Impeachment and the Rule of Law

George Parry wrote yesterday in The American Spectator about the impeachment of Bill Clinton. He (like me) thought Clinton deserved to be removed, but also came to realize (as I have) that impeachment while a legal maneuver is actually an unmoored political action. He got to attend one day of the trial, and what he saw is germane.

[…]the Democrat senators were merely demonstrating for us unsophisticated good-government rubes that the true criterion for convicting a president had nothing to do with the welfare of the country or the rule of law. Rather, the only real consideration was party affiliation and loyalty. The House managers could have shown a videotape of Clinton committing murder in the Oval Office, and it wouldn’t have changed a single Democrat vote. […]

But by far the best summation on behalf of the president was given by former Arkansas Senator Dale Bumpers, an old friend and political ally of the Clintons. Humble, self-deprecating, and utterly candid about his friendship and regard for the president, Bumpers delivered a powerful argument against removing Clinton from office. He reviewed the debates at the Constitutional Convention and brought them to bear in support of his friend Bill Clinton. Noting how “dangerous” impeachment was to the political process, he cited the words of Alexander Hamilton who had so long ago contended that “the greatest danger was that the decision [to convict the president] would be based on the comparative strength of the [political] parties rather than the guilt or innocence of the president.”

Bumpers then posed the question,

How did we come to be here? We’re here because of a five-year, relentless, unending investigation of the president. Fifty million dollars, hundreds of FBI agents fanning across the nation examining in detail the microscopic lives of people. Maybe the most intense investigation not only of a president but of anybody ever.

I feel strongly about this… so you’ll have to excuse me, but that investigation has also shown that the judicial system in this country can and does get out of kilter, unless it’s controlled, because there are innocent people innocent people who have been financially and mentally bankrupt[ed].

One woman told me two years ago that her legal fees were 95,000 dollars. She said I don’t have $95,000 and the only asset I have is the equity in my home, which just happens to correspond to my legal fees of 95,000 dollars. And she says the only thing I can think of to do is to deed my home. This woman was innocent; never charged; testified before the grand jury a number of times. And since that time, she has accumulated an additional $200,000 in attorney fees. Javert’s pursuit of Jean Valjean in Les Misérables pales by comparison.

I doubt that there are few people, maybe nobody in this body, who could withstand such scrutiny. And in this case those summoned were terrified not because of their guilt, but because they felt guilt or innocence was not really relevant.

But after all of those years and 50 million dollars of Whitewater, Travelgate, Filegate, you name it, nothing, nothing, the president was found guilty of nothing, official or personal.

We’re here today because the president suffered a terrible moral lapse, a marital infidelity; not a breach of the public trust, not a crime against society, the two things Hamilton talked about in Federalist Paper number 65 — I recommend it to you before you vote — but it was a breach of his marriage vows.

Bumpers then cogently overcame the House managers’ argument that Clinton’s perjury and obstruction of justice subverted the rule of law when he observed that

the rule of law includes presidential elections. That’s a part of the rule of law in this country. We have an event, a quadrennial event in this country which we recall “presidential elections.” And that’s the day when we reach across this aisle and hold hands, Democrats and Republicans. And we say, “Win or lose, we will abide by the decision.” It is a solemn event, presidential elections, and it should not, they should not be undone lightly; or just because one side has the clout and the other one doesn’t.

He closed with this peroration:

Colleagues, this is easily the most important vote you will ever cast. If you have difficulty because of an intense dislike of the president — and that’s understandable — rise above it. He is not the issue. He will be gone. You won’t. So don’t leave a precedent from which we may never recover and almost surely will regret.… But if you vote to convict, you can’t be sure what’s going to happen. James G. Blaine was a member of the Senate when Andrew Johnson was tried in 1868, and 20 years later he recanted. And he said: “I made a bad mistake.” And he says “as I reflect back on it, all I can think about is having convicted Andrew Johnson would have caused much more chaos and confusion in this country than Andrew Johnson could ever conceivably have tried.”

And so it is with William Jefferson Clinton. If you vote to convict, in my opinion you’re going to be creating more havoc than he could ever possibly create. After all, he’s only got two years left. So don’t, for God’s sakes heighten people’s alienation that is at an all-time high toward their government.

The people have a right and they are calling on you to rise above politics, rise above partisanship. They’re calling on you to do your solemn duty. And I pray you will.

And you know, Senator Bumpers was right then, he was right in the case of Andrew Johnson, and he is right now, as well. If the Democrats win the house this fall, they likely will impeach Donald Trump. They have no legal case really, merely their hatred, but as Mr. Parry reminds us, Congressman Gerald R. Ford said in 1970,  “An impeachable offense is whatever a majority of the House of Representatives considers it to be at a given moment in history.” That’s true, impeachment is a political maneuver, not a legal process.

There is a reason that the British abandoned the process almost concurrently as we adopted it. In an ideal world, it would be an effective check on government officials, just as Parliament as the Supreme Court seems reasonable. But we don’t live in that world. The world we live in is one where the best intentions get politicised, and where men have motives other than the good of the country.

So if the Democrats take the House, they probably will impeach the President, and like it did with Clinton, the country will pretty much stop to watch the spectacle, and it will do more harm to the country than Trump could do in a lifetime. And if he is acquited (and he will be), they will guarantee his reelection.

Such is life in the big city.

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17 Responses to Impeachment and the Rule of Law

  1. the unit says:

    We’re back to what one’s definition of is is.
    I might say a “Deep State” attempted coup to indict, charge, try, convict, imprison a duly elected president is an act of war and expect the president to implement some “war powers”. Or I might not. 🙂
    Oh well, they (whoever they be at the moment) will still be searchin’.
    https://imgur.com/a/Bn0fDa1

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Nicholas says:

    It’s sad that it should come to this. Those Democrats seem to have no idea that what they are doing will destroy America – they’ll slit their own throats. Perhaps that’s what some of them want; if so, then the picture is bleaker than we’ve made it out to be so far.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Pingback: Poll Numbers and Missions | nebraskaenergyobserver

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