THE IMPEACHMENT PLOY…Over the last few months, we’ve seen a number of signs that Republicans and their supporters are getting increasingly desperate over their prospects for November: pushing a flag-burning amendment, demagoguing on immigration, vilifying gays, etc. This morning brought the latest indication: In National Review online, Byron York uses a recent report by Democratic Rep. John Conyers on the Bush administration’s Iraq coverups to argue that a Democratic House means only one thing — impeachment.

Don’t blame York — he’s only following the RNC talking points. As we noted in our June issue:

GOP leaders are now exploiting voters’ fears of endless partisan investigations?fears that they themselves created with their own behavior in the ’90s?to caution with faux solemnity that Democrats, if given control of one or both houses of Congress, would impeach the president and plunge the nation into turmoil. In a recent fundraising email, RNC chairman Ken Mehlman warned that Democrats “will censure and impeach the President if they win back Congress.”

So, would Conyers — who would be Judiciary committee chair in a Dem-controlled House — move to impeach Bush? I have no idea, and neither does York (though a statement from Nancy Pelosi’s office that impeachment is “off the table” seems to carry more weight than Conyers’s assessment that “there’s no way I can predict whether there will ultimately be an impeachment proceeding underway or not,” given that Pelosi is, you know, the leader.)

But here’s the larger point: Over the last 5 and a half years, the Republican Congress has broken with history by almost completely abdicating its constitutional responsibility to conduct oversight of the Bush administration, despite ample material to look into. A Democratic House, with veteran committee chairs like Conyers, John Dingell, and Henry Waxman, would provide the thorough accounting of the last 6 disastrous years — from Iraq, to Medicare, to Abramoff to Katrina — that the White House and its allies most fear. By raising the specter of impeachment, Republicans hope to scare Democrats away from using the Bush administration’s record of failure and corruption as a campaign issue, and from holding the administration to account should they win back Congress.

Luckily, Conyers and his colleagues so far don’t seem like they’re spooked by this ploy, and good for them.