Bricker is, regretfully, right from a strictly Constitutional point of view.
There is a question, implied strongly but insofar as I know never overtly stated in past debates, of whether or not the fact that some incursion on liberty is permissible unless strictly prohibited is an acceptable state of affairs. Stated simply, do we want to live in a statist society where the government can do whatever it wants unless explicitly stopped from doing so by some constitutional prohibition, or do we want a more libertarian society where citizens can do what they want unless prohibited from doing so by a valid, constitutional law? The Conservatives on this board seem to be arguing from the first perspective, which truly bothers me. The Left seems to be arguing from the second, but have never clearly articulated that it’s what ought to be the underlying philosophy of governance. And, of course, the principle that with rare exceptions like Cincinnatus, a leader will acquire as much power as he legally can, always applies. So do we work to delimit that power to the minimum needed for good government, or do we acquiesce in the amassing of additional power?
There is, however, a second issue raised by Alaric here, and it’s one I really want to see argued out.
There is absolutely no doubt that the House of Representatives may impeach any government official, and the Senate convict him/her, on any grounds that they agree is acceptable. If a federal judge is arrested and pleads to reckless driving, a misdemeanor, that is legitimate grounds for impeachment if the House chooses to do so, and for conviction if the Senate agrees.
However, I want to raise my voice in protest that impeachment is a valuable tool but one to be used extremely sparingly. I think there are grounds to convict Mr. Bush of violating at least one of his constitutionally-mandated duties of office. But I personally would be dismayed if he were impeached for that.
I believe impeachment, particularly of the President but also of judges, should never be used as a political tool, as a means of removing or making impotent an incumbent with whom one disagrees. It should be reserved for such stunts as Watergate where the delicate (unwritten) constitutional mechanisms by which representative government is created and maintained are being subverted.
Twenty years ago, the idea that the Andrew Johnson impeachment was anything but the politically motivated and indefensible behavior of a factionalist Congress was laughable. Yet a similar stunt was pulled on Mr. Clinton by a similarly factionalist group.
I believe it is time to say, “Enough!” to that sort of behavior, elevating political factionalism over the good of the country, and not impeach Mr. Bush, even though his behavior is quite impeachable, to take a stand for restraint in using constitutional sledgehammers to drive home thumbtacks.
And I would love to see a bipartisan coalition hold the Administration accountable for its behavior with respect to having gotten us into the Iraq war, the detention of prisoners at Guantanamo, the prevalence of scare tactics to justify government regulation intruding on formerly acceptable behaviors, and all the rest of the things people are getting up in arms about… not by impeachment or any other such tool, but by legislation mandating accountability and fair trials in courts of law.