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Re: The Trivialization of Impeachment

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The Trivialization of Impeachment

 

I say we put any Impeachment trial on prime time television and live steaming on C-Span,  and YouTube and let the American people decide if it's trivial or not. 

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@jimc91 wrote:

BY:  Andrew C. McCarthy

 

We have a serious governance problem.

 

Our system is based on separation of powers, because liberty depends on preventing any component of the state from accumulating too much authority — that’s how tyrants are born. For the system to work, the components have to be able to check each other: The federal and state governments must respect their separate spheres, and the branches of the federal government must be able to rein in a branch that oversteps its authority.

 

The steady federal encroachment on state authority has created an imbalance that probably cannot be rolled back. I want to focus on the collapse of inter-branch checks in the federal government.

This was the issue I dealt with in Faithless Execution. The thesis was that the Framers feared an agglomeration of power in the presidency they were creating, so they endowed Congress with significant checks on the executive.

 

The ultimate one was impeachment. But this was supposed to be reserved for truly abominable misconduct. Though Madison concluded that impeachment was “indispensable” in light of the damage a rogue president could do, it also came with its own set of problems. Not least, impeachment might give Congress too much power over the executive. It might be invoked out of partisan mischief, rather than serious maladministration. Consequently, impeachment was made to be really hard to do.

 

The Framers were sophisticated men, who saw themselves as both students and victims of executive power run amok (as about two minutes’ perusal of the Declaration of Independence elucidates). They understood that governance would involve tussles between the political branches and episodes of overreach — whether out of incompetence, malevolence, or urgency — for which the extraordinary impeachment remedy would be gross overkill. Routine disputes involving the propensities of both the legislature and the executive to act outside their authorities would be handled by lesser remedies. Congress, most importantly, was given the power of the purse and significant power over executive agencies (to create them, to limit their authority, and, in the Senate’s case, to approve their leaders).

 

My argument in Faithless Execution was that this system has broken down, with no repairs on the horizon. The Framers naturally thought congressional control of the executive budget would obviate the need to resort to impeachment. Lawmakers could defund dubious executive initiatives and withhold funds necessary to carry out the president’s priorities; this would pressure the executive branch to comply with statutes as well as congressional demands for information and policy modification. The ultimate question of a president’s fitness would be left to the sovereign — the American people, exercising the franchise.

 

In the last century, however, the federal government and the administrative state have grown enormously, vastly increasing executive power. Meanwhile, congressional funding processes have descended into dysfunction. Rather than budgeting programmatically and with an eye on individual outlays, Congress does mammoth omnibus funding. Spending grows on autopilot, with both the president and lawmakers fearful of being seen as slashing dollars from what the media portray as critical federal functions. The power of the purse is no longer a practical check on executive overreach.

 

That would seem to make impeachment even more indispensable. In the absence of a credible threat of impeachment, lawmakers would have no real check on presidential misconduct — other than Congress’s capacity to embarrass the administration politically with public hearings and commentary. That is, unless impeachment is a real possibility, presidents are limited only by their own sense of what they can get away with politically. That is barely a check in day-to-day governance. It leaves a wide berth for presidential legislating, lawlessness, and flouting of congressional mandates.

 

Impeachment is a political remedy, not a legal one. With Donald Trump in office and impeachment in play, that adage is repeated so often it seems platitudinous. But it states a vital truth: The mere existence of misconduct that the House might judge impeachable does not mean the Senate — by a two-thirds supermajority — would remove a president over it. That fact, coupled with the inherent societal discord impeachment is bound to cause, has historically discouraged the House from commencing impeachment inquiries, even for arguably impeachable offenses.

 

The upshot is that impeachment can never be successfully invoked — in the sense of both filing articles of impeachment and ousting the president from power — absent a public consensus, cutting across partisan lines, that a president needs to be removed. Only such a consensus would move members of the House and Senate, who must face voters. Therefore, a public political case has to be made for impeachment. It is not enough to show that a president has overstepped here or there. The public must be convinced that these excesses are so serious, so indicative of unfitness, that it is worth putting the country through the trauma of removing the chief executive.

