On Wednesday's Countdown, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann and frequent guest John Dean discussed the possibility of a Democratic Congress moving to impeach members of President Bush's Cabinet as an alternative to actually impeaching the President or Vice President. After Dean contended that Democrats would need to "find their spine and go toe to toe" with the administration because Republicans "play hardball in a much tougher and more ruthless manner than Democrats," Olbermann brought up Dean's idea of impeaching Bush administration members. Olbermann: "The far end of what you suggest, obviously, would be impeachment, but the merits of that are at best arguable. I think we can probably both recall an occasion in which impeachment actually bolstered a President's popularity. But you wrote recently about impeaching not a President or a Vice President, but members of the Cabinet. How would that work? And is it a practical thing?" (Transcript follows)
After Dean argued that such an impeachment could be used to hold hearings on the President's and Vice President's possible "high crimes and misdemeanors" and "send a message across the bow" of the administration, the two then fretted that the administration might be successful at "stonewalling" an investigation, with Dean suggesting such stonewalling might compare to the Great Wall of China. Below is a transcript of relevant portions of the January 3 Countdown show on MSNBC:
Keith Olbermann: "You have written on this subject. Is it going to be difficult for the Democrats to fight fire with fire, the parties, it would seem, having radically different ideas about what constitutes fair play in politics, don't the Democrats go into something of a disadvantage if they get into a street brawl with the Republicans on all this?"
John Dean, Former Nixon White House Counsel: "I think they do. There's no question now that the parties have become so polarized, you're seeing the extreme personalities, the ones who are really in the arena. And the Republicans do play hardball in a much tougher and more ruthless manner than Democrats have been wont to do. And to deal with that, now that they have something of a take on what the voters want, they're going to have to stand up and find their spine and go toe to toe with these people, or they're not going to be back in 2008."
Olbermann: "The far end of what you're suggest, obviously, would be impeachment, but the merits of that are at best arguable. I think we can probably both recall an occasion in which impeachment actually bolstered a President's popularity. But you wrote recently about impeaching not a President or a Vice President, but members of the Cabinet. How would that work? And is it a practical thing?"
Dean: "Well, my thought was there are some very serious movements afoot throughout the country, local, working right up to state levels and in regional areas, people are very determined to try to develop an effort and a movement to get Bush and Cheney impeached. It is not going to happen. The Senate, there are not the votes to ever convict even if the House, with a simple majority, sent a bill over. So what occurred to me is there are some very good reasons to look at some of the lower level people. And you can do an impeachment just as easily against the secretary of a department or a senior White House staff person and raise the very issues that these people are privy to as well as a part of what Bush and Cheney have done that may well be high crimes and misdemeanors. This is where they should be focusing. I don't think they should exclude that possibility. It's a way to start hearings. It would send a message across the bow of this administration that the Congress is going to look seriously at the kind of conduct they're conducting."
Olbermann: "But if the administration has, as it already has, already denied the request from the new chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Mr. Leahy of Vermont, for two secret documents about the CIA detention and interrogation of terror suspects, if that stonewalling is already in place, would there not be stonewalling in every respect? Would there not be some contention that you can't go and impeach anything that's not spelled out line by line in the Constitution?"
Dean: "Keith, I think we're in for two years of struggle to get information, the likes of which we haven't seen since Nixon was in the White House. I think this administration is going to try to build a stone wall that is going to make the [Great] Wall of China look like a stepping stone. They're going to really build a fortress to protect themselves. Cheney has determined this is the whole way to determine the strength of a presidency is by their ability to keep their secrets, and so they're going to go to the mat on this. And I think we'll, impeachment is one way you can do it. But, of course, even Nixon himself refused to cooperate with the impeachment committee, and he would have been impeached, one of the articles, the third article, was to impeach him for failure to cooperate with the impeachment committee. So that isn't the solution either."