Fred Henneke, Attorney & Counselor-At-Law
Tomorrow, Tuesday, Senators will have the opportunity to make speeches explaining their votes, which will actually be cast on Wednesday. Don’t expect a lot of honesty. Rather, what we will get are the justification for their decisions to remove or not, couched in terms that enhance their re-election chances (for those 35 up for re-election in 2020).
Besides the hypocrisy, what we will observe is the death knell for impeachment as a viable check on a president, any president. A little history lesson is in order.
Back in 1787, the Founding Fathers were in a quandry. In crafting this new, untested form of goverment, they were very conscious of the dangers of an all-powerful chief executive. After all, they had just fought a long and bloody war over the abuses of King George III. However, the headless form of government under the Articles of Confederation (our original post-revolution form of government) proved that there had to be a chief executive with enough inherent power to act swiftly when the situation dictated quick action. How long would it take for the then-Congress to meet, debate and authorize defensive measures against the enemies of this new nation?. Part of the solution was the creation of three branches of government, each being checked and balanced by the others. Another part of the solution was Impeachment.
Unfortunately, the Founding Fathers never dreamed of the hyper, mindless, single-minded partisanship of today’s Congress. They built our amazing form of government around the hope and expectation that only those persons with high honor and concern for the Nation as a whole instead of their own personal or sectional interests would occupy the halls of Congress. They could not envision an effort to impeach a president, merit aside, by only one political party (or faction as they were first called). Impeachment was a last measure by all patriots to remove a president who so abused the office that he (or she) no longer deserved to occupy that office. It was to be used only in the most extreme circumstances.
Only three presidents have been formally impeached in our long history; a fourth, Richard Nixon, resigned before being impeached. None have been removed from office. And none will unless one party so dominates the House and Senate that a strictly party vote meets the standards. The demise of this remedy created to provide a further check on abuses by the president began with the impeachment of William Jefferson Clinton for basically a sexual obscenity with an intern less than half his age. And even then, there was a modicum of bipartisan support for the impeachment, if not the acquittal. This current impeachment farce died aborning with no hope of success. And with it went any hope of ever using the constitutional check of removing a president from office.
A grateful nation applauds Tweedle-Dee (Nancy Pelosi) and Tweedle-Dum (Mitch McConnell).