William F. Buckley

In any case, the president, like those other "civil officers," can be removed from office if impeached by the House and convicted by two-thirds of the Senate, but this provision of the Constitution has hardly ever been invoked. The impeachment-minded succeeded, in the post-Civil War fever, in impeaching President Andrew Johnson, but didn't get enough votes to convict him.

You have to jump from Johnson more than 100 years to see it come up again. Richard Nixon almost certainly would have been impeached over Watergate, but Tricky Dick coped with that threat by resigning. Still, a presidential impeachment lay ahead -- that of Bill Clinton. He was impeached by the House for lying to a grand jury and for obstruction of justice, but the Senate declined to follow through, and Clinton was free to accept his next honorary degree.

The bill of particulars drawn up by Ramsey Clark et al. against Bush accuses the president of everything this side of ignoring his parking tickets. The articles of impeachment have him down for bombing civilians, lying to Congress, lying to the people, giving unconstitutional orders, etc. If he were indeed guilty of one-half the charges laid against him, he'd belong not in the White House but in jail.

What stands out this time around is that there are no serious people urging impeachment. By "serious" is here intended, men and women of sobriety who weigh conscientiously what constitutes impeachable presidential behavior.

Mr. Bush is swimming in very low political tides. Although he beat down with ease the outrageous and insulting charges of Rep. Pete Stark of California, it is striking that a member of Congress felt free to indulge in that level of public obloquy. There was enough of that for Bush in the election of 2006, which was interpreted, reasonably, as a repudiation of his leadership.

If ours were a form of government patterned after that of the Europeans, Bush would probably have been replaced as leader of his party. But the majority of the American people still think of him as a man of good will and very stout heart who is pursuing his duties as he sees them, a man, moreover, of conspicuous incorruptibility. Let the people pronounce on his stewardship in November 2008.


William F. Buckley

William F. Buckley, Jr. is editor-at-large of National Review, the prolific author of Miles Gone By: A Literary Autobiography.

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