Tag Archives: Richard Nixon

Impeachment about overturning election? No-o-o-o-o! Really?

Can we dispense with the tired — and patently ridiculous — notion that Donald John Trump’s impeachment is meant to “overturn” the results of the last election?

That goofy argument is part of the White House response to the articles of impeachment that the House of Representatives delivered to the Senate, which on Tuesday will commence the trial that will determine whether the current president of the United States keep his job.

I believe I shall remind everyone of a couple of historical facts.

The House Judiciary Committee voted for articles of impeachment against President Nixon in 1974. Nixon quit the presidency on Aug. 9 of that year. He had won re-election in 1972 in a smashing landslide: 49 states, 520 electoral votes, 60 percent of the ballots cast. That impeachment effort would have reversed the outcome of that election, too.

The House impeached President Clinton in 1998. He stood trial in 1999 and was acquitted. Clinton won re-election in 1996 with a handsome margin: 379 electoral votes and a healthy plurality of actual votes. And, yes, that impeachment was intended to overturn an election result, too.

Presidential impeachment by definition are intended to do the very thing that the White House is now accusing the House of doing. I know that House members who voted to impeach the president stand behind high-minded rhetoric about “defending the Constitution.” I believe that is the case here.

However, this act also carries with it a necessary political component, which is that it seeks to correct a ballot-box mistake. Let’s not be coy about this point as well: Trump did not win in anything approaching a landslide. He pulled in nearly 3 million fewer votes than his opponent in 2016 and won because of an adroit end-of-campaign tactic that saw him win three key Rust Belt states that put him over the top in the Electoral College count.

Impeachment is meant to overturn an election? Well, as we used to say in high school: No sh**, Sherlock!

‘Our Constitution works’

I am fond of recalling the words of a brand new president who took office in the wake of a dark time in American history.

Gerald Rudolph Ford placed his hand on a Bible, recited the presidential oath of office, then stood before the world to declare that “our Constitution works.” He succeeded Richard Nixon, who quit earlier that day to avoid being impeached. The Watergate scandal brought down the Nixon presidency.

Yes, the Constitution worked just as it should during that time.

It is working now as another president faces the unforgiving assurance that every morning he awakes for the rest of his life, he will be an “impeached president.”

Yes, the Constitution works, just as President Ford declared on Aug. 9, 1974.

No matter the outcome of the Senate trial that is pending, the Constitution will have done its job. If the president is cleared, it will have worked. If he is convicted and removed from office, it will have performed as the framers constructed it.

Almost no one believes the current president will be kicked out of office. A failure to convict him doesn’t mean failure for the Constitution. It means only, to my mind, that an insufficient number of senators were willing to put duty to the nation ahead of fealty to a president. That doesn’t besmirch the Constitution, under which the House impeached Donald Trump and the Senate conducted its trial.

It is good at times like this to take a step back and look at the big picture. The framers crafted a brilliant governing document. It’s a bit clunky at times, but that’s the nature of a representative democracy, which is as Winston Churchill described it: a lousy form of government, but better than anything else ever produced by human beings.

My faith in the system remains as strong as ever, regardless of the outcome that more than likely awaits the nation at the end of this process.

I shall cherish the words that President Ford spoke moments after assuming the nation’s highest office: Our Constitution works.

Overturn an election result? Well … yeah!

Congressional Republicans argue against the impeachment of Donald Trump on the basis of a belief that Democrats are seeking to “overturn the results of the 2016 presidential election.”

Hmm. You know, at one level I actually agree with that view.

However, here’s the deal: Three of the four presidential impeachments in this nation’s history have been intended to do that very thing. President Andrew Johnson’s impeachment in 1868 didn’t seek to overturn the preceding election; the nation re-elected President Lincoln in 1864 as the Civil War was still raging, but then the president was shot to death in April 1865, allowing Vice President Johnson to ascend to the presidency.

President Nixon was going to be impeached in 1974 before he quit the presidency. President Clinton was impeached in 1998. Did Democrats seek to overturn Nixon’s landslide re-election in 1972? Did Republicans want to do the same thing when they impeached Clinton in 1998 after he had won re-election in 1996? Well, yeah! They did!

