Impeaching the President: Profiles in Partisanship

Profiles in Courage (1956), written by Theodore Sorenson (with a little help from John F. Kennedy, who accepted a Pulitzer Prize for it) is a

volume of short biographies describing acts of bravery and integrity by eight United States Senators, written by then-Senator John F. Kennedy…. The book profiles senators who defied the opinions of their party and constituents to do what they felt was right and suffered severe criticism and losses in popularity because of their actions.

I haven’t read the book, but I have a vague memory of the TV series that was based on it. The episode that sticks in my mind is based on the chapter about Senator Edmund G. Ross of Kansas, who (according to the Wikipedia article about the book) voted

for acquittal in the Andrew Johnson impeachment trial. As a result of Ross’s vote, along with those of six other Republicans, Democrat Johnson’s presidency was saved, and the stature of the office was preserved.

Whether keeping Johnson in office preserved the stature of the presidency is debatable, given his opposition to the Fourteenth Amendment, which granted citizenship to former slaves.

Whatever the case, the impeachment and trial of Andrew Johnson marked the first of four “serious” attempts to remove a president. Aside from the impeachments and trials of Johnson (1868) and Clinton (1998-99), there was the almost-certain impeachment of Richard Nixon (1974), which was mooted by his resignation, and the almost-certain impeachment of Donald Trump (2019), which will proceed to a Senate trial (2020). (The many “unserious” attempts to impeach presidents are recounted here and here.)

When the House of Representatives voted to impeach Johnson, a Democrat, only two Republicans voted “no”, as did all of the Democrats who voted. The resulting eleven articles of impeachment against Johnson were similarly approved along party lines. The votes reflected the essential issue between Johnson and congressional Republicans, which was how to proceed with the “reconstruction” of the South. Johnson, a Tennessean, had remained loyal to the Union but favored “reconstruction” measures that weren’t as harsh as those adopted by the Radical (abolitionist) Republicans, who controlled Congress. But seven Republican senators were having none of it, and voted for acquittal on the eleventh article (which was the first voted on). Ross, one of the seven, cast the final and deciding vote. (There were 35 “guilty” votes against 19 “not guilty” votes, but the Constitution’s two-thirds rule for conviction and removal from office required at least 36 “guilty” votes.) That broke the back of effort to remove Johnson, and the rest is history: Johnson remained in office through the end of his term (another nine months) as a lame-duck president.

Skipping forward 106 years, we find the House Judiciary Committee approving three articles of impeachment against Nixon, a Republican, with all the Democrats on the committee voting to approve two of them. The third article was approved despite two defections on the Democrat side. Two other articles were rejected because nine Democrats defected, joining unanimous opposition from Republicans (the only two cases in which Republicans held together). Nixon resigned before the House voted on the articles because it was certain that the House would adopt them, and enough Republicans might defect in the Senate to procure a conviction. If there was anything like a bipartisan impeachment of a president, this was it. But it is likely that Nixon got a bum rap, and was forced from office because he had been lynched by the media, which had long since become an outlet for left-wing propaganda.

Only 24 years later we come to the impeachment and trial of Clinton, a Democrat. I believe that the motive for the impeachment, at the hands of a Republican-controlled House, was resentment that Clinton had been elected in 1992 only because of the third-party candidacy of Ross Perot, who probably siphoned enough votes from George H.W. Bush to swing the election to Clinton. Be that as it may, some Democrats in the House joined the large Republican majority to approve impeachment proceedings, those being the days when there were still some old-line Southern (i.e., conservative) Democrats. Three articles of impeachment were approved by the House Judiciary Committee, two along party lines and the third with only one defection by a GOP member of the committee. The full House then approved the first two articles. The Senate voted to acquit Clinton on both charges because Democrats were united in their opposition to the effort to remove Clinton (evidence of guilt notwithstanding), and they held 45 seats (far more than the one-third-plus-one required to block conviction). Not a few RINOs joined the Senate’s 45 Democrats in voting for acquittal, so that Clinton was found not guilty by votes of 55-45 and 50-50, far from the 67 votes required to remove him from office.

Here we are, 20 years after Clinton’s acquittal, facing another impeachment trial, that of Trump. The House voted to initiate proceedings (even though they had already been initiated) with only a few Democrats and Republicans switching sides. The House Judiciary Committee voted strictly along party lines to approve two articles of impeachment against Trump. The House will vote the same way, and the Senate trial will end in acquittal because, paradoxically, in these polarized times the GOP is far more united around Trump (the neo-Republican) than it was around Nixon (the life-long Republican).

Skewering Modern Idolatry

My first reaction upon learning of the death of Princess Diana, who had become a celebrity’s celebrity and an (unfortunate) fashion model for legions of young women, was to blurt out “Princess Die.” I envisioned it as a pithy headline suitable for a tabloid. My guess is that it didn’t appear in print anywhere.

