The poll was conducted by Zogby International, the highly-regarded non-partisan polling company. The poll interviewed 1,216 U.S. adults from January 9–12.
The poll found that 52% agreed with the statement:
“If President Bush wiretapped American citizens without the approval of a judge, do you agree or disagree that Congress should consider holding him accountable through impeachment.”
43% disagreed, and 6% said they didn’t know or declined to answer. The poll has a +/- 2.9% margin of error.
Responses to the Zogby poll varied by political party affiliation: 66% of Democrats favored impeachment, as did 59% of Independents, but only 23% of Republicans. By ideology, impeachment was supported by Progressives (90%), Libertarians (71%), Liberals (65%), and Moderates (58%), but not by Conservatives (33%) or Very Conservatives (28%).
Majorities favored impeachment in the East (54%), South (53%) and West (52%), and Central states (50%). In large cities, 56% support impeachment; in small cities, 58%; in suburbs, 46%; in rural areas, 46%.
Support for Clinton Impeachment Was Much Lower
In August and September of 1998, 16 major polls asked about impeaching President Clinton (http://democrats.com/clinton-impeachment-polls). Only 36% supported hearings to consider impeachment, and only 26% supported actual impeachment and removal.
The major difference? Who controls Congress.
Should we have an impeachment? Maybe. Not every abuse of power deserves an impeachment, and Bill Clinton almost certainly didn’t. The distinction I’d draw is between crimes committed by the man and crimes committed by the office. Clinton may have perjured himself (depending on how you parse something or other), but the testimony was in a case which was allowed to proceed only because the alleged conduct was not about the President’s official actions. Stevens wrote:
The principal rationale for affording Presidents immunity from damages actions based on their official acts–i.e., to enable them to perform their designated functions effectively without fear that a particular decision may give rise to personal liability–provides no support for an immunity for unofficial conduct. Moreover, immunities for acts clearly within official capacity are grounded in the nature of the function performed, not the identity of the actor who performed it.
So there’s a case to be made that impeachment ought properly to be reserved to actions taken by the President in his official capacity. If the President shoots a guy in the head, does the Senate have to do its thing before the President goes to jail? Thankfully, we’ve never had to cross that bridge, but this ruling seems to give some opening for the President to be arrested and tried for that unofficial act before the Senate removes him from office (or the cabinet invokes the 25th amendment).
There is no dispute that President Bush authorized the NSA program in his official capacity as President. Congress seems to think that they didn’t authorize the President to violate FISA, and most people agree that FISA was violated.
Congress, and its power to impeach, is one of many checks and balances that the Founders established to ensure that no President ever seized monarchal power. Just as the 2nd amendment can be said (rightly or wrongly) to be the one that guarantees all the other rights, the Article I, Section 2 power of the House and the Art. 1, Sec 3 power of the Senate are the clauses that make all the rest possible.
So, this is all just hippy liberal claptrap right? It’s just me, Kos, Moderates, Independents, Democrats, Progressives, Libertarians, the young, the East, South, West and Middle, right?
It’s also Arlen Specter. The gentleman from Pennsylvania said to George Stephanopoulos:
STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, if the president did break the law or circumvent the law, what’s the remedy?
SPECTER: Well, the remedy could be a variety of things. A president — and I’m not suggesting remotely that there’s any basis, but you’re asking, really, theory, what’s the remedy? Impeachment is a remedy. After impeachment, you could have a criminal prosecution, but the principal remedy, George, under our society is to pay a political price.
He’s holding hearings on the program, and while he’s not talking impeachment now, I wonder what he’ll say in a few weeks.