. Bush's actions
could justify impeachment."
And Froomkin cited Jonathan Turley,
a law professor at George Washington
University and a specialist in surveillance law,
saying 'When the president admits that he
violated federal law, that raises serious
constitutional questions of high crimes
When Washington Post pollster Richard
Morin finally answered the "I" question
in his online chat, he said,
"We do not ask about impeachment
because it is not a serious option
or a topic of considered discussion --
witness the fact that no member of
congressional Democratic leadership
or any of the serious Democratic
presidential candidates in '08 are
calling for Bush's impeachment.
When it is or they are,
we will ask about it in
Morin complained that he and
other pollsters have been the
"target of a campaign organized
by a Democratic Web site demanding
that we ask a question about impeaching
Bush in our polls."
But Froomkin commented,
"there's nothing wrong
with asking the question."
The debate should only grow in 2006.
Fineman predicted a dark year ahead:
"We are entering a dark time in
which the central argument advanced
by each party is going to involve
accusing the other party of committing
what amounts to treason.
Democrats will accuse the Bush
administration of destroying the
Republicans will accuse the
Dems of destroying our security."