One of the more shrill and vociferous demands that floated around during the presidency of Bush the Younger was that Bush should be impeached for [fill in the blank]. Now, as some people become a trifle disenchanted with President Obama, demands are shifting from he prove that he wasn’t born outside the U.S. (it is logically impossible to prove a negative in any event), to that he be impeached for [fill in the blank].
Let’s start with a few facts. The misuse or even abuse of official powers isn’t grounds for impeachment, although it may be grounds for removal from office. The legal principle “the king can do no wrong” has usually been interpreted to preclude prosecution for official (as opposed to personal) acts. Bad, incompetent, even evil decisions or acts made in an official capacity are not ordinarily construed as “high crimes and misdemeanors.” The solution to a public official who screws up is not impeachment, but a recall election. An official is not personally liable for acts, however stupid or evil, committed in an official capacity.
If, however, an official uses his or her office for personal gain, or commits an act as a person (not as an official), such as theft or murder or the ever-popular bribery or corruption (although corruption can be a vague term), then the recourse is to strip the individual of his or her office, and put him or her on trial for the personal, not official, offense.
Americans have been extremely reluctant to have recall elections, as such things can turn into witch hunts, usually figuring that the next regular election will take care of things . . . by which time tempers have cooled or memories have dimmed sufficiently to get just about any incumbent reelected.
Improper talk of impeachment actually works in favor of the incompetent or evil, because they can then claim they are being unjustly persecuted and present themselves as martyrs to their own causes.