 

Significantly, I contended in the book that the goal is not necessarily to remove the president but to change presidential behavior. To be sure, if misconduct were sufficiently egregious that the president could not credibly carry out his responsibilities any longer, removal would be the only option. But with the power of the purse falling into desuetude, impeachment could address less serious misconduct, too. If a president who is not otherwise unfit pursues unlawful or harmful policies, a credible threat of impeachment might be enough to persuade the president to reverse course – obviating the need to impeach.

 

In Faithless Execution, I laid out various instances of presidential misconduct which could be used to try to build a political case for President Obama’s impeachment. I did it, though, with these caveats:

 

1) a president should not be impeached in the absence of a public consensus for his removal (an unsuccessful impeachment is likely to encourage more abuse of power);

 

2) if making the political case induced a president to cease and desist the misconduct, an impeachment effort should generally be aborted since the credible threat of impeachment had served its purpose; and

 

3) if Congress concluded that impeachment would be so unpopular that a president’s opposition party would suffer politically for invoking it, then it was a rational choice not to seek impeachment — but a choice that came with the price tag that a rogue president would be encouraged to continue abusing power.

 

In the case of President Trump, Democrats are doing what I suggested should be done with President Obama — building a political case for impeaching a president they deeply oppose. They certainly have the right to do this, yet there is a problem. I may have been right that this revival of impeachment as a credible threat is necessary (in the absence of any other realistic alternative for addressing presidential overreach), but it is also causing serious governance problems. Ignoring them would be irresponsible.

 

To be sure, the Democrats’ underlying rationale for impeachment is different from mine. Democrats decided Trump was unfit before he ever entered office and have been seeking any ostensibly plausible reason to vindicate this predisposition in articles of impeachment. By contrast, while I was never an Obama fan, my argument was not that he came to office as an impeachment waiting to happen; it was that, for years, he governed in a manner intentionally designed to undermine the Constitution’s structure, and that he had elevated the interests of foreign powers and actors over the interests of the American people and our security.

 

Those differences aside, however, we can see that relying on impeachment as the go-to response to presidential overreach — real or alleged — has manifest downsides.

 

To build their political case, Democrats frame every dispute with President Trump in dire terms: proof of his unfitness and the imperative of removing him. No misstep is too trivial. The president’s supporters, to the contrary, are incentivized to defend the president, even when they should be trying to convince him to change course. They do not want to be seen as implicitly supporting the impeachment effort, so every misstep, even ones that are serious though not egregious enough to warrant impeachment, must be defended rather than corrected. And the president — especially one with Trump’s persona, which is always to attack and never to confess error — is encouraged to double down on his mistakes, lest his changing course be seen as an implied admission of misconduct that strengthens the impeachment case.

 

The Democratic base demands impeachment. Recently, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has come around to the conclusion that it can be done quickly and with minimal political damage to Democrats who hold seats in pro-Trump districts. It thus appears highly likely that the president will be impeached in the coming weeks.

 

The Democrats’ euphoria will be short-lived. There will be deep, bitter public protest because impeachment, on the facts before us, is objectively foolhardy. Trump’s missteps do not rise to the level of impeachable offenses. If they did, Democrats would not fear voting to conduct the impeachment inquiry, and they would proudly hold their hearings in public with due process, rather than behind closed doors with selective leaking.

 

Moreover, we are just one year out from an election in which, if Trump is as bad as Democrats say, the voters will remove him. Yet, Trump’s approval rating hovers at around 43 percent, close to what Obama’s was a year before his reelection. Trump could certainly lose, but he stands a decent chance of being reelected. Hence far from a strong consensus for his removal, there will be zealous protest against impeachment by a significant segment of the public. Consequently, the Republican-controlled Senate will swiftly reject the House Democrats’ impeachment articles as a partisan stunt — as precisely the abuse of power the Framers feared. And woe betide the next Democratic president seeking the bipartisan cooperation needed to govern.

