Tuesday, May 09, 2006

A Decision to Make

My Democrats have high hopes for electoral victory this fall, and a real chance to take back at least one of the Houses of the legislature. With Congress hauling in an approval rating somewhere in the 20's, and Republicans making the big headlines (Kennedy goes into rehab, but Duke Cunningham could inspire a whole album about how "pimpin' ain't easy.") I wonder who frustrated voters are more likely to turn out of office.

But what do voters want more of: Better government, or an impeachment of President Bush? Do the President's low approval ratings mean that voters don't agree with his direction, or do those numbers represent a voter uprising calling for prosectution? Is the American public ready for our second impeachment in as many Presidents?

Is this the new face of American Politics: you don't like someone so you impeach them? I don't know if I like that plan of action.

Personally, I'd rather get a legislative agenda together. I'd rather get some competent Congressional oversight. The reason the President has been able to 'get away' with all his 'crimes' is because the Congress won't step up to their Constitutional duties and tell him "No" where they are able. I'd rather my Party focus on that.

If, in the course of responsible legislative business, they find some 'smoking guns' of Presidential misconduct, then we should be discussing such options. But making impeachment a plank in the platform? I worry about this one, Ms. Pelosi.

I remember hearing something about counting my chickens before they hatched...


hillary said...

I think boiling it down to a matter of like and dislike is a little simplistic.

S.A.W.B. said...

The sooner they can come out with their supposed list of 'high crimes', the sooner the conservoblogosphere can blast them into oblivion. Should make for an interesting set of races in '06 and '08 if Pelosi et al go through with this...

Dante said...

One important thing the Republicans (hopefully) learned during Clinton's impeachement is that the general public really don't want to see the leader of their country as a bad guy. They may or may not agree with the President on political issues and they may or may not think he's doing a good job in office but they sure don't want think he's tying young girls to train tracks and snickering while stroking his handlebar moustache as a train rolls by. They don't want to see it and they don't want to hear about it. Richard Nixon may be the only exception but the Democrats were demonizing Nixon his entire political campaign, especially for his proximity to McCarthy.

But forget all of that. I think you guys should go out there and yell "Impeachment" at the top of your lungs kind of like the guy in the old Mortal Kombat commercials. You can even dust off your "Bush lied, people died" banners. They worked so well in 2004.

hillary said...

So can we translate that as "Nixon shouldn't have been impeached?"

Dante said...

Since I'm the only one who mentioned Nixon, I assume that hillary is addressing me? That's the only reason I think that hillary is addressing me since I didn't comment at all on the impeachability of Richard Nixon, only that the public was receptive to seeing Nixon as the bad guy.

And not to be a grammar Nazi but "shouldn't have been impeached" implies that he was impeached but the impeachment was in error; however, Nixon was not impeached at all. He resigned. I think the usual readership of this blog is smart enough to know that and I'm not insinuating that hillary didn't know that but I am often surprised by the number of otherwise quite intelligent and well-read people I run into who think that Nixon was impeached.

Patrick Armstrong said...

The House Judiciary Committee approved articles of impeachment against President Nixon. He resgined before the entire House could actually impeach him.

hillary said...

Yes, perhaps I overreached in my translation.

_Do_ you think Nixon should have been impeached?

Patrick Armstrong said...

I absolutely think Nixon should have been impeached, for all the reasons described in those articles of impeachment. If he had not 'cut and run' he would have been impeached by the House and convicted by the Senate.

But those Articles of Impeachment never would have made it to the floor on partisanism alone - it took the Democrats (who already hated him) and Republicans (who came to realize that real crimes were being committed) working together to force Nixon out.

dadvocate said...

Impeachment of Bush is certainly a weak platform for the Democrats. By many it will be seen as revenge for the Clinton impeachment which was also ill advised. Such action may actually help the Republicans in 2008 as by then the public will (may) have seen the Democrats have nothing better to offer, just more partisan bickering.

For the Democrats to focus on dissing the Republicans rather than actual issues will ultimately fail in strengthening themselves. We need something better than "we're not Republicans," especially if you're a Democrat.

patsbrother said...

I'm not a big fan of the House Minority Leader, but it appears she's getting a bad rap from skittish Democrats and from Republicans who'll say anything. I think the more appropriate topic here would be the Domesday naysayers who freak out. (For people who hate semantics so much, you'd think you guys wouldn't fall for this.)

In response to the article his post links to, paT said, "But making impeachment a plank in the platform? I worry about this one, Ms. Pelosi."

I linked up to the Washington Post article that got the Slate commentator so up in arms. What follows appears to be the dolorous passage in question:

"Pelosi denied Republican allegations that a Democratic House would move quickly to impeach President Bush. But, she said of the planned investigations, 'You never know where it leads to.'"

Which looks to me exactly like this statement: "If, in the course of responsible legislative business, they find some 'smoking guns' of Presidential misconduct, then we should be discussing such options."

