Chuck Hagel floated the I-word yesterday during his appearance on ABC's "This Week". He warned that George Bush could face impeachment unless he adopted a policy on Iraq more to the liking of Congress. Hagel, who wants to run for the Republican nomination for President in 2008, has apparently learned the word impeachment in some other resource than the Constitution:
Some lawmakers who complain that President Bush is flouting Congress and the public with his Iraq policies are considering impeachment an option, a Republican senator said Sunday.
Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee and a frequent critic of the war, stopped short of calling for Bush's impeachment. But he made clear that some lawmakers viewed that as an option should Bush choose to push ahead despite public sentiment against the war.
"Any president who says 'I don't care' or 'I will not respond to what the people of this country are saying about Iraq or anything else' or 'I don't care what the Congress does, I am going to proceed' — if a president really believes that, then there are … ways to deal with that," Hagel said on ABC's "This Week." ...
In the April edition of Esquire magazine, Hagel described Bush as someone who didn't believe he was accountable to anyone.
"You can impeach him, and before this is over, you might see calls for his impeachment," Hagel told the magazine.
Only Senators completely ignorant of the Constitution would consider impeachment a viable option for dealing with policy differences between the executive and the legislature. The Constitution, in Article 2, Section 4, makes very plain the bases on which Congress can move to impeach a President:
The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.
It does not grant Congress the right to remove a President on policy grounds. In fact, the entire idea of the balance of powers is to ensure that policy differences get worked out by compromise and that Congress does not act out of a mob mentality. The founders made the branches co-equal for a reason, and that was to limit the power of both. Otherwise, they would have chosen the parliamentary model -- they had the British system as an easy example to follow -- and made Congress the arbiter of executive policy.
This is just another example of Congress trying to abdicate its own responsibility on Iraq. Congress could end the war in Iraq tomorrow by cutting off all funds for the deployment. They do not need George Bush to take that step. However, it would then put the responsibility for everything that follows squarely on the shoulders of Congress, and the Representatives and Senators there largely want to avoid that. A handful of them would rather initiate an unconstitutional impeachment adventure, which would leave Dick Cheney in charge and result in no policy change whatsoever anyway, than accept the responsibility of their own actions.
It's more than passingly strange that a man who wants to run for President seems so unfamiliar with the document that established the office. Hagel must be confused as to which party he proposes to lead. I don't think he's going to win much support in the primaries by running on the impeachment platform , at least not running as a Republican.