What Is Going On?

Author: Gary Hart

From the founding of the United States in 1787 until the first impeachment of a President occurred, that of Andrew Johnson, 81 years transpired.  Thereafter, proceedings were brought against Richard Nixon in 1974.  Then William Clinton in 1998.  Now proceedings against Donald Trump are just underway.

Between Andrew Johnson and Richard Nixon 106 years transpired.  In the past 45 years, there have been three impeachment proceedings.

What is going on here?

There are several possibilities.  Presidents are violating the Constitution more often.  Parties are using the impeachment option to overturn elections.  We are not electing the most upright Presidents.  Presidents are cutting legal, if not moral, corners more often.  The press and media are looking for sensationalism more.

Or, corruption of one kind or another is becoming more common.

Still, an impeachment procedure on average every 15 years is extraordinary.  We should spend time thinking why.  Is the discipline sometimes afforded by political parties breaking down?  Has big money totally polluted the political arena?  Are leaders and everyday citizens paying less attention to civic and civility standards?

Until recently, commentators would have said that political careerism has fostered an atmosphere where election and re-election are all that matters.  Then came the businessman that so many have longed for so long.  He is running the United States government the way he ran his businesses.  He sees no difference.  Run over competitors.  Refuse to pay bills.  Stiff the small services, suppliers, and contractors.  Tie up challenges in court until the plaintiffs are exhausted.

Paramount is: don’t be a “loser”.

The difference is the United States Constitution and the laws enacted by Congress.  That is why there are more lawyers than doctors in government.  Mr. Trump has given no evidence of having read, let alone understood, it.  For him, Constitutional governance is a nuisance.  He is bound by no rules or, for that matter, laws.

Devil may care is all well and good unless…unless you care about the kind of nation you leave your children and future generations.  Even a slight appreciation for true patriotism inevitably leads you to the rule of law.

Trump is pushing a peculiar brand of nationalism in which anything goes, and devil take the hindmost.  The populist brand of easy, chest-thumping nationalism comes at a time when the serious problems we face are increasingly global—security, pandemics, complex trade, mass migrations, and most of all climate destruction.

The Trumpian response to this is: leave us alone; we will dictate trade terms to one and all; we will build walls around our country; we choose to deny fact-based science; and our computers will destroy your computers.

This nihilistic approach is what has brought the country to the latest sad impeachment doorstep.  But it is still not enough to account for the pattern.

Sooner or later, every Member of Congress will have to vote whether to impeach and convict Donald Trump for blatantly enlisting a foreign government to intervene in our election by destroying one of his opponents.  If we lived in a time when facts matter and blatant facts blatantly matter, this case would be open and shut.  But for one party at least, they apparently don’t matter.

Still the question will remain: have we fallen down a political rabbit hole of government by impeachment?

The Nixon impeachment saga at least led to an era of political reform, one in which I was privileged to participate.  In revolving door Washington, it lasted not long at all.

This tragedy would be a blessing if it led to another era of reform, one that would last for generations to come.

 

6 Responses to “What Is Going On?”

  1. John Dedie Says:

    All 3 tried to cover things up as their first approach. I opposed impeachment until last week and what Trump tried to do to Joe Biden.
    In an unsuccessful attempt to impeach Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas in 1970, Representative Gerald Ford declared: “An impeachable offense is whatever a majority of the House of Representatives considers it to be at a given moment in history.”

    If dems had not won control of Congress in 2018 this criminal enterprise would never be known.

  2. Michael Says:

    Impeachment isn’t the only rare constitutional occurrence we’ve been experiencing frequently lately: until George W. Bush, there had not been a president who was installed by the Electoral College after losing the popular vote since Benjamin Harrison in 1888 – 112 years. Yet it has happened twice in the last 16 years.

