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The Impeachment Vogue

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tags: impeachment



Jeff Shesol, a former speechwriter for President Clinton, is the author of “Supreme Power: Franklin Roosevelt vs. the Supreme Court” and is a partner at West Wing Writers. Follow him on Twitter at @JeffShesol.

James Monroe had high hopes for the power of impeachment. It was, he wrote in the eighteen-twenties, “the main spring of the great machine of government…. If preserved in full vigor and exercised with perfect integrity, every branch will perform its duty.” On July 27, 1974—forty years ago this Sunday—the House Judiciary Committee showed more than a little of that vigor and integrity when it voted, by a substantial bipartisan majority, for the first of three articles of impeachment against President Richard Nixon. Peter W. Rodino, Jr., a New Jersey Democrat who served as chairman, had opened the proceedings with a grave benediction: “I pray that we will each act with the wisdom that compels us in the end to be but decent men who seek only the truth. Let us be clear about this. No official, no concerned citizen, no representative, no member of this committee welcomes an impeachment proceeding.”

Yet some very concerned citizens would welcome one today, and eagerly. As we approach August 8th, the anniversary of Nixon’s resignation, impeachment is enjoying a vogue on the right. A tool that was used, in 1974, to safeguard our system of self-rule, and then, in 1998, to help turn a relationship with an intern into a political crisis, is being brandished, in 2014, as one more weapon in the war on government. “Impeach Obama” placards have been a mainstay at Tea Party rallies since at least 2010, but the manufacture of impeachment petitions and other appeals has become, of late, enough of a growth industry that Sarah Palin is looking to take it over. An op-ed at Breitbart.com was her opening bid; in it, she declared that President Obama’s “unsecured border crisis is the last straw that makes the battered wife say, ‘no mas.’ ”

The Spanish-speaking wife in this scenario is you, America. And although the former governor is a bit vague about the other straws, each one an “impeachable offense,” other advocates have that covered. TeaParty.org, in its bill of particulars against the President, lists ten high crimes and misdemeanors—from Benghazi to illegal wiretapping to the “purposeful” sacrifice of Navy Seals in Afghanistan—while promising that “this petition has only begun to brush the surface.” Another right-wing site lists “100 reasons to impeach Barack Obama,” and even this is probably an act of restraint. A group called Renew America, in its appeal to impeach Obama, “the anti-American, Marxist fiend,” charges the President with a “hell-born plan to destroy our nation as founded,” which has absolutely got to be unconstitutional....

Read entire article at New Yorker


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