Tag Archives: Bill Clinton

Impeachment remains huge obstacle

I am believing now that Donald J. Trump isn’t likely to be kicked out of office before his term expires.

The nation’s founders set a high bar for removal of a president.

The U.S. House of Representatives can bring articles of impeachment. It can essentially indict a president on a complaint that he has committed “high crimes and misdemeanors.” It takes a simple majority of House members to impeach a president.

It’s happened twice. President Andrew Johnson got impeached in 1868. Then in 1998, the House impeached President Bill Clinton. The House impeached Johnson on 11 counts, the principal count being a violation of the Tenure of Office Act after he had fired Secretary of War Edwin Stanton. The House impeached Clinton on a charge that he perjured himself in testimony before a federal grand jury.

Both men were spared being kicked out. Johnson made it by a single vote in the U.S. Senate. Clinton survived much more easily in his Senate trial.

The Constitution lays out a two-thirds rule for conviction and removal from office of the president.

What makes a Trump removal so difficult lies in the numbers. Republicans control the Senate by a single seat. If they lose the Senate majority after the midterm election, it is projected that several GOP senators would need to join Democrats who likely would vote to convict the president on whatever charge is brought before the body.

I’m not certain that an impeachable offense will emerge from the investigation being conducted by special counsel Robert Mueller. If one does emerge, though, it remains a tremendously tenuous view that there would be enough political support in the Senate to actually convict the president — no matter how egregious the charge that might come forth.

Impeachment is a political process, even though members of the House and Senate state piously that they are conducting a quasi-judicial process. It really relies on the partisan leaning of both legislative bodies.

I want to offer this look at what might lie ahead for the president and for Congress.

First things first. We have an election to complete that will determine the partisan makeup of the legislative chambers that will decide what to do about this president.

Hey, you know he could just quit once he realizes his agenda — whatever it is — is going nowhere.

‘Welcome back,’ ballooning budget deficits

Ronald Reagan and his fellow Republicans made lots of hay in 1980 about the “spiraling” budget deficit during that presidential election year. It totaled a whopping $40 billion.

The GOP presidential nominee’s campaign ridiculed those big-spending Democrats en route to a smashing landslide election victory over President Jimmy Carter.

Ah, yes. Republicans were the party of “fiscal responsibility.”

Hah! Not any longer. The Congressional Budget Office projects that the current fiscal year will end with an $800 billion budget deficit and will surpass $1 trillion by the next fiscal year.

Hey, what happened? Oh, it’s that tax cut that the Republicans wrote into law — at the insistence of Donald J. Trump, and the $1.3 trillion spending bill approved by Congress.

What happened to fiscal restraint? Where are the controls on runaway government spending? Aren’t congressional Republicans — who control the House and the Senate — supposed to rein in free-spending tendencies usually associated with liberal Democrats?

A Democratic president, Bill Clinton, managed to craft a balanced budget in the late 1990s with help from congressional Republicans. Then came Republican George W. Bush, who succeeded Clinton in 2001. We went to war at the end of that year, but didn’t increase taxes to pay for it. The deficit soared out of control.

Democrat Barack Obama came aboard in 2009 with the economy in free fall. He pushed a tax hike and a spending boost through Congress. The economy recovered. The deficit was pared by roughly two-thirds annually by the time he left office in 2017.

Now we’re hurtling back to Square One. The deficit is exploding.

And no one in power seems to care about things that used to matter a lot.

Obama is relaxed; many of us wish he could return

Barack H. Obama seems to have found his second wind as a private citizen. Same with Michelle Obama.

The two of them hardly ever are photographed without big smiles on their faces. The former president is enjoying his time away from the spotlight, as is the former first lady.

Oh, this fills many of us with wistful thoughts. If only we could get him back. That can’t happen. The U.S. Constitution limits presidents to two elected terms. Barack Obama did his time. Now he’s out among some of us.

Sure, he’s making a ton of scratch making speeches. He is kicking a lot of his post-presidential income back to community projects near and dear to his heart. He is following the course set by many of his predecessors.

