Impeachment Ought to be Reserved for Extreme Cases
I agree that impeachment ought to be reserved for extreme cases—cases where an official actually breaks the law in substantial way.
The criminal acts of the Bush administration clearly meet this standard; there are any number of "smoking guns". Bush has lied to Congress about (among other topics) the justification for the war in Iraq, an actual crime. He has spied on the conversations of Americans without warrant from the FISA court, an actual crime. He has, in the U.S. Attorney firings, clearly obstructed justice, an actual crime. But most importantly, Bush has prosecuted a war of aggression, which is not only a crime against U.S. law, but a Crime against Humanity. In a just world, Bush would face not only impeachment, but also a trial before the World Court for this crime.
Steve asserts that "there is not widespread support for impeachment -- calls coming from and echoes across vast stretches of the political landscape" and that "there is not fear of the governmental structure having lost its popular support."
This assertion is at best controversial. Two polls show wide support for impeachment:
By a margin of 50% to 44%, Americans want Congress to consider impeaching President Bush if he lied about the war in Iraq...In any event, this consideration is meaningless. It's preposterous to suggest that we shouldn't support impeachment because impeachment isn't supported. The case for impeachment, if persuasive, should build support; if unpersuasive, the case should diminish support.
By a margin of 52% to 43%, Americans want Congress to consider impeaching President Bush if he wiretapped American citizens without a judge's approval...
The Impeachment Process Has Been Injured
This consideration is irrelevant. The case ought to stand on its own; we don't stop prosecuting people for murder just because O. J. Simpson's murder trial was botched. Regardless of historical context, however, the way to heal an injured process is to exercise it correctly, not abandon it.
Steve asserts that "any use of the mechanism would be easily cast as merely retaliatory..." Well, duh. That's how propaganda works, especially right-wing propaganda. We can't allow ourselves to be intimidated by propaganda, especially when the facts are on our side.
He concludes that such propaganda "would only injure [the impeachment mechanism] further." But would it? Absent rational and legal grounds for impeachment (a question on which Steve seems blissfully ignorant), such propaganda would be factually correct; it would be the groundless impeachment itself, not the propaganda, that would injure the process further. On the other hand, if there were grounds for impeachment, opposing it from fear of opposition propaganda would be nothing but cowardice.
Impeachment is Politically a Bad Move
This consideration is utterly irrelevant. The function of those in government is not just to win elections, and the function of the voters is not to "root for the shirts" and support an arbitrarily chosen party regardless of their policies. At some point, the government has to actually govern. The considerations of enforcing the law, and ensuring that we have good laws to enforce, has to come up somewhere, and it is precisely on this criterion that those of us appalled by the blatantly illegal and monstrously immoral acts of the Bush administration.
As Steve himself notes, political weakness and passivity is a bad strategy. Impeachment is a strong, active move; forswearing it is passive and weak.