The impeachment issue

EDITORIAL

Our article last week on the case for impeachment struck a nerve. It's been picked up all over the blogosphere, cited on some of the key anti-Bush sites like AfterDowningStreet.org and ImpeachPAC.org, and, based on the responses we've been getting, circulated widely by e-mail. That should come as no surprise: Although elected leaders in Washington are still afraid of the I word, out in the rest of the country it's very much in the political vernacular.

Consider:

. A Jan. 29 ABC News/Washington Post poll showed that, on the eve of the State of the Union address, only 42 percent approve of Bush's leadership and policy directions and 56 percent disapprove. That's the worst poll rating for a president entering the crucial sixth year in office since Richard Nixon, who wasn't around for year seven.

. Although the administration rammed Judge Samuel Alito's Supreme Court nomination through the Senate, it's become clear to much of the country that the new Bush justice is prepared to overturn Roe v. Wade – and that, at the clear direction of Bush's political team, he refused to answer honestly about his positions on key Constitutional issues.

. As Bush speaks to the nation, the trial of his pals at Enron will be getting under way, a daily headline reminder of his corrupt cronies and what they've done to the economy.

. The administration's continued efforts to justify illegal (and ongoing) spying on US citizens has been a total failure. The ever-more-tangled explanations are making less and less sense – and the attempt to claim that Democrats want Osama Bin Laden to freely phone terrorists in the United States is turning into nothing but a big joke.

In the end, people are tired of getting lied to. And Bush is sounding more and more like Nixon, who famously (and foolishly) attempted to ward off the Watergate scandal by announcing on prime-time television, "I am not a crook."

Now it's time to get the people in Congress to pay attention.

As Steven T. Jones reported last week, Rep. Nancy Pelosi was recently in San Francisco for a town hall meeting, and when the question of impeachment came up, she defied her constituents. She said she would not support an impeachment inquiry and urged activists to turn their attention elsewhere.

If that happens, of course, the issue will die – and the Democratic party will be more likely to take another shellacking at the polls in November. It's been more than 30 years since there's been such a dramatic opportunity for progressives to change the direction of national politics in the middle of a presidential term. The congressional class of 1974, those Democrats who swept into office in a frenzy of post-Watergate reforms, had a lasting impact on national politics. The class of 2006 could be just as important.

But so far the Democratic Party has been far too cautious about using the president – and the facts that justify an impeachment inquiry – as a campaign issue. At the very, very least, what Bush has done is grounds for a full congressional investigation, which will happen only if the Democrats retake the House or Senate. And that will happen only if the president – and his lies, and his war, and his imperial concept of executive power – is the deciding factor.

Pelosi, who leads the House Democrats, needs to start talking, openly, about the need for a change in the White House – not in 2008, but right now. Today. SFBG