 

Our constitutional system will be damaged because impeachment will be discredited. That will not make it any less indispensable than Madison judged it to be. Yet its invocation will be even less likely in some grievous future instance, when a presidential abuse of power actually does imperil the nation. We will have a virtually omnipotent president. As a practical matter, there will be no viable congressional check — no impeachment, no power of the purse — to rein the president in. The powers of the competing political branches will be in gross imbalance, making functional separation of powers impossible.

 

As the Framers would tell us, that is not a prescription for the preservation of liberty.

 

 

 


The trivialization of wasting of bandwidth.

 

 

 

“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” — Krishnamurti
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Re: The Trivialization of Democracy

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What is being trivialized is the fascism shown by trump and the GOP.  The Executive is not the King, or God but trump thinks he can do whatever he wants and the GOP just nods and say's, "OK".

 

Yet it's the cons here that have trivialized the equal branches of government, the oversight required of Congress and that trump thinks he doesn't have to provide anything he doesn't want to.  He and the Cons forget who he's working for.....

 

This is exactly the abuse of power the framers wanted to avoid...


"FAKE 45 #illegitimate" read a sign at the Woman's March in Washington DC, January 21, 2017.
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Re: The Trivialization of Impeachment

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No one, least of all Pelosi and Schumer, are "trivializing" impeachment. It does seem that Trump just recently woke up to the fact that being impeached even if not thrown out of office is a bad thing. 

 

Most rational Americans realize that Trump holding up military aid to a foreign power until they helped his campaign is a very, very bad thing.  No one wants to see a president impeached.  Us Democrats would love to have been proved wrong by Trump's competence and managerial skills.  We were not and the depths of his corruption is such that impeachment is the only course. The ONLY reason there are not 30 or 40 articles of impeachment is that it is better to focus.

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Re: The Trivialization of Impeachment

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Go look at the books this author has written. He is so far out of normal on subject that they become pure nonsense. This is what the far right has been reduced to in defending Mob Boss trump. Trump ran his business as a mob, and now runs the fed govt. as a mob. That is what Congress was told today by a senior person who was part of it. The person is an honest American who was applied and knows this country can not survive as a mob. He speaks out in the hope someone will do something now to save the country. Why is anyone surprised by all of this. What we see is Trump and his mob at work. We all new or should have known this would happen just as it happened in his business. If you think Ukraine is bad wait till they look at what was done with SA. This will be a penny arcade compared to that. Every deal Trump has done fits this pattern. Mob Bosses do not change their stripes that is why in the end most go to jail. Now support the brave people who have told the truth and get the Mob out starting with its leader Trump.

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Re: The Trivialization of Impeachment

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The Trivialization of Impeachment

 

 

To my way of thinking, the trivialization is coming from people who completely ignore what Trump has been caught doing and spend their time whining about the Constitutional process that is the remedy.

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Re: The Trivialization of Impeachment

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Message 7 of 10

Nothing trivial except tRump. It's a matter of National Sanitation - Putin took a dump in the White House, now it's time to flush. First ToadPOTUS, then all his enablers in House and Senate.

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Re: The Trivialization of Impeachment

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Message 8 of 10

my apology, jimc, in advance, as my reply is not going to meet your standards, me thinks...

 

Impeachment is the only way to end  the madness of a person who only cares about himself and his male heirs (not females)...

 

He cares nothing for American citizens; in fact would move to any country he could RULE. He shares his self with other people of his economic status; he despises women, he hates non-caucasians, and yet he is our President?

 

I hope, at some time in the near future, this madness ends and he is a wisper of our ugly past...

 

#VegasStrong

 


#VegasStrong

#NeverTrump

Phil Harris, actor and showman, to John Fogerty of CCR: “If I’d known I’d live this long, I’d have taken better care of myself.”
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Re: The Trivialization of Impeachment

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Message 9 of 10

@jimc91 wrote:

BY:  Andrew C. McCarthy

 

We have a serious governance problem.

 

Our system is based on separation of powers, because liberty depends on preventing any component of the state from accumulating too much authority — that’s how tyrants are born. For the system to work, the components have to be able to check each other: The federal and state governments must respect their separate spheres, and the branches of the federal government must be able to rein in a branch that oversteps its authority.

