Rep. John Murtha wants to bring the troops home from Iraq, and he says he is willing to impeach President Bush to do it.
At the very least, the Pennsylvania Democrat is willing to threaten Bush with impeachment until Bush bends to his will.
There are two ways to describe Murtha's tactics: one would be "gutsy." And the other would be "dumb."
I think I am tending toward the latter.
When, in November 2005, Murtha, a decorated Vietnam veteran and pro-military moderate, called for getting U.S. troops out of Iraq, it became a very big deal.
"The war in Iraq is not going as advertised," Murtha said. "It's a flawed policy wrapped in illusion."
But that was 18 months ago. The troops are still there, even more are headed that way, and Murtha wants action now.
"We need to make this president understand," he told CBS's Bob Schieffer on "Face the Nation" Sunday.
"Mr. President, the public has spoken. There's three ways or four ways to influence a president. One is popular opinion, the election, third is impeachment and fourth is, and fourth is the purse."
Schieffer asked him if he was serious and if impeachment was really "an option on the table."
"I'm just saying that's one way to influence a president," Murtha said.
Yes, it is one way. But a very bad one.
The Constitution says the House of Representatives can impeach the president, vice president and other civil officers for "treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors."
It doesn't say anything about using impeachment to strong-arm a president to bend to your will.
If Murtha thinks George Bush is running a hopeless war in an incompetent manner, that is one thing.
But if John Murtha actually thinks George Bush is a criminal -- and thinks he can prove it -- then he should go ahead and try to impeach him. It takes a simple majority vote in the House of Representatives to impeach and a two-thirds vote in the Senate to convict.
But Murtha should not use impeachment as a political tactic. It is wrong. And it is counterproductive.
Here is the lead paragraph of a story by Michael Finnegan in Sunday's Los Angeles Times: "President Bush's unpopularity and a string of political setbacks have created a toxic climate for the Republican Party, making it harder to raise money and recruit candidates for its drive to retake control of Congress."
Want to know how to turn that around? Want to know how to make George Bush an object of sympathy rather than an object of criticism?
Try to impeach him.
It is not only bad politics, it is bad for the country. It would paralyze all three branches of government -- the executive branch would be on trial, the legislative branch would conduct the trial and the judicial branch would preside over the trial. And for what? Not to prosecute a president for criminal acts, but to achieve a political goal.
On Jan. 4, Byron York of National Review Online attended a town meeting in Arlington, Va., where Murtha spoke. A member of the audience raised the impeachment of Bush, and York asked Murtha about it after the meeting.
"At this point, we just don't have enough information," Murtha said. "I'm very hesitant, even with Nixon, to support impeachment until I see the facts. And I just don't see enough facts to support impeachment at this point."
Asked whether he would support just an impeachment inquiry, Murtha said: "Well, I'm not even sure that I have enough facts to support that at this point. There's only one reason for impeachment as far as I'm concerned, and that's treason and treasonous acts. That's very complicated, not something I can answer. I hesitated to say anything about Nixon until the very end, when I heard the tapes, so that's not something I would say anything about at this stage."
So should we conclude that in the last four months Murtha has found evidence of "treason and treasonous acts" in George Bush's conduct?
And what would they be, exactly, aside from disagreeing with John Murtha?
Impeaching Bill Clinton was shabby and political, and impeaching George W. Bush would be shabby and political.
There is also another argument against impeachment that I can sum up in two words: President Cheney.
That alone ought to make George Bush impeachment-proof.
Special Thanks to Politico.com