Impeaching Cheney

Andrew Sullivan points to a new Rasmussen survey in which 31 percent support the impeachment of Vice President Dick Cheney, with only 40 percent categorically opposed and 29 percent “not sure.”

Which makes the pro-impeachment position as popular and as reasonable in the public’s mind as continuing to approve of the job that Bush is doing. Why is this view regarded as “unserious” again?

Because it’s a far different thing to think someone is doing a lousy job versus that they should therefore be charged with a crime?

These numbers aren’t “serious” because they reflect a polarized, partisan atmosphere and frustration with a sustained, unpopular war rather than actual belief that a crime or crimes were committed.

Indeed, even Sully’s closing litany reflects this:

When you examine the vandalism Cheney has done to the Constitution, the rule of law, and America’s moral standing in the world?

While, practically speaking, an impeachable offense is anything the House of Representatives says it is, surely damaging “America’s moral standing in the world” nonetheless falls short of any legitimate threshold for “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

And what “vandalism,” exactly, has Dick Cheney done to the Constitution and the rule of law? The vice president has zero authority, absent the ability to vote in the case of a tie in the Senate.

To the extent that Dick Cheney is powerful, it comes entirely from his ability to persuade the twice-elected president. So, to the extent the enactment of Dick Cheney’s policy preferences constitutes impeachable crimes, the rightful target of proceedings should be George W. Bush, not Cheney.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, US Constitution, US Politics, , , , , ,
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. Jim Bentley says:

    These polls always have “undecided” or “unsure” as an option. I wonder what the results would be if they included “I could care less” as an option?

  2. Steve Plunk says:

    The left has turned unpopular policy decisions into impeachable offenses. Serious people understand what nonsense this is. The reason congress has not acted on any such proposal is the lack of factual basis in the charges.

  3. jay k. says:

    wouldn’t participating in a conspiracy to reveal the indentity of a covert operative be considered “high crimes and misdemeanors”? of course that investigation was obstructed. and i completely understand that the far right doesn’t care that it was obstructed. but it still happened.

  4. Robert says:

    Lying to the American public in order to have them support a war of aggression is not an impeachable offense.

  5. Paul says:

    If trying to replace your own Cabinet officers or failing to mention a blow job are impeachable offenses (let’s start with the latter if anyone wants to discuss the difference between “serious” and “nonsense”), then surely GWB and Cheney have committed a few, as probably have many Presidents from both parties. But James is quite right to point out that many in the poll probably didn’t understand that you are only supposed to be impeached for crimes, not for being on the wrong side of the winds of public sentiment.

  6. psmarc93 says:

    Of course no one is suggesting impeachment for unpopular decisions, to suggest this is to falsify the case against him. Of course Cheney has committed no crimes — because that’s the point of an impeachment and subsequent trials, to determine which crimes were committed. It’s like saying we shouldn’t have pursued John Wilkes Booth because he hadn’t been found guilty before the trial! Actual judgment and sentencing may or may not come AFTER an impeachment, especially once the process has turned up evidence of crimes.
    Nevertheless, Cheney has a lot to explain — how culpable was he in the treasonous act of exposing an undercover CIA officer? How much did he falsify or simply ignore intelligence reports to help make a case for war? How much has he diverted contracts to Halliburton, a company he still profits from? The Republicans set the bar for impeachment on lying about a blowjob–if the bar is THAT low, fine, but now no one should reset it to give this animal a pass.

  7. T-Ray says:

    and let’s not forget to say again that the reason we are having such a hard time with over-sight and or investigations is the deliberate destruction or withholding of e-mails, memos, and documents from this administration. The contempt of subpoenas and false testimony from within the whitehouse is telling as well. BTW,what is up with a secret energy policy? What if I want to help, or don’t approve of the direction. Where is my say in this democracy again?

  8. legion says:

    I have a crisp new five-dollar bill for the first person to lay their hands on the documentation of that “energy summit” Cheney held with the big swingin’ dicks of the industry way back when (and promptly “cheneyfied” into secrecy).