George W. Bush has taken up painting, has biked with wounded veterans (including in Palo Duro Canyon) and has opened his presidential library in Dallas; Bill Clinton is hard at work on his Clinton Global Initiative Foundation, also making speeches and getting mixed up in politics from time to time; Jimmy Carter builds houses for Habitat for Humanity and teaches Sunday school in Plains, Ga.; George H.W. Bush is in poor health, but he, too, enjoys retired life.

I suppose it would tempting for Obama to fire back at his successor, Donald Trump, who seems to need a foil; he relishes the notion of dismantling many of his immediate predecessor’s successes and he does so while firing off broadsides via stump speeches and tweets.

Therein lies one of the many differences between Obama and Trump. The current president simply cannot stand being criticized; the former president might not like it, but he maintains his silence … mostly.

As much as I would like to have Barack Obama back in command of the situation, I know — and appreciate — his sense of freedom from the rigors of serving in the nation’s highest public office.

I wish him well. I also hope he doesn’t disappear. Many of his countrymen and women still enjoy listening to his soaring rhetoric far more than the trash talk that pours forth from the guy who succeeded him.

Righties’ duplicity = hypocrisy

My friend made a great point today after lunch.

“If Barack Obama had done a half of the things, a third of the things, that Donald Trump has done,” he said, “the evangelicals would be screaming for his scalp! But with this guy — Trump — they shrug and give him a pass. They say, ‘That’s just Donald.'”

Yes. Indeed.

His point is worth examining a bit more closely.

The issue of the day is the fling he took with Stormy Daniels, the porn star. And then we have the 10-month romantic relationship he allegedly had with Karen McDougal, the former Playboy model.

Are these issues by themselves worthy of an impeachment? Oh, I don’t think so. Then again, there might be more “there” there to discover … take it away, special counsel Robert Mueller.

The notion that the evangelical voter base would give the president a pass on a 12-year-old sexual episode speaks loudly and clearly to the duplicity those voters are exhibiting.

If we flash back about, oh, 25 years to the 1992 presidential campaign of Arkansas Gov. William Jefferson Clinton, you understand where I’m going with this.

The far right of the Republican Party that today is giving Trump a pass because what he did was so long ago was going apoplectic because of alleged affairs Clinton had with women well before he ever became president.

I cite the cases involving, oh, Gennifer Flowers and Paula Jones … to name just two of them. Flowers came forward with an allegation that she and Clinton had a fling. What was the right wing’s response then? They went ballistic, man! They flew into paroxysms of rage!

These days? No sweat. He’s a changed man. He wants to “make America great … again.” The president deserves God’s grace.

To be fair, I’ll concede that progressives who largely gave Clinton a pass in 1992 are filled with rage and anger at Trump today. But their tolerance then is ancient history. I’m talking about the here and now.

Which brings me back to the point my friend made this afternoon. If someone other than Trump had done what he’s being accused of doing, our friends on the right and the far right would be … um … beside themselves with rage.

Hypocrites.

Porn queen vs. POTUS takes weird turn

Donald John Trump says he didn’t have a sexual affair with a porn queen.

The porn queen so far has been (more or less) quiet, although her lawyer says for the record that the two of them — the porn star and the president — had a sexual relationship.

So … if the president’s denial is true, why is he suing the porn queen for $20 million and seeking a change of venue from a state court to a federal court?

I refuse to name the porn queen because I don’t want to give her any more publicity than she’s already received — which is plenty! It’s too much, if you were to ask me.

But this story continues to get weirder by the day. A part of me shouldn’t give a damn about Trump’s sexual proclivity. He bragged about prior infidelity and those who voted for this clown knew what they were getting when they elected him president of the United States of America.

However, his lawyer reportedly paid the porn queen 130 grand to keep her quiet. She says that Trump never signed the non-disclosure agreement, making it all null and void. She’s spoken to “60 Minutes,” and the segment is going to air on March 25. Trump, though, wants to block it — which has about as much chance of succeeding as Trump actually telling us the whole truth about anything.

