Tag Archives: Impeachment

History of Impeachment is Reining in the King

New Orleans      Watching tennis volleys can get tedious if you are stuck on an elliptical machine at the gym and nothing else is on, and these are the top men and women’s professionals.  The same thing could be said already about the back-and-forth between the House, Senate, and the White House on the impeachment proceedings.  Enough already!  Thrust and parry.  But, whatever, like tennis, if that’s all that’s on, then you have to watch it.

Most interesting to me has been the Trump stonewalling tactic in all of its machinations.  He and his team seem to want to argue that he and his posse are exempt from any investigation of criminal activity and even any practice involving Congressional oversight functions, whether impeachment or not.  A case is now heading for the Supreme Court on whether or not prosecutors in New York can get is tax returns.  Other cases are on their way as well, all of which go right to the heart of whether or not the president is all powerful, essentially the King of America, or whether or not there continues to be effective checks-and-balances envisioned under the Constitution to the power of the president.

Jill LePore, Harvard historian, wrote a riveting, and her usual comprehensive, piece on the history of impeachment in a recent issue of the New Yorker.  It was something of a chilling read, because it was impossible in reading about the English derivation of the practice seeking to control the omnipotence of the king not to constantly find oneself seeing the similarities between the practices of the royalty there and the wannabe king now in the White House.

The history of impeachment in England was a contest between whether the royal ruler would be all-powerful and unaccountable to Parliament and the people or not.  First, the practice was only available in dealing with the royal ministers and their abuses.  Once established several hundred years ago it was revived in another dispute in the early 1700s, marking the final emasculation of the governing power of the royals and establishing the Parliament as the critical body in the country.  LePore makes the point that all of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention invariably were aware of the more recent English practice – and success – with impeachment and placed impeachment in every draft of the document as a central policy mandate for accountability.  She is also clear about the broadness of the phrase “high crimes and misdemeanors” and their spot-on relevance to the current impeachment debate and allegations.

Besides the peccadilloes, perfidy, and, frankly, high crimes and misdemeanors of the current occupant of the White House, there can’t be any doubt that the question of whether or not we have a royal presidency or continue to be able to claim effective checks and balances is at the heart of the back-and-worth in Washington now.


Constitutional Crisis or Tactical Stalemate?

New Orleans      The latest gambit by the Trump White House is to simply refuse to cooperate with any investigation by the House committees tasked with the job.

The lawyers for Trump make the specious claim that no investigation is legitimate without an actual vote on impeachment, which of course denies the reality that the House has special and standing committees, whether under Republican or Democratic control, that do nothing but investigate actions of governmental bureaucracies, officials, and the executive branch, including the actions of the President.  Checks and balances, as most school children would remember, are a distinctive fundamental of the American system of government, much admired around the world.

The equally ridiculous assertion by the President is that all of this is much ado about nothing and an effort to rerun the 2016 election, making Trump’s claim to the seat illegitimate.   Trump is obsessed with the 2016 election.  The only person who wants a rerun there might be Trump himself, hoping this time he might actually win the popular vote, rather than end up with an asterisk by his home run, as not the fan favor of the majority of the electorate.  Every day we all live with the horror of this presidency translated into domestic and international policy.  There is not one iota of doubt about the results of the 2016 election and the grieving is permanent.  Trump needs to get over it, even though millions never will because they have been sentenced to the adverse consequences of his policies or at least the policies of people acting in his name.

This fabricated stalemate looks like the most cynical of political calculations from Trump and the White House.

First, it is about delay.  Trump would love to be able to run as the aggrieved, underdog in 2020, making the issue of impeachment and investigation the centerpiece of his election rather than the diminishing of America’s position in the world and the division and pain he has inflicted on the country domestically.  If he can stretch this process out or frustrate it in some way another six to nine months, he will be in full-on campaign mode and will no longer have to pretend to be governing.

Second, it’s a sucker move.  Trump would love to bait Speaker Pelosi and the Democrats into an impeachment vote that forces his House Republicans to drag themselves prematurely into the boiling cauldron with him and take all the Democrats off the sidelines as well.  Luckily, Pelosi has proven herself immune to this so far, but…the press and various media are spoiling for a fight and a constitutional cage fight, and that amps the pressure up on everyone.

I’m not a fan of impeachment no matter how much Trump provokes or deserves it.  I would rather beat him at the polling booths than in the courts.  I hope Trump’s gambit fails.  Let the investigations bleed him out and wear out the public and his base with the thousand inflicted cuts he has administered to himself.  Let the polls favoring him being gone rise higher and higher, so they look more like an exit poll than an opinion poll.

Don’t take the bait.  Stay the course and dig the knives deeper.