Further, the only quoted source to mention impeachment in the Slate article: Sen. Elizabeth Dole, in a letter to scare people into voting Republican this fall.

Perhaps I'm not reading the writing on the wall; perhaps my naivete is monumental. But I don't see cause for uproar here.

It seems to me Republicans are doing better because, any time a reporter rushes up to them with news that Republican X said this about that/isn't that horrible/what do you think?, that it is almost obligatto for them to just blow it off. For Democrats, we can't seem to blow it off, we search the syntax for questionable connotations concerning definition number 3, as we try to be the first to distance ourselves from the other (you know, for the street cred). The major caveat to this: unless there is some really lame way to blame the Republicans for it: see Sandy Berger and the Republican timing conspiracy.

If we're all going to be nailbiting partisans, Republicans at least have the good decency to consistenly blame Democrats first.

Dante said...

According to the Constitution, "treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors" are the impeachable offenses. According to the Articles of Impeachment, Nixon was accused of Obstruction of Justice, Abuse of Power, and Contempt of Congress (thanks, Pat for the link). I believe that Nixon did obstruct justice and I would consider that a high crime. That would mean that Nixon should've been impeached had he stayed in office. And Pat is right that impeachment would've been a joint effort.

mikey said...

There really are several questions being asked here (I’m going to apologize in advance for the length):

Question Number 1: With Congress hauling in an approval rating somewhere in the 20's…I wonder who frustrated voters are more likely to turn out of office.

According to a poll conducted by the Pew Research Center last month, 9% of the people thought this congress has gotten more done when compared to recent congresses while 41% thought they had gotten less done. 47% thought the same amount had been accomplished.

When asked whether Republican Leaders of Democrat Leaders were to blame for this, 58% blamed Republicans and 13% blamed Democrats. 24% blamed both/neither or thought there were other reasons.

What’s particularly interesting is that only 5% of respondents to both questions were either unsure or didn’t know. Why is this particularly interesting? Because it means virtually everyone has an opinion…which is unusual.

Based on this, we can figure that people are both going to turn out for this coming election and vote Democrat. There are other factors, however, that are going to influence this election the largest being the year.

People tend to vote on local, domestic issues during off election years and Democrats are typically strong on these issues. (Advantage Democrats) Also, the low congressional approval ratings as a whole tend to suggest that the nation is in an anti-incumbent mood. There are more Republican incumbents than Democrat (Advantage Democrats).

All that being said, the continuing situation in Afghanistan and Iraq, coupled with the burgeoning Iran crisis, has National Security continuing to top the concern list which is an area the GOP is always strong in. (Advantage Republicans) But Bush’s low approval and high disapproval ratings (29% favorable, 55% unfavorable) means that the chief National Security cheerleader will have a nill if not negative affect. (Advantage Democrats).

What does all this mean? Americans are irritated with Congress and blame the Republicans. Americans have already made up their minds. There’s not much the GOP can do about it.

Question Number 2: But what do voters want more of: Better government, or an impeachment of President Bush?

As of right this minute, Americans are not calling for a wholesale impeachment of Bush. The numbers tell us that they blame Congress just as much as the administration. Why is this? Because they think it is Congress’ job to stand up against a rogue administration. The idea is simple, “You (my Congressman) are from the same place as I am. You have to come back to South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, California, Texas, or wherever I live and look me in the face. The President doesn’t have to do this and we can’t expect him to. That’s why it’s your job to protect my rights, not his.”

Question Number 3: Is this the new face of American Politics: you don't like someone so you impeach them?

Do I think this is the new face of American Politics? Nope. I think it’s the old face of American Politics.

It’s a mistake to think that just because it took about a 100 year vacation from the floor that impeachment or the threat of impeachment hasn’t historically been a tool for political vengeance. Don’t forget that the reasons behind Andrew Johnson’s impeachment were at least as stupid if not stupider than the reasons behind Clinton’s.

We also need to remember that FDR, Johnson, Lincoln, Truman, Reagan, and Bush (Sr.) were all threatened with impeachment.

In fact, if history teaches us anything in regards to impeachment, it’s that it tends to happen only when our country is its most polarized. Pat’s right when he says that Nixon would have been impeached had he remained in office, but not because of anything specific he did. He would have been impeached because our nation was dramatically polarized and needed someone to blame.

The truth is that impeachment, whatever the actual charges, is about the most responsible thing that Congress can do because, by the time articles of impeachment actually reach the floor, public opinion on both sides of the aisle have become so vitriolic that it’s a question of whether we’re going rip the chief executive’s throat out or each other’s.

Impeachment is a safety valve, a reset button that lets the public vent its frustration with the government without having to tear it down.

Question Number 4: Can we (Democrats) equate Bush and Nixon in terms of public opinion and impeachment possibility or will do we risk being “blasted into oblivion” by “the conservoblogosphere.”