 

The steady federal encroachment on state authority has created an imbalance that probably cannot be rolled back. I want to focus on the collapse of inter-branch checks in the federal government.

This was the issue I dealt with in Faithless Execution. The thesis was that the Framers feared an agglomeration of power in the presidency they were creating, so they endowed Congress with significant checks on the executive.

 

The ultimate one was impeachment. But this was supposed to be reserved for truly abominable misconduct. Though Madison concluded that impeachment was “indispensable” in light of the damage a rogue president could do, it also came with its own set of problems. Not least, impeachment might give Congress too much power over the executive. It might be invoked out of partisan mischief, rather than serious maladministration. Consequently, impeachment was made to be really hard to do.

 

The Framers were sophisticated men, who saw themselves as both students and victims of executive power run amok (as about two minutes’ perusal of the Declaration of Independence elucidates). They understood that governance would involve tussles between the political branches and episodes of overreach — whether out of incompetence, malevolence, or urgency — for which the extraordinary impeachment remedy would be gross overkill. Routine disputes involving the propensities of both the legislature and the executive to act outside their authorities would be handled by lesser remedies. Congress, most importantly, was given the power of the purse and significant power over executive agencies (to create them, to limit their authority, and, in the Senate’s case, to approve their leaders).

 

My argument in Faithless Execution was that this system has broken down, with no repairs on the horizon. The Framers naturally thought congressional control of the executive budget would obviate the need to resort to impeachment. Lawmakers could defund dubious executive initiatives and withhold funds necessary to carry out the president’s priorities; this would pressure the executive branch to comply with statutes as well as congressional demands for information and policy modification. The ultimate question of a president’s fitness would be left to the sovereign — the American people, exercising the franchise.

 

In the last century, however, the federal government and the administrative state have grown enormously, vastly increasing executive power. Meanwhile, congressional funding processes have descended into dysfunction. Rather than budgeting programmatically and with an eye on individual outlays, Congress does mammoth omnibus funding. Spending grows on autopilot, with both the president and lawmakers fearful of being seen as slashing dollars from what the media portray as critical federal functions. The power of the purse is no longer a practical check on executive overreach.

 

That would seem to make impeachment even more indispensable. In the absence of a credible threat of impeachment, lawmakers would have no real check on presidential misconduct — other than Congress’s capacity to embarrass the administration politically with public hearings and commentary. That is, unless impeachment is a real possibility, presidents are limited only by their own sense of what they can get away with politically. That is barely a check in day-to-day governance. It leaves a wide berth for presidential legislating, lawlessness, and flouting of congressional mandates.

 

Impeachment is a political remedy, not a legal one. With Donald Trump in office and impeachment in play, that adage is repeated so often it seems platitudinous. But it states a vital truth: The mere existence of misconduct that the House might judge impeachable does not mean the Senate — by a two-thirds supermajority — would remove a president over it. That fact, coupled with the inherent societal discord impeachment is bound to cause, has historically discouraged the House from commencing impeachment inquiries, even for arguably impeachable offenses.

 

The upshot is that impeachment can never be successfully invoked — in the sense of both filing articles of impeachment and ousting the president from power — absent a public consensus, cutting across partisan lines, that a president needs to be removed. Only such a consensus would move members of the House and Senate, who must face voters. Therefore, a public political case has to be made for impeachment. It is not enough to show that a president has overstepped here or there. The public must be convinced that these excesses are so serious, so indicative of unfitness, that it is worth putting the country through the trauma of removing the chief executive.

 

Significantly, I contended in the book that the goal is not necessarily to remove the president but to change presidential behavior. To be sure, if misconduct were sufficiently egregious that the president could not credibly carry out his responsibilities any longer, removal would be the only option. But with the power of the purse falling into desuetude, impeachment could address less serious misconduct, too. If a president who is not otherwise unfit pursues unlawful or harmful policies, a credible threat of impeachment might be enough to persuade the president to reverse course – obviating the need to impeach.