So what is the rationale for this argument? Local officials are subject to recall petitions when they mess up. They, too, are elected to their office. Recall movements, therefore, are intended to “overturn” those results.

All this being said, I am not the least bit moved by the argument that an impeachment of a president is an effort to overturn an election. We can argue about the motives, I suppose, of why one side wants to impeach a president.

There can be no argument, though, on the consequence of such an act. Of course it reverses the result of the previous election. That’s what impeachment, I am willing to argue, is all about.

Impeachment takes dramatic turn

Now we know what the U.S. House Intelligence Committee has compiled.

It says the president of the United States, Donald Trump, abused the immense power of his office to seek a political favor from a foreign government. It speaks to extended phone conversations between the president’s personal attorney, Rudolph Giuliani, with Ukrainian government officials. It offers evidence that Giuliani was conducting a covert foreign policy operation.

Some talking heads are suggesting there might be more evidence to gather. They are saying the impeachment process might take even longer than planned.

I am one American who is beginning to suffer from a bit of impeachment fatigue. I do not need to be persuaded any further of the president’s culpability. I want the Intelligence Committee to hand this off to the Judiciary Committee; I want the Judiciary Committee to conduct its hearings. I want Judiciary to approve articles of impeachment. I want the Senate to put Trump on trial. I want enough senators to vote to convict Trump and remove him from office post haste.

I am confident that all but the last event will occur.

No minds are likely to be changed. Trump’s stranglehold on the Republican Party is unlike anything I’ve seen while witnessing these impeachment proceedings. We went through this in 1973-74 and again in 1998-1999. Some Republicans voted to approve articles of impeachment against President Nixon in 1974. Some Democrats did the same when the House impeached President Clinton in 1998.

This time, it’s strictly partisan. By “strictly partisan” I mean precisely that: Republicans and Democrats are dug in. They aren’t moving. Republicans are standing by their man; Democrats want him kicked out of office.

So, let’s get on with this, shall we?

RIP, William Ruckelshaus

They buried a Republican champion the other day, a man whose obituary contains a direct reference to his political heroism during a dark, scandalous time in U.S. history.

William Ruckelshaus died at age 87 at his Seattle home.

This man was an amazing, principled public servant who stood tall during the Watergate scandal. He was the nation’s deputy attorney general who, when his boss — AG Elliot Richardson quit while refusing to obey a presidential order — also exhibited supreme courage in following Richardson’s lead.

President Nixon was being swallowed up by the Watergate scandal. In 1973, Congress confirmed Archibald Cox as a special prosecutor to examine the evidence about whether the cover-up extended into the White House. Nixon pledged that Cox would be fully independent, that he could be fired only for malfeasance.

Cox began to get close to Nixon, who then ordered the AG to fire him; Richardson refused. Then the deputy AG got the order; Ruckelshaus quit. It fell, then, to Solicitor General Robert Bork to do what the president demanded.

The Saturday Night Massacre, as the resignations have come to be known, has become etched indelibly into American political lore. William Ruckelshaus stands as a giant man of principle among the key players in that drama.

It is his courage under political fire that is so terribly missing these days, particularly among those who comprise what is left of the Republican Party.

Ruckelshaus, moreover, was the founding director of the Environmental Protection Agency, which the Nixon administration created in 1970. Ruckelshaus was wedded to the idea of protecting our planet. That, too, remains high on his legacy of public service accomplishment.

If only this good man’s political descendants could rip a page from his Book of High Principle and adhere to the courage that William Ruckelshaus demonstrated in a time of political peril.

This impeachment debate is getting personal … and graphic

I just performed a rare — for me, at least — social media act.

I severed a social media relationship based on something this individual posted. I don’t like admitting it, but I am doing so now.

Here’s my side of the story.

The impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump’s conduct as president has drawn some amazing commentary on both sides of the great divide among Americans. It has stormed onto social media in ways I did not expect.

This evening on Facebook, I got a message from someone I know — although not well — that made me wretch. It contained an encrypted picture that had a note that it contained a graphic image; I had to click on a link to view it, so I did.