The salaciousness of this story gives it its legs, I am going to presume.

As we’ve learned from prior investigations into presidential misbehavior — see President Bill Clinton’s impeachment in 1998 — this story might end up in a most unexpected place.

I don’t know where that will be. I am willing to wait to see where it crashes and burns.

Trump reverses growth quotient

Paul Begala is an acknowledged Democratic partisan. He once worked for President Bill Clinton. He is no fan of Donald Trump.

Now that we’ve established that, I have to concur with something he has said about the president.

Whereas presidents — particularly those who come to the White House with a primarily outside-the-Beltway experience — usually grow in the office, Donald Trump is shrinking the office to fit his own shortcomings.

Begala mentioned how Presidents Reagan, Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama all learned about the office, how they filled the White House with their presence. Trump has reversed that momentum.

I will add that of the examples Begala cited, all of them had prior government experience. Reagan served two terms as governor of California, Bush served a term and a half as governor of Texas, Clinton served multiple terms as Arkansas governor and Obama served in the Illinois state senate before being elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006.

Trump’s experience is totally unique. He never sought a public before running for president. He ran a large business. Trump answered to no one. He has demonstrated zero curiosity, zero humility, not a lick of introspection. He has said he’s never sought forgiveness. He won’t admit to making a mistake.

As some observers have noted, Trump’s political skill — which he exhibited while campaigning successfully for the presidency — hasn’t transferred to governing. He doesn’t know how to govern.

Donald Trump isn’t growing into the office he won. He is shrinking it to fit his own diminished profile.

Trump is shaking up the Cabinet. His closest advisers are bailing, or are being pushed out. His Health and Human Services secretary had to quit; his first national security adviser was canned; Trump has just fired the secretary of state; the veterans secretary is about to go; the current national security adviser may be canned; Trump has burned through four communications directors.

This all happened in the first 15 months of his presidency.

And the president would have us believe he is doing the best job in the history of the exalted office of the presidency?

Nope. Paul Begala is right. Donald Trump is shrinking the office.

Is there an impeachable offense in this scandal?

President Bill Clinton was impeached because he answered falsely to a question — posed before a grand jury — about whether he had a sexual relationship with a young White House intern.

Congressional Republicans were waiting for a reason to impeach the Democratic president. The president handed it to them by perjuring himself before a grand jury assembled by special prosecutor Kenneth Starr. Let’s remember that Starr’s probe began with an examination of a real estate matter involving the president and the first lady. We called it “Whitewater.” It was centered in Arkansas.

Somehow, though, it weaved its way toward the relationship the president had with a much-younger woman who was working in the West Wing.

Two decades later, a new special counsel, Robert Mueller, is conducting an investigation into Russian collusion, obstruction of justice and assorted other dealings involving — allegedly — Donald J. Trump.

I now am wondering if this current sex controversy involving Trump and a porn star is somehow going to end up on Mueller’s list of issues to investigate.

Trump has denied having an affair with this woman. Her lawyer has said on the record that the future president and his client did have a sexual relationship.

Given the sometimes-unpredictable nature of these investigations, I am left to wonder what might happen if he is able to subpoena Trump to testify before a grand jury he has assembled.

Is it at all possible that Mueller could ask Trump — who would be compelled to swear to tell “the whole truth and nothing but the truth” — whether he had an affair with this porn queen.

If Trump says “no,” and if the porn queen produces proof that she and Trump took a tumble in 2006, is that grounds for an impeachment?

Holy moly, man! Might history be capable of repeating itself?

Let’s all wait for all of this to play out.

Is lying an impeachable offense? Maybe

The discussion about the investigation into the “Russia thing” has taken a fascinating new turn, thanks to none other than an independent counsel whose probe into Bill Clinton resulted in the former president’s impeachment.

Kenneth Starr said this morning that special counsel Robert Mueller ought to consider the impact of Donald Trump’s apparent lie about firing Mueller.

