Hagel: Bush Might be Impeached ‘Before This is Over’

Charles Pierce dressed up as Zorro every Halloween until his freshman year in college. And he loves Chuck Hagel.

Chuck Hagel Esquire But there are no places in Hagel for metaphor. His face is too meaty for poetics, its tectonics shaped by old football injuries and one horrible day in the Mekong Delta when the flesh of it bubbled and burned. His sentences are too often arrhythmic, breaking in the middle, when what he’s saying takes an unexpected turn that seems to startle him most of all.

“The president says, ‘I don’t care.’ He’s not accountable anymore,” Hagel says, measuring his words by the syllable and his syllables almost by the letter. “He’s not accountable anymore, which isn’t totally true. You can impeach him, and before this is over, you might see calls for his impeachment. I don’t know. It depends how this goes.”

The conversation beaches itself for a moment on that word — impeachment — spoken by a conservative Republican from a safe Senate seat in a reddish state. It’s barely even whispered among the serious set in Washington, and it rings like a gong in the middle of the sentence, even though it flowed quite naturally out of the conversation he was having about how everybody had abandoned their responsibility to the country, and now there was a war going bad because of it.

“Congress abdicated its oversight responsibility,” he says. “The press abdicated its responsibility, and the American people abdicated their responsibilities. Terror was on the minds of everyone, and nobody questioned anything, quite frankly.”

The problem with impeachment, aside from the tactical difficulty of getting enough votes together, is that there have been no obvious crimes, high or otherwise, with which to bring charges. The “lying to get us to war” trope was rejected by the electorate with the 2004 election. The NSA surveillance controversy has long subsided. The Plame mess resulted in the conviction of Scooter Libby for a crime unrelated to outing a CIA agent. It’s hardly clear for what Bush would be impeahed.

Hegel is right, though, that “Congress abdicated its oversight responsibility.” But, then, that’s nothing new; with rare exceptions, they’ve been doing that since the 1930s. They’re too busy scrambling for their share of the pork–or running for higher office–to focus on something as unsexy as doing their job.

UPDATE: This talk, clearly calculated to endear Hagel to Bush haters and to further alienate him from the Republican base, buttresses the idea that he may be hoping to be the standard bearer for Unity08.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Edgardo says:

    Since “Congress abdicated its oversight responsibility”, Hagel should lead and resign from the Senate and then urge all his colleagues to do the same.

  2. ken says:

    You are wrong again James.

    The lies that Bush, Cheney, Rice, and others told to launch the war on Iraq are more than adequate to justify impeachment and removal from office.

    It is after all against the law of nations, and therefore against the laws of the United States which has adapted the relevant laws here, to start a war without just cause. It is also against these laws to employ torture. Bush and others in his administration are guilty of both starting an illegal war and of employing torture.

    Justice requires not only impeachment but also prosecution for war crimes.

  3. M1EK says:

    “The “lying to get us to war” trope was rejected by the electorate with the 2004 election.”

    It’s not trope; and information continues to dribble out month by month to support it. Nobody who loves this country ought to support a president lying to get us into a war of choice – whether that president is JFK, LBJ, or GWB.

  4. jpe says:

    FISA violations. That’s a federal crime, and could could support an impeachment were the political support there (it isn’t, but impeachment is deep into legal realism territory: high crimes are, basically, what a majority of reps think they are. What matters is the political support rather than the legal grounding).

  5. Steven Plunk says:

    Mistakes are not lies and mistakes are not necessarily criminal conduct. During the pre-war discussions with congress mistakes were made that are certainly not grounds for impeachment. Reasonable people can see that clearly. Reasonable people can see it the other way but that just makes it a push.

  6. As Hagel starts to act like a 2008 wannabe, and folks in Vermont vote to impeach the president, his use of the I-word provides some unfortunate credibility to the possibility.

  7. Hal says:

    Shorter James:

    Because the administration has successfully prevented any damaging information from coming out or obscuring the information that does, it’s clear they shouldn’t be prosecuted for any crimes they may have committed

    I’m still in awe of your philosophy.

  8. Tlaloc says:

    Terror was on the minds of everyone, and nobody questioned anything, quite frankly.”

    Actually some of us have been questioning all along. But we’re troop hating traitors so of course no one listened until the damage was done.

  9. Tlaloc says:

    Mistakes are not lies and mistakes are not necessarily criminal conduct.

    Saying that Saddam tried to buy uranium from Niger after the Brits told us the story was bogus is a lie, a lie by omission but a lie nonetheless.

  10. I think the chances of a serious third party candidate in 2008 are pretty high. The chances of them winning are somewhere between nil and zip, but the chances of them tipping the election to one or the other party is relatively high.

    So what would happen with a Hagel candidacy. At first blush, as a republican, he would be most likely to take republicans with him. But on the other hand, part of what he will do is split the “I hate Bush and the Iraq war” vote between him and the democrat (baring something really weird happening in the democratic primaries). Since there seems to be so little cohesion beyond “this sucks” in the anti-war crowd, any split I think is likely to hurt the democrats more. Once you get past the “I don’t like the war”, then those voters get to decide do I want the candidate who wants to do away with free elections (e.g. eliminating secret ballots for the union votes) or someone else.

    On the other hand, if Rudy took the GOP nod and McCain ran as an independent, that would likely hurt the republicans more. And likewise if Gore, Obama, Hillary or Edwards went the independent route, that would clearly hurt the democrats more.

  11. floyd says:

    “”The lies that Bush, Cheney, Rice, and others told to launch the war on Iraq are more than adequate to justify impeachment and removal from office.””
    Ken; If “lies told” was adequate cause for impeachment,where would we find enough politicians to fill the vacancies left by all the liars??

    What next? Should we fire all the liars in the media and have no “journalism”? [lol]

  12. Steven Plunk says:


    In hindsight of many years we can second guess that British intelligence but in 2003 a British Parliamentary committee look at those reports and pronounce it “reasonable”. Well in my book “reasonable” means likely true and certainly true enough when coupled with all the others facts of the case.

    Taking bits and pieces out of context will not serve the truth. Even Harry Reid talked about all the other reasons besides WMDs that war with Iraq was justified. Will he be charged? No, nobody committed a crime.