It turned my stomach. It showed a terrible image of what was described as a U.S. envoy being tortured; juxtaposed with that image was a picture of former Ukraine ambassador Marie Yovanovitch with a caption that said she had her “feelings hurt” by Donald Trump.

I put the encryption back on the picture and then “unfriended” the person who posted it from my Facebook network.

Yes, this is the kind of anger that the Donald Trump Era of Politics has brought us. I do not like it. Not in the least.

Although I have to say that the debate over Donald Trump’s fitness to serve as president and the inquiry into whether he should be impeached is revealing a lot about people I thought I knew. I am finding that some of my many acquaintances harbor some pretty nasty tendencies, such as the picture that one of those individuals posted on a social media platform.

I have lived through two serious presidential crises. The first one involved President Nixon and the Watergate scandal; the second one concerned President Clinton and the White House intern scandal. Nixon was on the way to getting impeached, but he resigned the presidency; the House impeached Clinton but he was acquitted by the Senate at trial.

In neither of those crises do I remember the intensity being exhibited by partisans on both sides of that divide. However, the image I looked at today — yes, I saw the warning, but looked anyway — goes so far beyond the pale that I parted company with someone who I thought was better than that.

I am afraid this tumult is going to damage a lot more relationships.

Is it possible Trump would resign … a la Richard Nixon?

I feel like sharing with you a political fantasy that keeps creeping into the recesses of my noggin.

Right off the top: I cannot stop wondering if there’s a chance that Donald J. Trump would resign the presidency, the way Richard Nixon did on Aug. 9, 1974.

President Nixon’s resignation speech spoke of the distraction a prolonged impeachment hearing in the House and a Senate trial would become. He said resigning was “abhorrent” to him. The president added that he couldn’t in good conscience concentrate on keeping his job at the risk of letting more critical matters of governance go unattended.

So, he quit.

To be fair, the president didn’t mention in that televised speech that Senate Republicans had told him he was toast when the matter would go to trial.

Twenty-four years later, another president was impeached. Bill Clinton didn’t quit. He fought it, but was able to compartmentalize the impeachment apart from the task of governing.

Donald Trump isn’t wired that way. He is being consumed by the impeachment. He fires off a constant stream of Twitter messages blasting the House impeachment inquiry, and the patriots who have told House committee members that, by golly, the president did seek a quid pro quo, a personal political favor from a foreign government.

Resigning, of course, would belie what Trump has said all along, that he didn’t do anything wrong when he had that “perfect” phone call with the Ukrainian president.

Nor is Trump inclined to put country ahead of his personal political fortunes. I mean, he had no public service exposure prior to running for the presidency in 2016, so the idea of serving others is totally foreign to this guy.

Plus, I guess I should add that the prospect of the Senate convicting him of any crime against the nation is even more remote than it was in 1999 when it cleared President Clinton.

However, I cannot stop hoping that Donald Trump would find it within himself to simply walk away. Sure, that would mean we’d get Mike Pence as president. The vice president also might be tainted by the dirt that has been kicked up around the president, which I suppose is grist for yet another story at another time.

I am not sure I have the stomach for the impeachment that is racing closer to finality. If only the president of the United States was as queasy as many of the people he promised to serve … and could finally put the nation’s interest ahead of his own.

If only he’d just quit.

Don Jr. is in dire need of a reality check

Donald J. Trump Jr. is hawking a book with his name on it that, he says, seeks to fight back against what he calls mean-spirited attacks from the far left wing of the political spectrum.

Then he goes a step or three too far. He has declared on live TV that Republicans have sat back for “too long” while the left beats the daylights out of them with their attack machine.

Wow, man! Hold on for a second or two. Let’s take a walk along the political memory lane.

1972: President Nixon was running for re-election. His Democratic opponent was U.S. Sen. George McGovern, a fervent Vietnam War critic. He wanted the United States to end the war immediately. The Republican Party and the president’s re-election committee labeled McGovern a patsy, a wimp, a dovish coward. They questioned his patriotism and love of country. Oh, and then there’s this: Sen. McGovern was a decorated World War II U.S. Army Air Force bomber pilot who flew into harm’s way in Europe.

