Will Liberals Forget the Lessons of 1998?

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Will Liberals Forget the Lessons of 1998?

In this column at AlterNet.org, William Goodman, the legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, contends:
The groundswell for President Bush's impeachment is growing, and last week the establishment media finally took notice.
So where's the public "groundswell"?

Goodman points to a Washington Post column in which Harold Meyerson wrote that the impeachment issue was "all over the blogosphere," was on the minds of union activists, and that the San Francisco Board of Supervisors "has passed an impeachment resolution."

Okay, I'm sold -- when the SF Board of Supervisors takes a position, you know it reflects what they're thinking in Peoria.

Goodman also refers to a Wall Street Journal article that focuses on ImpeachPAC and its founder, Bob Fertik. But the article gives no solid evidence of a "groundswell" of public sentiment in support of impeachment.

The Journal referred to a Zogby poll late last year that had support for impeachment at 51 percent. Not exactly a resounding majority, but somewhat impressive -- until, that is, you dig deeper.

The Zogby poll tested public support for impeachment "if the president didn't tell the truth about the reasons for the Iraq War ..." That's a big "if." And I say that as someone who personally believes Bush, Cheney and the gang lied. But many of their lies were lies of ommission and deceptive phrases. Proving that they lied is not as simple a task as pro-impeachment groups seem to think.

The odds are that the public would view an anti-Bush impeachment campaign much like it viewed the anti-Clinton impeachment camapign -- as the most abusive form of partisanship. Let's not forget how Republicans fared in the 1998 elections after having put all of their eggs in the "basket" of impeachment.

I sympathize with the anger of pro-impeachment groups, but, even if Bush were impeached and removed from office, consider the consequence: Cheney succeeds Bush as president. That's a prospect that I find more horrific than 3 more years of Bush at the helm.

Liberal activists should heed the lessons of 1998 and abandon their misguided impeachment campaign. Instead, they should devote their energy to identifying thousands of new moderate-to-liberal voters who are receptive to their issues and whose votes this November could be pivotal in ending GOP majorities in state legislatures and/or the U.S. House and Senate.

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