    In recent history, the way LBJ pushed the country into widening our involvement in Vietnam could certainly have been grounds for impeachment. In the end Johnson removed himself from office by refusing to run again. Nixon had committed real crimes, and Democrats along with Republicans pursued removing him from office. Iran-Contra was legitimately impeachable, but the Democrats never pushed for it. Going to war in Iraq the way we did was without a doubt impeachable as well as a war crime. We let that slide. Clinton’s impeachment was purely politically motivated; an effort to overturn an election. By then Republicans were in their symbiotic relationship with the right-wing outrage machine, which pushed the idea that no Democratic president could ever represent “real America” and was therefore illegitimate. That impeachment was an obvious fishing expedition that went from a failed land deal to a consensual sexual affair, and the people viewed it as such. But Trump, like Nixon, has committed genuine crimes that violate his oath to defend and protect the Constitution. Trump crimes are on an order of magnitude we’ve never seen before. Yet Nancy Pelosi was still prepared to let it go until new revelations made that position untenable. So what we’ve seen, generally, in recent history, is a genuine reluctance to use the impeachment process, even when warranted. I don’t think we’ve fallen into what our host calls a “political rabbit hole of government by impeachment.” At least not yet. But Clinton’s impeachment was a warning. Which brings me back to my observation about recent presidents installed by the Electoral College. Republicans have won the popular vote in a presidential election only once since 1988. That is really remarkable. More and more, as the demographics of the country continue to turn rapidly against them, they will try holding onto power by cobbling together presidential victories through the Electoral College, and against the will of the majority of Americans. Facing that scenario, using impeachment as it was used against Clinton might become more frequent, especially if the Republican base becomes smaller and more extreme. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen.

  3. LORENZO CHERIN Says:

    Senator and colleagues as we need, poignant and precise.

    We can agree surely on the reasons and the speculation is needed also.

    As a boy of seven I stayed up to watch Nixon resign, in England!That says lots about the world role of America, as well as the weird interests of this commentator!Little wonder I married that country!

    The UK and US are going through mirror image crisis periods.

    I feel that Trump is faced with the fact he has not been as popular as he pretends, he lost the vote, he has no respect only fanzine mentality.

    He is Nero, the comedy version, but not fuming at fires, but at nearly everyone!

    My father was born in the Italy of Mussolini. Grow up with so many tales thus and you have faith in hope and no Trump is awful and small potatoes.

    We shall see President Biden, or Warren or soon, Kennedy one Joe to another perhaps via the first woman.

    Trump is terrible but values as expressed here by Senator and friends, can trump Trump.

  4. Paul G Says:

    “THE REPUBLICAN BASE BECOMES SMALLER AND MORE EXTREME … DOWN A RABBIT HOLE”

    The fearful fatted few favored force and farce to protect their power even as their people suffered. Whether in Manchester, 1819, or Hillsborough, 1989, or NY 1st. Responders, 9-11; the Tory-WH mentality, like a demonic cancer on our body politic, always puts its own survival above our e pluribus unum.

    To paraphrase a bullied schoolboy’s poem on the Peterloo Massacre, We must:

    “Rise, like lions after slumber
    In unvanquishable number!
    Shake our chains to earth like dew
    Which in sleep had fallen on us:
    We are many—they are few!”

  5. Stephen D. Pillow Says:

    “Sooner or later, every Member of Congress will have to vote whether to impeach and convict Donald Trump for blatantly enlisting a foreign government to intervene in our election by destroying one of his opponents. If we lived in a time when facts matter and blatant facts blatantly matter, this case would be open and shut. But for one party at least, they apparently don’t matter.”

    AH, there’s the rub. The “leaders” of the republican members of Congress in both houses are, by normal standards of reason and reality, delusional and continue to blindly support that abomination infesting the white house. Until enough members of the republican party in Congress come to their senses, this matter is moot.

  6. H Patrick Pritchard Says:

    IMPEACHMENT ISSUES

    What are the valid issues at stake under this newly annotated impeachment process?

    The central questions are: Should the President of the United States be allowed to obstruct justice by attempting to subvert a lawful investigation by a duly appointed Special Counsel and then Congress by refusing to allow witness testimony and documents relevant to the investigation, witness tampering and intimidation, and efforts to block said investigation?

    Should the President of the United States be allowed to request a foreign government to provide him dirt on a potential political candidate in a forthcoming Presidential election in violation of the US Constitution; and should he be allowed to withhold foreign aid approved by Congress until a foreign government agrees to provide said information?

    Should the President of the United States be allowed to solicit and provide campaign funds to current Senators running for reelection who will be jury members in a potential impeachment trial of said President?

    These are the issues before us! Everything else is mere pickle smoke!

Leave a Reply

All comments are reviewed by a moderator prior to approval and are subject to the UCD blog use policy.