 

In Faithless Execution, I laid out various instances of presidential misconduct which could be used to try to build a political case for President Obama’s impeachment. I did it, though, with these caveats:

 

1) a president should not be impeached in the absence of a public consensus for his removal (an unsuccessful impeachment is likely to encourage more abuse of power);

 

2) if making the political case induced a president to cease and desist the misconduct, an impeachment effort should generally be aborted since the credible threat of impeachment had served its purpose; and

 

3) if Congress concluded that impeachment would be so unpopular that a president’s opposition party would suffer politically for invoking it, then it was a rational choice not to seek impeachment — but a choice that came with the price tag that a rogue president would be encouraged to continue abusing power.

 

In the case of President Trump, Democrats are doing what I suggested should be done with President Obama — building a political case for impeaching a president they deeply oppose. They certainly have the right to do this, yet there is a problem. I may have been right that this revival of impeachment as a credible threat is necessary (in the absence of any other realistic alternative for addressing presidential overreach), but it is also causing serious governance problems. Ignoring them would be irresponsible.

 

To be sure, the Democrats’ underlying rationale for impeachment is different from mine. Democrats decided Trump was unfit before he ever entered office and have been seeking any ostensibly plausible reason to vindicate this predisposition in articles of impeachment. By contrast, while I was never an Obama fan, my argument was not that he came to office as an impeachment waiting to happen; it was that, for years, he governed in a manner intentionally designed to undermine the Constitution’s structure, and that he had elevated the interests of foreign powers and actors over the interests of the American people and our security.

 

Those differences aside, however, we can see that relying on impeachment as the go-to response to presidential overreach — real or alleged — has manifest downsides.

 

To build their political case, Democrats frame every dispute with President Trump in dire terms: proof of his unfitness and the imperative of removing him. No misstep is too trivial. The president’s supporters, to the contrary, are incentivized to defend the president, even when they should be trying to convince him to change course. They do not want to be seen as implicitly supporting the impeachment effort, so every misstep, even ones that are serious though not egregious enough to warrant impeachment, must be defended rather than corrected. And the president — especially one with Trump’s persona, which is always to attack and never to confess error — is encouraged to double down on his mistakes, lest his changing course be seen as an implied admission of misconduct that strengthens the impeachment case.

 

The Democratic base demands impeachment. Recently, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has come around to the conclusion that it can be done quickly and with minimal political damage to Democrats who hold seats in pro-Trump districts. It thus appears highly likely that the president will be impeached in the coming weeks.

 

The Democrats’ euphoria will be short-lived. There will be deep, bitter public protest because impeachment, on the facts before us, is objectively foolhardy. Trump’s missteps do not rise to the level of impeachable offenses. If they did, Democrats would not fear voting to conduct the impeachment inquiry, and they would proudly hold their hearings in public with due process, rather than behind closed doors with selective leaking.

 

Moreover, we are just one year out from an election in which, if Trump is as bad as Democrats say, the voters will remove him. Yet, Trump’s approval rating hovers at around 43 percent, close to what Obama’s was a year before his reelection. Trump could certainly lose, but he stands a decent chance of being reelected. Hence far from a strong consensus for his removal, there will be zealous protest against impeachment by a significant segment of the public. Consequently, the Republican-controlled Senate will swiftly reject the House Democrats’ impeachment articles as a partisan stunt — as precisely the abuse of power the Framers feared. And woe betide the next Democratic president seeking the bipartisan cooperation needed to govern.

 

Our constitutional system will be damaged because impeachment will be discredited. That will not make it any less indispensable than Madison judged it to be. Yet its invocation will be even less likely in some grievous future instance, when a presidential abuse of power actually does imperil the nation. We will have a virtually omnipotent president. As a practical matter, there will be no viable congressional check — no impeachment, no power of the purse — to rein the president in. The powers of the competing political branches will be in gross imbalance, making functional separation of powers impossible.

 

As the Framers would tell us, that is not a prescription for the preservation of liberty.

 

 

 


Are you arguing that Clinton should have never been impeached?

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The Trivialization of Impeachment

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Message 10 of 10

BY:  Andrew C. McCarthy

 

We have a serious governance problem.

