Jonathan Rauch Criticizes Blagojevich Impeachment Proceedings:

The column is here, at least for this week. Rauch is a very thoughtful and fair-minded columnist, and his criticisms are always worth taking seriously. Here's the start and the finish of the column:

Suppose, at least for the time it takes to read the next several paragraphs, that the ousting of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was a political railroading. Suppose the intention, whether out of malice or opportunism or both, was to overturn the 2006 election. What, actually, would that have looked like? And how different would it have looked from what happened last week?

I think that Blagojevich is probably a crook, and so does everyone else, so the question may seem academic. But it's not. Overturning an election is fundamentally antidemocratic and, in a democracy, potentially dangerous. When it needs to be done, the proceedings need to be objectively distinguishable from a railroading. In other words, the rules must be scrupulously fair. Otherwise, the process for removing corrupt politicians becomes, itself, indistinguishable from political corruption....

"Maybe one day it might happen to you," Blagojevich warned the state senators. He called his removal "a dangerous precedent that could have an impact on governors in Illinois and governors in other states."

He had a point. In the scramble to remove him, too many corners were cut. Not legal corners -- the law was faithfully executed -- but prudential ones. The press and the public were too quick to take a prosecutor's accusations at face value. The Illinois Legislature was too willing to act as an arm of the prosecution instead of an independent fact finder. And the political class was too cavalier about nullifying an election.

Whatever his wrongs, Blagojevich was right about this: The rules that removed him are not sufficiently distinguishable from a railroading, and they are wide open to abuse. We may find out, before long, that the door he was just shoved through swings both ways.