John Nichols in a guest column continues to sound the alarm on our current constitutional crisis that he and Bruce Fein set off on the recent Bill Moyer's special. Here's the money grafs.
The Washington elites still try to dismiss the impeachment movement as an ill-considered reflexive reaction to a president Americans don't like and a vice president they fear -- or, worse yet, as some sort of partisan payback. But the plain truth is that most of those who responded to the Moyers discussion recognize that the point of impeachment is not the transitory crimes of small men but the long-term definition of great offices.
Fein, an official in the Reagan Justice Department, and I come from different points on the ideological spectrum, but we agree that the Founders intended impeachment less as a punishment for officeholders than as a protection against the dangerous expansion of executive authority. If abuse of the system of checks and balances, lies about war, approval of illegal spying and torture, signing statements that improperly arrogate legislative powers to the executive branch, schemes to punish political foes and refusals to cooperate with congressional inquiries are not judged as high crimes, the next president, no matter from which party, will assume the authority to exercise some or all of these illegitimate powers.
The burgeoning movement for impeachment is a rational response to a moment when polls tell us that roughly three-quarters of Americans think the country is headed in the wrong direction. This administration has not just let Americans down; it has frightened them. A great many understand, intuitively or explicitly, that we are experiencing a constitutional crisis and that impeachment proceedings are the proper tonic. Unfortunately, key Democrats continue to mistake the medicine for the disease.
The people get it. The politicians don't. This is not about partisan politics, no matter how often the GOP bleats out that tired accusation or how many times the increasingly irrelevant "serious" pundits repeat that plaintive wail. They would be saying the exact same thing no matter what the Democrats do and for all their lofty claims to the contrary, they are not speaking for the average Jake.
The wingers and their paid pundits are the maniac fringe. We are the mainstream and we're sitting at home sneering at the insipid talking heads on the TV set and the intertubes. It simply makes the party look weak and stupid when they quaver in the face of bullying false bravado the rest of us can see right through.
At this point, the people are fed up with the whole lot of the DC insiders. The Republicans only have as much power as the Democrats are willing to give them. They need to stand up to the bullies of the Beltway -- and not back down no matter what they say -- if they want to regain our respect.