 

Our system is based on separation of powers, because liberty depends on preventing any component of the state from accumulating too much authority — that’s how tyrants are born. For the system to work, the components have to be able to check each other: The federal and state governments must respect their separate spheres, and the branches of the federal government must be able to rein in a branch that oversteps its authority.

 

The steady federal encroachment on state authority has created an imbalance that probably cannot be rolled back. I want to focus on the collapse of inter-branch checks in the federal government.

This was the issue I dealt with in Faithless Execution. The thesis was that the Framers feared an agglomeration of power in the presidency they were creating, so they endowed Congress with significant checks on the executive.

 

The ultimate one was impeachment. But this was supposed to be reserved for truly abominable misconduct. Though Madison concluded that impeachment was “indispensable” in light of the damage a rogue president could do, it also came with its own set of problems. Not least, impeachment might give Congress too much power over the executive. It might be invoked out of partisan mischief, rather than serious maladministration. Consequently, impeachment was made to be really hard to do.

 

The Framers were sophisticated men, who saw themselves as both students and victims of executive power run amok (as about two minutes’ perusal of the Declaration of Independence elucidates). They understood that governance would involve tussles between the political branches and episodes of overreach — whether out of incompetence, malevolence, or urgency — for which the extraordinary impeachment remedy would be gross overkill. Routine disputes involving the propensities of both the legislature and the executive to act outside their authorities would be handled by lesser remedies. Congress, most importantly, was given the power of the purse and significant power over executive agencies (to create them, to limit their authority, and, in the Senate’s case, to approve their leaders).

 

My argument in Faithless Execution was that this system has broken down, with no repairs on the horizon. The Framers naturally thought congressional control of the executive budget would obviate the need to resort to impeachment. Lawmakers could defund dubious executive initiatives and withhold funds necessary to carry out the president’s priorities; this would pressure the executive branch to comply with statutes as well as congressional demands for information and policy modification. The ultimate question of a president’s fitness would be left to the sovereign — the American people, exercising the franchise.

 

In the last century, however, the federal government and the administrative state have grown enormously, vastly increasing executive power. Meanwhile, congressional funding processes have descended into dysfunction. Rather than budgeting programmatically and with an eye on individual outlays, Congress does mammoth omnibus funding. Spending grows on autopilot, with both the president and lawmakers fearful of being seen as slashing dollars from what the media portray as critical federal functions. The power of the purse is no longer a practical check on executive overreach.

 

That would seem to make impeachment even more indispensable. In the absence of a credible threat of impeachment, lawmakers would have no real check on presidential misconduct — other than Congress’s capacity to embarrass the administration politically with public hearings and commentary. That is, unless impeachment is a real possibility, presidents are limited only by their own sense of what they can get away with politically. That is barely a check in day-to-day governance. It leaves a wide berth for presidential legislating, lawlessness, and flouting of congressional mandates.

 

Impeachment is a political remedy, not a legal one. With Donald Trump in office and impeachment in play, that adage is repeated so often it seems platitudinous. But it states a vital truth: The mere existence of misconduct that the House might judge impeachable does not mean the Senate — by a two-thirds supermajority — would remove a president over it. That fact, coupled with the inherent societal discord impeachment is bound to cause, has historically discouraged the House from commencing impeachment inquiries, even for arguably impeachable offenses.

 

The upshot is that impeachment can never be successfully invoked — in the sense of both filing articles of impeachment and ousting the president from power — absent a public consensus, cutting across partisan lines, that a president needs to be removed. Only such a consensus would move members of the House and Senate, who must face voters. Therefore, a public political case has to be made for impeachment. It is not enough to show that a president has overstepped here or there. The public must be convinced that these excesses are so serious, so indicative of unfitness, that it is worth putting the country through the trauma of removing the chief executive.

 

Significantly, I contended in the book that the goal is not necessarily to remove the president but to change presidential behavior. To be sure, if misconduct were sufficiently egregious that the president could not credibly carry out his responsibilities any longer, removal would be the only option. But with the power of the purse falling into desuetude, impeachment could address less serious misconduct, too. If a president who is not otherwise unfit pursues unlawful or harmful policies, a credible threat of impeachment might be enough to persuade the president to reverse course – obviating the need to impeach.

