THE POLITICAL WORLD spent this past week analyzing Ralph Nader's decision to run for president, but lost was this nugget from Sunday's "Meet the Press" appearance:
TIM RUSSERT: In terms of what you stand for, this is what you said in July of last year about George Bush: "Mr. Bush was not only 'beatable but impeachable,' for deceptions and prevarications on national security matters . . ." Will part of your platform be the impeachment of George Bush?
RALPH NADER: Let me put it this way. When a president misleads, if not fabricates, going to war and sending our sons and daughters to war with no exit strategy, with a quagmire over there, that is very serious, Tim. If there's any better definition of high crimes and misdemeanors in our Constitution, then misleading or fabricating the basis for going to war, as the press has documented ad infinitum, I don't know any cause of impeachment that's worse. . . .
RUSSERT: So there should be an impeachment hearing and trial?
NADER: I think Congressman John Conyers is going to file such a request.
It would be big news, if true. Unfortunately for Nader, it's not.
"I am fairly certain--but not positive--that [Conyers] is not contemplating anything like that," says a senior staffer for the Detroit congressman. "He's been hearing from lots of people all sorts of suggestions about what should be done regarding the administration's course of conduct in Iraq and a few other areas. He's basically been in a listening mode. I think he's interested in possibly having some scholarly consideration [about impeachment]. . . but drafting articles? No."
How Nader became confused on so important an issue is a little unclear. Sources say he met with Conyers, but that Conyers made it clear (his remarks at an ANSWER rally notwithstanding) that he was not going to pursue impeachment. Nader's office ignored repeated requests for comment.
But just because John Conyers isn't with him, doesn't mean that Nader is alone on the idea of impeaching the president. Indeed, he has all sorts of company.
THE HANDFUL of impeachment drafts floating around the web have a few common themes. They want to get rid of Bush for "crimes against peace and humanity," "war crimes," and the "deprivations of the civil rights of the people of the United States and other nations, by assuming powers of an imperial executive unaccountable to law."
The cudgels have been taken up here and there by brave individuals. Last July, Sen. Bob Graham intimated that Bush should go the way of Nixon and Clinton; the Los Angeles Times's Robert Scheer is also on board. However only Clair Callan, an 82-year-old former congressman from Nebraska, has been gallant enough to put his money where his mouth is: Last spring he filed a federal suit alleging that Bush had violated the 1973 War Powers Act. His suit was dismissed.
Not all of the loony left has glommed onto impeachment, of course. Lyndon LaRouche, for one, is cautious on the subject: "Is 'W' impeachable? Should he be impeached? To impeach 'W' while Cheney is still Vice President, would be tantamount to treason against the entire human race!"
Last August in the tiny northern California town of Arcata, town councilman Dave Meserve found a way around the Cheney problem by proposing a resolution calling for the impeachment of both the president and vice president. After months of deliberation, the council compromised with Meserve by sending a letter to Congress asking them to look into the president's conduct during the Iraq war. The Santa Cruz city council took similar action in September.
PROFESSOR FRANCIS A. BOYLE teaches international law at the University of Illinois and is something of an impeachment regular. "This is Boyle's second impeachment campaign," his website bio says proudly, "the first of which took place in 1991 when he co-authored the resolution to impeach George H.W. Bush . . ."
Boyle's operation is small and, truth be told, one gets the sense that it might be motivated not entirely out of political, or even ideological, principle. Impeach-Bush-Now.org is littered with links to Boyle's legal writings, links to Real Audio files of Boyle's interviews, and lots and lots of contact info for the professor. Sample letters Boyle provides for voters to send to their elected representatives, say things such as, "International Law Professor Francis A. Boyle . . . is willing to help any member of Congress draft articles of impeachment free of charge" and "I recommend you contact Professor Boyle." In his bio, Boyle notes that he's been on "The O'Reilly Factor."
In contrast, Ramsey Clark's VoteToImpeach.org is a serious operation. The site claims that over 383,000 people have voted in their "referendum" to impeach the president. They have a large print ad which ran in the New York Times and the San Francisco Chronicle. And they have tchotchkes!
BUT IF YOU WANT more than T-shirts and bumper stickers, you'll need to visit ImpeachCentral.com for your free impeachment kit. A spin-off of Democrats.com, ImpeachCentral takes a Deaniac approach to the impeachment battle, waging the fight with MeetUps and Martin Luther King quotes. What is interesting is that its sister site, Democrats.com, was founded by David Lytel and Bob Fertig and has an advisory board made up of the kind of people--such as Clinton pollster Stan Greenberg, Gore advisor Greg Simon, and Jared Shutz, the cofounder of BlueMountainArts.com--who would normally be uncomfortable rubbing elbows with Ramsey Clark.
Not that they should be held responsible for the site's impeachment drive, mind you. Democrats.com has this nifty disclaimer:
Note to right wing conspiracy theorists: Democrats.com Advisory Board members provide occasional advice upon request from the founders--just like asking a wise relative for advice. Naturally, if one ignores such advice when sought, or fails to seek it in the first place, those individuals are not responsible for your actions. Except for writing articles under their names, these individuals are not involved in, or responsible for, the editorial content of this site. Nor are any of their present or past associates or employers, including President Clinton and the Democratic National Committee.
Who knows how much trouble Webster Hubbell could have saved himself back in '93 if his all-white country club had carried a similar disclaimer for its members.
FOR DEMOCRATS, impeachment is a case of good news/bad news. The bad news is that impeachment isn't likely to progress past the angry petition stage. The good news is that the landscape would seem to suggest that Ralph Nader isn't positioning himself to peel off votes from either John Kerry or John Edwards. Lyndon LaRouche, however, should watch his left flank.
Jonathan V. Last in online editor of The Weekly Standard.