It is often said that American politics today are more acrimonious than they have ever been before. Certainly, from the standpoint of a contemporary observer, they seem to be. The hatred that many Democrats feel toward George W. Bush is truly searing -- quite the equal, it is only fair to say, of the hatred many Republicans felt for Bill Clinton.
Still, when one reflects on the things the politicians of earlier decades said about each other, and even did to each other, it is possible to argue that what is going on today is only par for the course. Lincoln was denounced during the campaign of 1860 as "the Illinois baboon." Even earlier, John Quincy Adams had described Thomas Jefferson, elegantly but viciously, as "an affront to the moral order of the universe." Nor should we forget that, amid the emotions roused in the middle of the 19th century by the dispute over slavery, a Southern Congressman walked into the Senate chamber and bludgeoned Massachusetts Sen. Charles Sumner with a cane so thoroughly that Sumner never fully recovered from the beating. Verily, as Finley Peter Dunne's Mr. Dooley remarked to his friend Hennessey, "Politics ain't beanbag."
And yet there are signs that American politics are not only arguably uglier than they have ever been before, but that things are about to get even worse.
Specifically, it now seems clear that, if the Democrats capture the House of Representatives next year, a number of them fully intend to launch impeachment proceedings against President Bush -- whose term, be it remembered, won't expire until January 2009. The grounds are not yet entirely clear, but the Democrats' recent fascination with acts of his (e.g., tapping the overseas phone calls of American citizens without a warrant) that allegedly constitute violations of law, appear aimed squarely in that direction. And various individual Democrats, some of whom (like Sen. John Kerry) hint that they were only joking, and some of whom don't, have said openly that, if the Democrats capture the House, a motion to impeach Bush will be on the agenda.
William Rusher is a Distinguished Fellow of the Claremont Institute for the Study of Statesmanship and Political Philosophy and author of How to Win Arguments .
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