On the eve of the New Era, with Democrats on the verge of regaining majority power both in the House and Senate, “Countdown”‘s Keith Olbermann took a look at the incoming 110th Congress with former Nixon staffer John Dean, with some interesting words for those who are hoping for the impeachment of George W. Bush and Richard “Dick” Cheney:

OLBERMANN:  The far end of what you suggest, obviously, would be impeachment, but the merits of that are at best arguable.  I think we can probably both recall an occasion on which impeachment actually bolstered a president`s popularity.  But you wrote recently about impeaching not a president or a vice president, but members of the cabinet.  How would that work, and is it a practical thing?

DEAN:  Well, my thought was, there are some very serious movements afoot throughout the country, local, working right up to state levels and in regional areas.  People are very determined to try to develop an effort and a movement to get Bush and Cheney impeached.

It is not going to happen.  The Senate, there are not the votes to ever convict, even in the House, with a simple majority, sent a bill over.  So what occurred to me is, there are some very good reasons to look at some of the lower-level people, and there–you can do an impeachment just as easily against the secretary of a department, or a White House, senior White House staff person, and raise the very issues that these people are privy to as well, as part of what Bush and Cheney have done.

It may well be high crimes and misdemeanors.  This is where they should be focusing.  I don`t think they should exclude that possibility.  It`s a way to start hearings.  It would send a message across the bow of this administration that the Congress is going to look seriously at the kind of conduct they`re conducting.

Before we write this idea off as the spewings of a right-wing Republican, let’s take a closer look at it.

John Dean is a Republican, yes, but more of a traditional conservative than the “wingnut lunatic fringe” that we see holding the reins of this Administration. In his latest book, Conservatives Without Conscience, he has expressed deep concern and even alarm over the direction this country is going under the current crop of Republicans.

But he also speaks from the historical perspective as someone who was part of another Constitutional crisis — one that was remembered just this past week with the death and burial of Gerald R. Ford, the only President who was never elected to the office. Many times over the past several days, we’ve heard about how Richard Nixon faced impeachment, but only when members of the Senate came to him and said, “We don’t have the votes — the Senate will vote to convict” did he finally step down and hand the Presidency to Ford, the “Inadvertent President”.

Dean has a point — we could impeach Bush and Cheney, but we would not have the votes for conviction. And as we saw with the Republican impeachment of Bill Clinton, all that did was to divide the nation and focus the MSM on trivialites, while the major problems were ignored.

But what about the lower level people? We can’t go after Rumsfeld, but what about Rice for the lack of effort in preventing the 9-11 attacks? Maybe Chertoff for the gross failures of Homeland Security in the Gulf Region during and after Katrina. And I’m sure we can come up with other candidates.

What these efforts would do would be to focus attention not just on the actions of one or two men, but on the entire “culture of corruption” that permeates this Administration, and indeed the entire Republican Party. This would serve two purposes:

  1. It would fit in well with the overarching theme of “ethics reform” that the Democrats are attempting to adopt
  2. It would serve as a jumping board for the 2008 campaigns (Congressional and Presidential), as Republicans would be forced to respond to calls for reform, as well as face scrutiny on their current practices.

Of course, it’s not going to be easy:

OLBERMANN:  But if the administration has, as it already has, already denied the request from the new chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Mr. Leahy of Vermont, for two secret documents about the CIA detention and interrogation of terror suspects, if that stonewalling is already in place, would there not be stonewalling in every respect?  Would there not be some contention that you can`t go and impeach anything that`s not spelled out line by line in the Constitution?

DEAN:  Keith, I think we`re in for two years of struggle to get information the likes of which we haven`t seen since Nixon was in the White House.  I think this administration`s going to try to build a stone wall that is going to make the Wall of China look like a stone–stepping stones.  They`re going to really build a fortress to protect themselves.

Cheney is determined this is the whole way to determine the strength of a presidency is by their ability to keep their secrets, and so they`re going to go to the mat on this.  And I think we`ll–impeachment is one way you can do it.  But, of course, even Nixon himself refused to cooperate with the impeachment committee, and he would have been impeached, one of the articles, the third article, was to impeach him for failure to cooperate with the impeachment committee.  So that isn`t a solution either.

This Administration is going to fight hard to keep control, and to continue Business as Usual. They’re going to be aided by the folks in the MSM (with a few noted exceptions) who will scream “partisanship!” at every turn. It’s going to be up to us to keep an eye on Congress to encourage them to not let up, to leave no stone unturned, to investigate, investigate, investigate…and impeach, impeach, impeach if and only if we know we can convict.

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