THE TROUBLE WITH IMPEACHMENT. Everyone has made good points about the possibility of impeaching President Bush; there are lots of worthy arguments on both sides. But there's one political factor to consider: much as their epic incompetence at running the government has discredited the very idea of government, making new government solutions substantially harder to get past a skeptical public, Republicans' impeachment of President Clinton in 1998 discredited the very idea of impeachment.

Say the word now, and many people think of "a partisan effort to drag the country through a ridiculously disingenuous show trial, trumping up phony claims of 'high crimes and misdemeanors,' for no reason other than revenge on your political enemies." It almost doesn't matter anymore what the president does; anyone who proposes impeachment is going to be greeted by many people with nothing but eye-rolling. Given that, short of killing a man on national television for looking at him funny, the president can do pretty much what he wants without worrying that he'll lose his job. It may take decades before impeachment is viewed as the product of principled and justified outrage at a president's unacceptable behavior in office.

But who knows -- maybe when a Democrat gets elected, all the rules will change. It's happened before.

--Paul Waldman

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