First of all, we can easily make a Bush/Nixon parallel especially when we realize that Bush’s approval numbers are comparable to Nixon’s mid-watergate. (During the Watergate investigation Nixon’s approvals hovered around 27%. As of this week, Bush’s approvals are at 29% and dropping.)

Furthermore, the same obstruction of justice, illegal wire-tapping, and contempt for congress charges apply to Bush as did to Nixon.

In addition, I don’t think the “conservoblogosphere” is going to be sticking its neck out for Dubya anytime soon, at least not if they want to remain relevant. How do I know this? Because not only are bastions of conservative opinion like Bill O’Reilly and Chris Matthews are ripping the president at least as much as liberals are, but Bush’s popularity among conservatives has all but bottomed out. A CBS/New York Times poll has Bush’s disapprovals at 26% among Republicans.

Furthermore, even the most conservative of states are running from him. Survey USA has the President at a 39%/57% approve/disapprove in South Carolina noting that he hasn’t been above 50% in a year. (For those of us who don’t follow SC politics, Bush won this state, home of Strom Thurmond, in ’04 with 58% of the vote.)

So, if you ask me, I ain’t much afraid of oblivion.

Question number 4: Should Nixon have been impeached?


And finally…

Question number 5: Should Democrats make a Bush impeachment part of their political platform in November?

If House and Senate Democrats want to go around calling for Bush’s impeachment, then I don’t see a problem with it. It will invigorate the liberal base which has no problem sitting on its hands in an off year and grab the kind of headlines you need when you’re running against a well funded incumbent.

That being said, it would be a mistake to make that the main platform plank. Say it if you want. Scream it if you need to. Don’t make it the only thing you scream about. That’s the mistake the DNC made in ’04.

Politics 101: It’s easy to get people to vote against something. It’s hard to get them to vote for something.

All the votes Kerry got in ’04 were anti-Bush votes. Those were the easy votes. If he could have managed some Pro-Kerry votes in there somewhere, he would have won.

Oh, one more thing for patsbrother. People hate politicians because they think they’re corrupt and disingenuous. Automatic dismissals and “in the course of the investigation” style comments come across as politically measured and easy to back out of. Your average reader, viewer, voter hates that. To them you haven’t said anything at all. You might as well have taken the fifth.

patsbrother said...

Just in case it wasn't obvious, I DID take the Fifth: those passages of my comment that make such statements came from Rep. Pelosi and from paT.

I think the best course of action at this point is to prevent the President from doing anything else ridiculous, and to have vigorous oversight by Congress as a back-up. Which means my hopes are we all vote for Democrats or sane Republicans, wait out the next 2 1/2 years, and try and forget this decade thereafter.

Dante said...

Since we're throwing out numbers and polls, I'd like to take the opportunity to give you the only numbers that matter. Numbers that tend to be more accurate (though quite a bit less classy) than polling. I'm going to give you betting odds on the upcoming political races (from sportsbooks.com):

The President's job approval rating has an over/under of 35.5% for July 6. Apparently they're shaky on this number because it's 5:4 for taking either the over or the under. Usually one side will have a > 100% payout.

Cheney and Rumsfield are very favored to keep their positions by Dec 31, 2006. Betting that they lose their jobs by then garner 1:4 and 1:2.5 odds, respectively.

Betting yes on impeachment inquiries gets you 1:6 odds while betting no gives you a paltry 4:1.

The closest betting race is for the House. Betting on the Democrats taking control only pays out 1:1.6. On the other hand, bettin Republican is even worse at 2:1. The Senate is pulling odds of 1:2 Democrats to 2.6:1 Republicans.

So far, the smart money is still not on the Democrats, even with Bush and GOP polling numbers as low as they are.

mikey said...

Keep in mind that Dante’s betting odds are where they stand six months before the election. That’s like placing your money on who’ll win the national championship based on the pre-season standings. No one’s played Florida. No one’s played Ohio State. No one’s played Texas. And no one’s played Georgia.

Also, come on, let’s not kid ourselves…there’s nothing classy about polling data.

Dante said...

"Keep in mind that Dante’s betting odds are where they stand six months before the election."

The same can be said of the polling data. The bets being made from this far out are where people think the election will be based on the information they have today. This is no different than asking people how they'll vote or what they think of the President and/or Congress based on the information they have today. Right now the poll numbers are not putting a significant dent in the odds. My point is that watching the odds change is more reliable than watching public opinion change.

In a sense, gambling on this sort of issue is a meta-opinion. Since we're fond of sports analogies today, these meta-opinions tend to predict better than mere polling. For example, Yahoo Sports' group NFL prediciton picked a winner correctly 85% of the time last year and even hit an uncanny 18 exact score predictions during the course of last season. These folks weren't picking who they liked. They were picking who they thought would win.