In March 2006, the Wall Street Journal found that public support for impeaching President Bush was nearly twice the peak support for impeaching President Clinton. This was in spite of eight years of 24/7 scandal mongering and impeachment talk and an actual impeachment trial in Clinton's case, and a virtual news blackout on the grassroots movement to impeach Bush.
This got me wondering--what did Nixon's impeachment poll numbers look like when he resigned rather than face impeachment?
I searched the net a couple of times and couldn't find the relevant stats, so I had to go into the LA Times archives. It turns out that a day before Nixon resigned, his poll numbers were not that different from Bush's: 55% of Americans wanted him removed, and 64% thought there should at least be an impeachment trial in the Senate.
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The earliest polls I could find nine months before that showed LESS support for impeaching Nixon than Bush. One poll showed the public divided on impeachment and the other solidly opposed. This was a week and a half after the "Saturday Night Massacre" when Nixon fired Justice Department officials until he found someone willing to fire the special prosecutor investigating Watergate, so the public had some idea of his wrong-doing.
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So how is it one president was impeached when most of the public didn't think it was necessary, one president ran out of office when a solid majority thought he should be impeached, but a third president with a similar majority in favor of impeachment remains untouched?
For a while, you could blame the media and Congress equally. The public clearly saw the laws, treaties, our constitution, and basic human decency being violated, but the media turned a blind eye or excused it, and Congress either ignored the crimes or retro-actively made them legal. The Democrats at least had the fig-leaf that they were not in control of Congress to hide behind for their inaction.
Now they do not.
Nor can they say that the media is entirely subservient to Bush since even a corporate boot-lick like Chris Matthews feels free to criticize Bush.
Even if the media were still entirely hostile, they would be obliged to cover impeachment proceedings, and when the offenses of the Bush administration were cataloged and described without Karl Rove or Fox News' spin support for impeachment would likely grow even greater.
The real issue of course is not whether impeachment will succeed or fail, or how popular it is, but whether Congress will represent us, whether we have a real democracy or just enough of a semblance of one to lull us to sleep, whether our most basic laws apply to all people including the most powerful, and whether this country belongs to all the American people or just the few that can afford to buy the friendship of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.
And apparently, the friendship of most of our Congress, Democrat as well as Republican, is bought and paid for as well--and not by us.