Well, it's finally out there, the I word.
Arlen Specter let it slip last Sunday on one of the morning blab shows. He mentioned it in the context of the Cheney/Bush administration's apparently illegal use of the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans.
Specter did not advocate impeachment. He mentioned it only as a possibility should it be found that Bush acted illegally when he authorized the NSA to eavesdrop without notifying a special federal court as required under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
"I don't see any talk of impeachment here," Specter said during ABC-TV's This Week show. But, he added, he and his fellow Republicans would not give the president "a blank check" in the matter.
That would be a change in itself, and while Specter didn't say where "here" was, there has been an increasing amount of impeachment talk in the wake of the administration's latest abuse of the Constitution.
Such an effort, it says here, would be both unrealistic and unfair to Bush. Unrealistic because despite Specter's claim, there is virtually no chance that a Republican-dominated House would vote a bill of impeachment, even though Bush may be technically deserving of it.
And unfair because Bush, despite his title, is not the culprit. It was obvious before Sept. 11, 2001, that Bush was for all practical purposes a figurehead; that Cheney was calling the shots. And it is even more obvious now that Bush's media-bestowed image as the new Churchill has worn thin.
There has been talk of impeaching Bush ever since the Iraq war went predictably sour. But the plot to invade Iraq was hatched by Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Perle years before Cheney picked Bush to front for the gang in Washington.
And if you can imagine Bush having the smarts to circumvent FISA on his own, you are one up on the White Queen, who could imagine only six impossible things before breakfast.
Chances are if you asked W what FISA was before 9/11 he'd have said it was a credit card company.
In short, the man's an empty suit, and sending him packing back to his Texas brush lot and his trail bike would change nothing other than Cheney's address and the fact that presidential press conferences would be conducted in comprehensible English.
Even the ultra-cautious New York Times has acknowledged in its editorials that Cheney is the real executive decision-maker in Washington.
A Washington wag writing recently in The American Prospect put it this way: "We could impeach Cheney, but then we'd get Bush as president."
All right, for the sake of argument let's assume that Bush is impeached and Cheney is carted off to The Hague to be tried as a war criminal along with Rumsfeld.
What does that leave us? With President Hastert. That's an improvement? Well, maybe, when you consider that waiting in the wings should something befall the Speaker of the House is none other than Ted Stevens, president pro tempore of the Senate.
What a wonderful choice: Tom DeLay's gofer or our punishment for granting Alaska statehood.
And it doesn't get any better as you go down the line: Condoleezza Rice, who may have once told the truth about something, John Snow, Rumsfeld, Alberto (Torture is Us) Gonzales, and Gale Norton, who would be able to realize her lifelong ambition of putting the entire country west of the Mississippi up for sale.
The short of it is that we're stuck with this hive of scoundrels for three more years, unless Pat Robertson can arrange for a heavenly tsunami to sweep up the Potomac tidal basin.
Let us pray.
Rossie is associate editor; his column is published on Sunday, Wednesday and Friday.