 

In Faithless Execution, I laid out various instances of presidential misconduct which could be used to try to build a political case for President Obama’s impeachment. I did it, though, with these caveats:

 

1) a president should not be impeached in the absence of a public consensus for his removal (an unsuccessful impeachment is likely to encourage more abuse of power);

 

2) if making the political case induced a president to cease and desist the misconduct, an impeachment effort should generally be aborted since the credible threat of impeachment had served its purpose; and

 

3) if Congress concluded that impeachment would be so unpopular that a president’s opposition party would suffer politically for invoking it, then it was a rational choice not to seek impeachment — but a choice that came with the price tag that a rogue president would be encouraged to continue abusing power.

 

In the case of President Trump, Democrats are doing what I suggested should be done with President Obama — building a political case for impeaching a president they deeply oppose. They certainly have the right to do this, yet there is a problem. I may have been right that this revival of impeachment as a credible threat is necessary (in the absence of any other realistic alternative for addressing presidential overreach), but it is also causing serious governance problems. Ignoring them would be irresponsible.

 

To be sure, the Democrats’ underlying rationale for impeachment is different from mine. Democrats decided Trump was unfit before he ever entered office and have been seeking any ostensibly plausible reason to vindicate this predisposition in articles of impeachment. By contrast, while I was never an Obama fan, my argument was not that he came to office as an impeachment waiting to happen; it was that, for years, he governed in a manner intentionally designed to undermine the Constitution’s structure, and that he had elevated the interests of foreign powers and actors over the interests of the American people and our security.

 

Those differences aside, however, we can see that relying on impeachment as the go-to response to presidential overreach — real or alleged — has manifest downsides.

 

To build their political case, Democrats frame every dispute with President Trump in dire terms: proof of his unfitness and the imperative of removing him. No misstep is too trivial. The president’s supporters, to the contrary, are incentivized to defend the president, even when they should be trying to convince him to change course. They do not want to be seen as implicitly supporting the impeachment effort, so every misstep, even ones that are serious though not egregious enough to warrant impeachment, must be defended rather than corrected. And the president — especially one with Trump’s persona, which is always to attack and never to confess error — is encouraged to double down on his mistakes, lest his changing course be seen as an implied admission of misconduct that strengthens the impeachment case.

 

The Democratic base demands impeachment. Recently, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has come around to the conclusion that it can be done quickly and with minimal political damage to Democrats who hold seats in pro-Trump districts. It thus appears highly likely that the president will be impeached in the coming weeks.

 

The Democrats’ euphoria will be short-lived. There will be deep, bitter public protest because impeachment, on the facts before us, is objectively foolhardy. Trump’s missteps do not rise to the level of impeachable offenses. If they did, Democrats would not fear voting to conduct the impeachment inquiry, and they would proudly hold their hearings in public with due process, rather than behind closed doors with selective leaking.

 

Moreover, we are just one year out from an election in which, if Trump is as bad as Democrats say, the voters will remove him. Yet, Trump’s approval rating hovers at around 43 percent, close to what Obama’s was a year before his reelection. Trump could certainly lose, but he stands a decent chance of being reelected. Hence far from a strong consensus for his removal, there will be zealous protest against impeachment by a significant segment of the public. Consequently, the Republican-controlled Senate will swiftly reject the House Democrats’ impeachment articles as a partisan stunt — as precisely the abuse of power the Framers feared. And woe betide the next Democratic president seeking the bipartisan cooperation needed to govern.

 

Our constitutional system will be damaged because impeachment will be discredited. That will not make it any less indispensable than Madison judged it to be. Yet its invocation will be even less likely in some grievous future instance, when a presidential abuse of power actually does imperil the nation. We will have a virtually omnipotent president. As a practical matter, there will be no viable congressional check — no impeachment, no power of the purse — to rein the president in. The powers of the competing political branches will be in gross imbalance, making functional separation of powers impossible.

 

As the Framers would tell us, that is not a prescription for the preservation of liberty.

 

 

 

VIMTSTL
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