Speaking on ABC News’s “This Week” talk show, Starr noted that Trump’s repeated statements that he has never considered firing Mueller are exactly counter to what the New York Times and other media are reporting: that Trump actually decided to fire Mueller but backed off when the White House counsel threatened to quit.

How does Starr’s credibility on this matter stack up? In 1998, he said that President Clinton’s public denials about an affair with Monica Lewinsky formed one of the bases for his eventual impeachment.

Do you get it? If Trump has lied to the public about whether he wanted to fire Mueller and the news accounts prove to be accurate, are there, um, grounds for impeachment?

Starr said the president has broad authority to fire anyone. “He can ask for Mueller to be fired for any reason,” Starr said on “This Week.” “The president’s power is extremely broad, as long as he’s not engaged in discrimination or accepting bribes.”

But would his decision to fire Mueller — if it’s true — be because of an intent to block an investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russians who hacked into our national electoral system? If so, does that constitute an obstruction of justice?

Let me think. Oh yeah! President Clinton was impeached, too, for obstruction of justice.

And the drama continues to mount.

This former GOP rep has, um, ‘evolved’

Joe Scarborough has gone through an interesting evolution since when he was a young member of Congress from Florida.

He was a conservative Republican who once voted to impeach President Clinton. Then he left public office in 2001 and has pursued a career as a cable news host and commentator.

Now he is one of Donald J. Trump’s most reviled critics. He has left the Republican Party; he’s engaged to be married to his MSNBC “Morning Joe” co-host, Mika Brzezinski.

He is now speaking more, um, candidly about the president and, to my mind, is speaking more truthfully about many of the nonsensical things that fly out of the president’s mouth.

He said this week that had Democratic presidents, such as Barack Obama or Bill Clinton, “slandered” the FBI the way Trump has done, conservatives would mount a virtual all-out rebellion against either of them. They would give Obama or Clinton “holy hell” for saying the things Trump has said.

He now accuses the GOP of being “accomplices with their silence” about the president’s harsh criticism of the FBI.

Indeed, there once was a time when Americans hardly ever heard Republicans say things out loud that one could construe as critical of law enforcement. Indeed, the GOP was often considered to be the “law and order” party.

Those days are gone. The roles seem reversed, with Democrats now standing solidly behind the FBI as it seeks to do its job.

So, too, is Joe Scarborough, the one-time Republican who’s had enough of his former political party and its leader, the president of the United States.

Welcome to the club, Joe.

Deficit hawks have turned chicken

What has happened to the deficit hawks who used to dominate the Republican Party?

They have become chicken hawks, or just plain chicken.

Congressional Republicans used to rant, rail and express rage over budget deficits. Ronald Reagan derived a lot political advantage in 1980 by ridiculing the $40 billion budget deficit run up annually during the Carter administration.

Fast-forward to the present day.

Republicans are going to enact a tax cut that will blow up the deficit. It will add $1 trillion — or so — to the deficit over the next decade. That’s $100 billion annually.

But here’s the ironic aspect of this deficit business.

A Democratic president, Bill Clinton, managed to craft a budget that produced a surplus by the end of his presidency. He had help from Republicans in Congress, but the point is that the president and the GOP congressional leadership managed to cooperate and work together for a common good.

Another Democrat, Barack Obama, also managed to take huge bites out of a trillion-dollar-plus annual budget deficit. By the time President Obama left office, the budget deficit had been slashed by about two-thirds annually.

There were tax increases along with targeted budget cuts.

Did the GOP members of Congress give the president any credit? Nope. Didn’t happen. They instead changed the subject by targeting the Affordable Care Act, concocting reports of “dismal failure.”

But here we are today. A new president has taken over. He has sought desperately to achieve some kind of legislative “victory.” Republicans in both congressional chambers are poised to give it to him.

At what cost? Oh, yes. The deficit is set to grow once again. The one-time Party of Fiscal Responsibility has changed it stripes.