    I have a second five-dollar bill that says those documents would cause Cheney to resign and/or go to jail.

  9. Steve Plunk says:

    jay k.,

    Armitage exposed Plame. That’s been determined as fact. The special prosecutor found no evidence against Cheney.


    Exactly what lies? Spare me the WMD nonsense. Our intelligence services and many foreign intelligence services bought Saddam’s ruse that he had them.


    It wasn’t the sex it was lying under oath about the sex. Why can’t people see that?

    Can’t anyone come up with a real crime? All this made up stuff is getting very old.

  10. jay k. says:

    armitage did, and said it was a big mistake. but please show me where it says only one person can reveal classified information. the extreme right loves this argument…please, please, show me. and try to understand this…i know it’s difficult…the investigation was OBSTRUCTED. hard to find evidence when you being obstructed. see…that’s why it’s against the law.

  11. davod says:


    I think you are having a flashback to an earlier administration.

    Legion – you to. Are you going to run through a trailer park with the $5.00 bill to see what you can come up with.

  12. davod says:

    Steve Plunk:

    WRT to the impeachment. I read at the time that the prosecutor (for the house), a Democrat, was said to be extremely angry that the House settled on the few charges`they did. Not to downplay the seriousness of what was referred to the Senate, but there was supposed to have been far more meaty charges which could have been taken up.

  13. davod says:


    I should also say that, because we are talking about the House and the Senate, the results of the investigation will probably never see the light of day.

  14. Robert says:

    Yeah, the old “everyone thought Saddam had WMD” claims.
    Tell that to Hans Blix and Ritter. Or you could have asked me, it was so obvious they had no proof.And, if everyone thought it, why’d Cheney fix the intelligence?

    But, if I want to play as stupid as others and take your word, I have this:
    So Cheney, our intelligence community, and other nation’s intelligence agencies all fell for the ruse by Saddam (“the next Hitler”)?

    I take it back. Cheney should be impeached because he isn’t fit to be VP.
    Believing a man as evil as Saddam should seriously call into question the judgement of someone for the office of VP.
    And if he didn’t know Saddam was so evil, all he had to do was watch the 6:00 news.
    Thanks for letting me know about the lack of judgement at both our Presidential and VP levels.
    And people wonder why the US is becoming a 3rd world nation. Wonder know more friends.

  15. T-Ray says:

    Help I am in a flash back and have no clue where I am or how to return? I want you to tell me why this administration is OK in not listening to the people of the USA. Also include how keeping secrets from all the folks you are representing is OK. I mean I thought we were all in this country together. Maybe we the people come up with something that OUR GOVERNMENT would respond to. That to me is impeachable activity.

  16. legion says:

    While I’m with you about Clinton – BJs I don’t care about, but perjury needs to be punished always – I’ll take issue with this:

    Spare me the WMD nonsense. Our intelligence services and many foreign intelligence services bought Saddam’s ruse that he had them.

    Ummm… no. Where exactly has anyone said it was Saddams’s ruse? I don’t recall him saying anything about having them. And for the four billionth time, many intel agencies said he did not have WMDs – the only agencies that said he did only did so because of info they got from us. Definitely incorrect, possibly criminally-falsified info they got from us. While it doesn’t directly point to Cheney as a criminal, it does answer why other countries don’t respect us any more – they can’t trust a word our elected leaders say (and neither can we). Surely the level of disgrace they’ve both brought to our nation is worth some discussion of impeachment…

  17. anjin-san says:


    Careful dude, Steve is a… serious guy

  18. vnjagvet says:

    If Cheney is impeached, who becomes VP?

    I have $500.00 that says Cheney will neither be impeached nor convicted.

    Pelosi and her leadership just doesn’t have either the guts or the skill to pull it off.

    It just isn’t going to happen.

    Any takers among the cheerleaders here?

  19. Paul says:


    It wasn’t the sex it was lying under oath about the sex. Why can’t people see that?

    Can’t anyone come up with a real crime? All this made up stuff is getting very old.

