It’s no secret that the Democrats would like nothing better than to impeach President George W. Bush. A lot of their words and actions in recent weeks have been devoted to purusing that goal. Since Republicans own a superior position in both House and Senate numbers, as well as higher public approval by party, it would appear unlikely that the Democrats could hope to produce the conditions where they could actually bring about an impeachment, but at the same time, it would be wise to recall that because the House is always up for re-election every two years, even unlikely events are still possible. And if Democrats were able to claim the House, the likelihood that Bush would be impeached would increase significantly, due to the extremist character of the DNC campaigns, and the unity in hatred of Bush that Democrats have displayed these past three years.
Or would it? Many people believed that as soon as Republicans gained control of Congress, they would immediately put everything in the new order of Conservatism, yet that did not happen, in the main, in the years following the 1994 change in House control. Even now, with solid majorities in both chanbers of Congress, a Republican measure is not a sure thing to pass, to say nothing of a Conservative measure. It is reasonable to presume that Democrats are largely united now, generally as a defensive measure to avoid becoming completely irrelevant to the legislative process. If the Democrats were able to become a majority again in the House, the factions that existed in the past would almost certainly resurface. It should be understood that the desire to impeach President Bush is neither new, nor truly a universal desire among Democrats. Some of the more extreme Democrats began looking for ways to impeach Bush during his first term, simply as punishment for beating Gore. But also, most Democrats understand that impeachment is rare for important reasons, much more important than the spite of bitter extremists like Dean, or sour losers like Kerry or Gore.
Most people, when considering impeachment, naturally recall the case against President Clinton, or the near-impeachment of President Nixon, averted only because Nixon resigned the office. But many people have forgotten that Democrats regularly pilloried President Reagan, and impeachment was suggested by more than one leading Democrat, and for very much the same imagined offense - protecting American interests and advancing freedom in the Middle East. But despite the publicity gained by those most litigious Liberals, the process never really gained steam; Democrats in the main recognized that the American public would not support impeachment of Reagan; he was simply too popular. Modern Democrats, naturally, will not accept any comparison of Dubya to Reagan, especially since they themselves were forced to praise Reagan for his undeniable accomplishments last year. But they would also do well to recall the history of impeachment threats, and why they do not usually come to pass.
Presidents generally get into impeachment-level trouble not because of unpopularity with the public, but conflict with Congress. one may lead to the other, but unless the Congress is outraged, impeachment is not an option. As an example, some of President Lincoln’s actions during the Civil War were unpopular, as were some of FDR’s policies to install the New Deal, but in neither case was Congress sufficiently angry to begin impeachment hearings. Perhaps the earliest example of a case where a President provoked the anger of Congress was the Louisiana Purchase which is now, ironically, 0widely considered to be one of the savviest and succesful negotiations in U.S. history. At the time, however, many Congressmen were unhappy with President Jefferson acting in a capacity which they felt belonged solely with Congress, and for a time Jefferson found it necessary to conduct sensitive diplomatic negotiations with his own Congress. Another good example, and an obvious one for historians, would be President Jackson, who did a great deal to increase the power and authority of the Presidency, and to Congress’ mind this came at the expense of Congressional authority. The Congress stopped short of impeaching Jackson, but he was censured, in a clear ‘shot across the bow’ to warn that he had reached a limit with the Congress.
When a President steps over the line with Congress, the resolution is usually more private than a direct confrontation. When President Truman fired General MacArthur, many Congressmen were outraged, but rather than publicly display a fractured government in time of war, leading Democrats made it known to Truman that he would not have their support for a 1952 re-election campaign, which led to his statement declining a run for another term.
In total, then, President Bush is very unlikely to be impeached, even if the Democrats should somehow take control of the House. Public support for Bush in terms of job approval rises and falls, but the public generally like the man, and support his ideals. Also, it is very likely that Democrats could only take the House by a campaign of reasonable policies; a vendetta against the President would not only be likely to fail in its immediate desired result, but create a backlash which could easily sweep in another Republican as President in 2008, which is the Democrats’ worst-case scenario.