Bill Moyers Journal had an absolutely essential program on impeachment the other night. Go here and watch it; it's an hour long, which is a lot of video to watch on your computer, but it is well worth it.
Moyers' guests were Bruce Fein, one of the people who wrote the articles of impeachment against Bill Clinton, and John Nichols, of The Nation, who has just written a book on impeachment. Fein, who was an official in Reagan's administration, is a traditional conservative. Like John Dean, who has written that the Bush administration is worse than Watergate, Fein is horrified at what has been happening in Washington. He argues that both Bush and Cheney must be impeached.
Two essential points: Nichols noted that "impeachment is not a constitutional crisis. It's the cure for a constitutional crisis." Most of us make the mistake of turning the two around in our minds. Fein argues--and he's right, I believe--that the elevation of the executive branch into an independent, virtually uncontrolled branch of government will not end with Bush if it is not ended before he leaves office. A Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, not to mention a Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani or Fred Thompson, will be mightily tempted to use the expanded powers of the presidency. That, as Fein points out, is the real threat that Bush, Cheney & Co. present to us.
There has been increasing attention paid of late to analogies between the United States and the Roman Empire. The Bush administration has given the country a mighty shove down the road toward despotism and away from democracy. Rome's leaders sealed the empire's fate when they headed down a similar path. The genius of democracy is its capacity for renewal and recovery; the fatal flaw of authoritarianism is the absence of the people's judgment.