The Left -- from The Nation's Katrina vanden Heuvel to Newsweek's Jonathan Alter -- has pulled out the impeachment card and is brandishing it as the weapon that will drive George W. Bush from the White House. This could be more than talk. Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer is consulting with legal eagles as she explores the idea.
I must say, I am tickled at their efforts. I supported impeaching the perjury-prone President Clinton, but preferred censure to removing him from office. I also saw the damage to Republicans who pushed to chase Clinton out of office.
But the Bush-haters won't heed history, not when they see an opportunity to relive the glory days of Watergate: Republicans evil; Democrats uncorrupted; reporters respected. As Alter wrote after the story broke that President Bush authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on international calls in efforts to uncover possible agents of al Qaeda, "Similar abuse of power was part of the impeachment charge brought against Richard Nixon in 1974."
Angry leftists are so hysterical that they cannot distinguish between government agents eavesdropping on a president's political enemies, and the data mining of international phone calls in an earnest effort to thwart another Sept. 11 terrorist attack. They don't see that Bush, rather then trying to hide his role in the effort, signed off on the program more than 30 times.
Warrantless wiretaps? Victoria Toensing, a former deputy assistant attorney general in the Reagan administration, called CNN recently to note that the Clinton administration authorized the warrantless search of the house of CIA employee Aldrich Ames.
But the Dems didn't talk of impeachment then.
George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley offers the best argument for impeachment -- not because he is persuasive, but because he is consistent. Turley said he supported the impeachment, conviction and removal of Clinton, and is advocating likewise for Bush, as the Bush wiretaps constitute "a clear and undeniable crime." (He ignores lawyers and judges who see the issue either as far from settled, or come down in Bush's favor.)
Turley added that what the Bushies did "wasn't necessary." The administration could have won warrants from the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act court. Out of tens of thousands of eavesdropping requests since 1979, Alter reported, FISA rejected only four.
Toensing countered that it was necessary. FISA's turndown rate is low because government lawyers don't push for warrants unless they know they'll win.