The I-word

Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel says there are "ways to deal with" a president who says he doesn't care what Congress thinks.

Published March 26, 2007 1:03PM (EDT)

Put off by George W. Bush's weekly radio address -- one in which he renewed his support for Alberto Gonzales and attacked Democrats for trying to interfere with his war in Iraq -- Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel actually raised the specter of impeaching the president Sunday.

In an appearance on ABC's "This Week," Hagel had just finished making the case against Bush's escalation of the war in Iraq when George Stephanopoulos asked him about the idea.

Stephanopoulos: It is clear to me that you are angry about this, and you also gave an interview to Esquire magazine this month, the April edition of Esquire magazine, where you were quoted as saying, "The president says, 'I don't care.' He's not accountable anymore. He's not accountable anymore, which isn't totally true. You can impeach him. And before this is over, you might see calls for his impeachment."

Hagel: Well, any president who says, 'I don't care,' or 'I will not respond to what the people of this country are saying about Iraq or anything else,' or 'I don't care what the Congress does, I am going to proceed' -- if a president really believes that, then there are -- what I was pointing out, there are ways to deal with that. This is not a monarchy.

Stephanopoulos: And you think that would be appropriate in this case?

Hagel: I'm sorry?

Stephanopoulos: You think that would be appropriate in this case?

Hagel: I didn't say that, I didn't call for it, I didn't predict it. What I was saying, I was laying out options here. No president can dictate to this country, nor should he. This is a constitutional form of government. We have three equal branches of government. No president is bigger than the other two. There are three co-equal branches of government. Article I of the Constitution is not the presidency; it's the Congress. So what I was pointing out, George, is that there are ways to deal with it. And I would hope the president understands that. I mean, his comments this weekend, yesterday in his radio address, were astounding to me. Saying to the Congress, in effect, you don't belong in this, I'm in charge of Iraq.

Stephanopoulos: You're talking about the U.S. attorney controversy.

Hagel: No, I'm talking about what he was referring to specifically in his radio address, about what the House of Representatives did on Friday.

Stephanopoulos: On Iraq, OK.

Hagel: On Iraq, and essentially dismissing them. Now, he can disagree, of course. I understand that. That's his responsibility. But to dismiss them -- the Congress, by saying, you don't have a role in this, you're irrelevant to this -- he's getting some bad advice, and I would suggest they all go back and re-read the Constitution.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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