John Nichols, in an interview with Bill Moyers, clarifies a very important–and misunderstood–point about impeachment (italics mine):
JOHN NICHOLS: Bill Moyers, you are making a mistake. You are making a mistake that too many people make.
BILL MOYERS: Yes.
JOHN NICHOLS: You are seeing impeachment as a constitutional crisis. Impeachment is the cure for a constitutional crisis. Don’t mistake the medicine for the disease. When you have a constitutional crisis, the founders are very clear. They said there is a way to deal with this. We don’t have to have a war. We don’t have to raise an army and go to Washington. We have procedures in place where we can sanction a president appropriately, do what needs to be done up to the point of removing him from office and continue the republic. So we’re not talking here about taking an ax to government. Quite the opposite.
When the Republicans impeached Clinton over lying about a sexual indiscretion*, they managed to convince people that the legitimate exercise of Congressional power to prevent executive misappropriation of power was wrong. One of the weird side effects of the Compulsive Centrist Disorder that afflicts the punditocracy is the notion that political conflict is to be avoided. Sociopathic institutions**, like the Bush administration, count on that to survive.
So remember: impeachment–it’s not just for blowjobs anymore.
*The idea that lying about a sexual affair, particular when that has no consequence on public business and is ultimately found to be inconsequential to the legal matter at hand (and thus doesn’t constitute perjury) is somehow morally equivalent to the repeated abuses of power and of the system of checks and balances by the Bush/Cheney administration is absurd. It’s not that Clinton didn’t do a bad thing; it’s that Little Lord Pontchartrain has done many, far worse things to the point where the legitimacy of the Congress has been undermined. As Nichols notes, that is the constitutional crisis, not the process to rectify it.
**I have no idea if Cheney, Bush, and pals have antisocial personality disorders. I believe Cheney is a sociopath, and Bush a narcissist, but these medical diagnoses should be made by qualified professionals. However, the aggregate behavior of the administration does correlate nicely with the clinical definition of antisocial personality disorder.