    I’m fully aware that the count was for perjury not the sex. But I stand by my comment that the whole affair (hmm, maybe that isn’t a good word here) was not a “serious” matter for Congress. In the first place it does more harm than good to allow a meaningless civil suit to proceed against a President because it just begs for trolling abuse, which is exactly what the Paula Jones suit was about to its financiers. Surely Cheney and Guiliani must agree that the Commander in Chief should not be saddled with such junk until they are out of office, even if that does run the risk that someone’s civil suit loses some of their witnesses or evidence. And in any event, the alleged perjury was entirely immaterial to the state of the nation. Al Qaeda was brewing 9/11 and here we had Clinton hamstrung for fears that going after them would look like whatever that contemporary movie was called about a president starting a war to distract from a personal scandal. The coming Medicare crisis was staring us down and the Congress could only give us its faux indignance over clinton’s personal life.

    I dish this out both ways. When Bush or Hillary or Cheney or Reid wake up in the morning, which do they think of first — how to solve America’s problems or how to blame America’s problems on the other party? I guess the reason they do it is because voters eat it up. The very un-serious impeachment of Clinton is one of the very many dark chapters in that sad tale.

    As for naming “real crimes” by Cheney, I’ll leave that debate to others, either way I’d rather see Congress focus on real problems that will still matter long after 2008. Plus, most of the things being alleged about Bush and Cheney were pretty well known when the country reelected them in 2004.

  20. Paul says:

    Pelosi and her leadership just doesn’t have either the guts or the skill to pull it off.

    It has nothing to do with guts or skill, she doesn’t have the 2/3 vote in the Senate to convict because there is not any clear evidence or public demand for it. Frankly, a sitting P or VP should probably only be impeached if their crimes are so obvious and heinous that it wouldn’t take any guts or skill to remove them, a bipartisan coalition would just have the vote.

  21. legion says:


    If Cheney is impeached, who becomes VP?

    Bush chooses someone who then has to go through confirmation (so it won’t likely be Rove 🙂 That’s how Ford became Veep after Spiro Agnew was impeached for his earlier corruption as Gov of MD.

    As for the rest of your comment – no bet. Both because I don’t think they have the guts either and because of the majority issue Paul mentioned. I mean, the guy shot shot someone in the face, and there wasn’t even an investigation for cryin’ out loud. The guy he shot apologized for getting shot. He’d have to eat a puppy on live tv to even get the motion out of committee.

  22. davod says:

    Are you sure a replacement VP requires confirmation of the Senate?

  23. James Joyner says:

    Are you sure a replacement VP requires confirmation of the Senate?

    25th Amendment:

    Section 2. Whenever there is a vacancy in the office of the Vice President, the President shall nominate a Vice President who shall take office upon confirmation by a majority vote of both Houses of Congress.

  24. Randy says:

    I’m pretty sure Cheney is guilty of real crimes, but it’s impossible to do any real discovery, because we can’t get to the facts, due to the extreme secrecy and amorta code around the Bush administration.

    First, I can’t prove, but suspect that he was deeply involved in the phony electrical blackouts and price gouging of the summer of ’01. We know that he held secret energy meetings early in the course of the Bush administration, then he went on the stump warning about coming widespread blackouts. The Bush administration refused to get involved in policing this scam when clearly there was criminal activity involved.

    Second, I believe he’s the main force in the Valerie Plame leak. Outing a CIA operative is a serious crime. People will say Armitage, (who has apologized for his part) was the first one to leak her name and therefore was the only guilty party. That’s like saying the first in on a gang-rape is the only one responsible.

    Third, he’s probably just as guilty of obstruction as Scooter is, but only Congress has the remedy when some one as powerful as Cheney is involved.

    I’m pretty sure shooting a guy in the face is a crime, but again, we’ll never know what really happened that day. This is Chinatown. Just move along.

    Of course he’s a large party to the shared guilt of multiple violations of international law and war crimes, but we will have to leave that to a hypothetical functioning Congress to sort out.