Weeping Willie (“I feel your pain”) Clinton has been for more than twenty years the idol of impressionable women of a certain age and connoisseurs of political tradecraft. The Lewinsky affair and other instances of his exploitation of women didn’t loosen his grip on the heartstrings of the impressionable because — we were assured — his heart was in the right place. (Just ignore the fact that his hands and other body parts were in the wrong places.) As for Clinton’s vaunted political tradecraft: (1) it somehow never translated to a majority of the popular vote, and (2) the GOP took control of the House and Senate midway through Clinton’s first term and held on to the end of his presidency. It was pressure from the GOP, not Clinton’s “magic,” that led to welfare reform and budget surpluses. The political genius of Weeping Willie is a figment of his — and the media’s — imagination.

Albert Gore Jr., the bloated buffoon who was once a wonderkind of the Democrat Party, owes a lavish (and heavily carbonated) lifestyle to his bogus expertise about “global warming” and his ability to acquire government funding for “green” enterprises in which he has invested. There is little more to be said about the man, except that his 45-year romance/marriage dissolved because he and Tipper had “grown apart.” How could they not, given Al’s burgeoning girth and blatant, profitable hypocrisy?

Finally, for now, I come to the coronation of Barack Hussein Obama on January 20, 2009, which was attended by a huge throng on the National Mall. The evident hysteria of the mob resembled nothing less than the Nuremburg Rallies. These, for the benefit of the historically disadvantaged, were assemblies dedicated to the adulation of Adolf Hitler. History repeats itself as farce — if we’re lucky.

Clinton the Conspirator

Bill Clinton is back on the job. Thanks to a large assist from CNN, Clinton is once again painting those who oppose oppressive government as potentially violent extremists in the mold of Timothy McVeigh. Byron York has this take on Clinton’s latest foray into fear-mongering:

With the 15th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing Monday, former President Bill Clinton is playing a starring role in the liberal effort to draw what the New York Times calls “parallels between the antigovernment tone that preceded that devastating attack and the political tumult of today.” The short version of the narrative is: Today’s Tea Partiers are tomorrow’s right-wing bombers. . . .

At a White House meeting four days [after the bombing], [Dick] Morris presented Clinton with a comeback strategy based on his polling.  Morris prepared an extensive agenda for the session, a copy of which he would include in the paperback version of his 1999 memoir, Behind the Oval Office.  This is how the April 27 agenda began:


A. Temporary gain: boost in ratings — here today, gone tomorrow

B. More permanent gain: Improvements in character/personality attributes — remedies weakness, incompetence, ineffectiveness found in recent poll

C. Permanent possible gain: sets up Extremist Issue vs. Republicans . . .

It was a political strategy crafted while rescue and recovery efforts were still underway in Oklahoma City.  And it worked better than Clinton or Morris could have predicted.  In the months after the bombing, Clinton regained the upper hand over Republicans, eventually winning battles over issues far removed from the attack.  The next year, 1996, he went on to re-election.  None of that might have happened had Clinton, along with Morris, not found a way to wring as much political advantage as possible out of the deaths in Oklahoma City.  And that is the story you’re not hearing in all the anniversary discussions.

And here is Debra J. Saunders:

Clinton wrote that while criticism is “part of the lifeblood of democracy … we should remember that there is a big difference between criticizing a policy or a politician and demonizing the government that guarantees our freedom and public servants who enforce our laws.”

What I want to know is: Other than the twisted McVeigh and company, who is not clear on this difference? Does Clinton think his all his critics are stupid, or is he playing stupid?

But wait, there’s more. Clinton continued, “We must all assume responsibility for our words and actions before they enter a vast echo chamber and reach those both serious and delirious, connected and unhinged.”

Think about that for a minute: If anyone were to cast blame for the Fort Hood shootings that left 13 dead, or any other attacks within American military bases, on the antiwar movement, then that assertion would be followed by howls of outrage, and deservedly so. It would be absurd to suggest that opposition to the war be misconstrued as promoting violence against U.S. troops.

Yet somehow arguing against President Obama’s health care plan can be construed as practically an incitement to violence.

It all boils down to this: Clinton spearheads a left-wing conspiracy to discredit Americans who legitimately protest the unconstitutional and fiscally destructive acts of the federal government. One of the conspiracy’s tactics is to charge that Tea-Partiers and other critics of Barack Obama’s policies are “racist” — as if Obama’s policies weren’t, in and of themselves, deserving of opprobrium. (See, for example, the decidedly non-racist “Contract from America,” which reflects the true concerns of the Tea-Partiers and millions of silent Americans who are with them in spirit.)

Clinton’s moral standing is on a par with Teddy Kennedy’s. That is to say, Clinton has no moral standing. (A small, non-sexual sample of Clinton’s morality can be found in the use of CS gas against the 25 children who were present in the Branch Davidian compound at Waco.)  To call Clinton a snake would be an insult to snakes.