Michael Ramirez Essay: Playing Politics
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by Michael Ramirez, December 17, 2023
Remember when impeachment was a serious Constitutional action designed to be undertaken to remove a President from office for serious offenses? Apparently, it has become just another political tool to be utilized by the majority in Congress for politicking.
I remember hearing constitutional scholars say that impeachment was a political process and Congress could impeach anyone for anything, as long as they could muster the votes to do it, but no one ever thought that it should be so frivolously initiated.
The Constitutional framers gave the House the sole power and discretion to impeach. A simple majority is all that is required to adopt articles of impeachment. The House has initiated impeachment over 60 times. But only three presidents have been impeached in U.S. history.
Donald Trump…. twice.
It took 92 years before the first presidential impeachment.
Andrew Johnson was impeached on February 24, 1868, by the 40th Congress. Another 130 years passed before the impeachment of Bill Clinton on December 19, 1998. Then, only 21 years passed before the first impeachment of Donald Trump… and two years later, he was impeached again on Jan 13, 2021.
Two Presidents had impeachment investigations initiated.
John Tyler in 1843 and Richard Nixon in 1974. In Tyler’s case, the Congressional majority changed before articles of impeachment could proceed. Nixon resigned before the House took action on the articles of impeachment against him for Watergate.
So, if you’re keeping a tally, there was only one presidential impeachment in the first 222 years of our nation’s history. There have been three in the last 23 years. Incredibly, President Obama was the first president since Jimmy Carter not to have a single impeachment referred to the House Judiciary Committee during his term.
Impeachments were designed to be extraordinary events. Removing a President is usually done at the ballot box. Lately, even that is being contested.
Our founding fathers didn’t trust power. They wanted a strong executive and viewed elections to be the process in which presidents would be evaluated and judged. However, they had just escaped the tyranny of a King, and they knew they needed an emergency mechanism to keep executive power in check.
In Federalist 69, Hamilton mentions presidential impeachment compared to a king's indisputable and absolute authority. Presidents would not have that luxury. The president was not a king. The president would be accountable to the people, Congress, and the law.
Congress has a constitutional role of oversight, a check in the balance of powers, to conduct hearings and investigations. During the course of those investigations, if they found evidence of a president engaging in “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors,” as mentioned in Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution, then they would proceed toward impeachment.
There is no question that the incompetence of the current administration is criminal. But has it reached the level of high crimes?
There is also a valid question about the enormous amount of money made by the Biden family and their offshore enterprises. It should be thoroughly investigated. However, currently, I am unaware of any direct link to the President.
Does it deserve further investigation? Absolutely, but there should be more evidence than hearsay and assumptions.
I don’t think our Founding Fathers envisioned starting something as serious as an impeachment inquiry to find evidence to start an impeachment inquiry. They assumed that even in the House, there would be enough intelligent elected representatives to carefully weigh the serious implications of an impeachment… before they started an impeachment.
Congress has the power to endlessly conduct hearings before going down the more serious road of an official impeachment inquiry. As I recall, someone on the campaign trail was screaming that conducting an endless series of investigations without concrete proof is called weaponizing government against your political opponents. One would hope that the evidence produced from those hearings and investigations would catalyze the more serious impeachment inquiry.
With an almost $34 trillion national debt, you would hope that Congress would pursue anything and everything with a measure of fiscal responsibility in mind… I’m sorry, I was talking about Congress, right? Did I say that with a straight face?
There was a time when the fringe was limited to, well, the fringe… you know, those crazies that operated on the periphery of politics… and the usual substantial portion of Democrats.
Over time, gerrymandering has changed the equation. Now, any knucklehead can get elected to a “safe” district as long as they are from the right party and enough people are not paying attention. Still, the hope was that there would always be enough adults in leadership positions to prevent these kinds of theatrics, especially when it was clear there was no chance of getting a two-thirds vote of a Senate they did not control.
The point of impeachment is to remove the offender, not just to score political points.
Unfortunately, the fringe has now expanded and weaved their way into the fabric of leadership.
America may no longer have a king, but it is now stuck with a House full of fools and court jesters.
Conventional wisdom is that impeachments have hurt the election chances of the party in control. I’m not sure about that. What I am certain of is that impeachment in the absence of credible evidence will have a negative impact on elections, especially if it is perceived as just a political smokescreen for the presidential race.
An impeachment should not be trivial or frequent. It should be taken seriously. If not, then the institution of Congress will no longer be taken seriously. Did I just say that with a straight face?
Remember when Congress could be taken seriously?
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