There’s that.

1992: President George H.W. Bush ran for re-election against Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton. The Republican National Committee, along with heavily financed political action groups, sought to link Gov. Clinton and his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, to the deaths of former aides. The implication was that the Clintons were somehow complicit in their deaths. The attacks continued even after Clinton was elected that year, with some on the right suggesting that they murdered their close friend Vincent Foster, who committed suicide shortly after President Clinton took office.

That’s an example, too.

2004: U.S. Sen. John Kerry was the Democratic presidential nominee. Prior to becoming a U.S. senator, he held elective office in Massachusetts. Prior to that he was part of a group called Vietnam Veterans Against the War. And, yes, he also had served heroically in Vietnam as a Navy swift boat officer. He was awarded several medals, including the Bronze Star, Silver Star and Purple Heart. But some foes on the right decided to “Swift Boat” Kerry, suggesting he didn’t really serve with valor. They launched a vicious, defamatory attack on his character. One of the chief financial sponsors of that hideous attack was the late Boone Pickens, the former Amarillo oil and natural gas tycoon.

OK, I have one more example.

2008: U.S. Sen. Barack Obama ran for president as the Democratic nominee. Some notable Republicans felt compelled to question whether the African-American presidential nominee was qualified to run for the office. They said he was born in Kenya. They challenged his constitutional eligibility. Obama said he was born in Hawaii in 1961. His mother was white; his father was a black Kenyan. He didn’t know his father and was raised by his mother and her parents, who lived in Kansas. All of his efforts to persuade his critics fell on largely deaf ears.

One set of deaf ears happened to belong to Donald J. Trump Sr., the current president of the United States and father of the nincompoop who is saying that Republicans have been silent for too long.

My point is this: Don Jr. needs to stop lying about alleged Republican “silence” in this toxic and vicious political climate. They have contributed more than their share of poison.

Trump’s weird association with evangelicals takes an even weirder turn

It looks as though the nation’s strangest political alliance has taken a strange new twist.

Donald Trump has hired a thrice-married, money-loving televangelist to be his link to the evangelical Christian community that continues to support the president, even in the wake of a mountain of impeachment evidence that is piling up all around him.

This person’s name is Paula White. She is far from your run-of-the-mill person of the cloth. She has been marred by marital scandal. She lives in a glitzy mansion in Florida. She reportedly believes God wants believers to gather wealth. She delivers her ministry on television.

Doesn’t sound so, oh, very Trumpian? I believe it does.

The New York Times noted some fascinating spiritual comparisons.

The Times reported that Presidents Eisenhower and Nixon turned the Rev. Billy Graham, who the Times said was “so ubiquitous he became known as America’s Pastor.” President Obama turned to Rick Warren, whose best-selling book “The Purpose Driven Life” became the second best-selling hardcover book in American history; the No. 1 best-seller is, um, The Bible.

Read the Times story here.

Paula White comes from a vastly different mold than previous presidential pastors. She is, shall we say, more than a tad unconventional in her approach to God’s holy word.

She preaches something called “the prosperity gospel,” which the Times reports has drawn widespread criticism from mainstream religious leaders. Imagine that … if you can.

But there she is, working within the White House as a sort of “spiritual adviser” to a president who, to my way of thinking, has lived one of the most un-Christian lives of any notable public figure I’ve ever seen.

Didn’t he once tell us that he’s never sought “forgiveness”? He has admitted cheating on two of his three wives; and there’s plenty of evidence that he’s fooled around on Wife No. 3. He has preached a doctrine of toughness to obtain business success. Trump has mocked others’ physical disabilities, their appearance, their intelligence.

Does any of that resemble what Jesus Christ would endorse?

Don’t answer that.

Now he has someone named Paula White advising him. She will work to shore up his religious movement support.

Weird, man.

Partisanship is alive and festering in this pending impeachment

The highly partisan nature of the House of Representatives vote today on the impeachment inquiry into Donald J. Trump reveals a fundamental shortcoming in this process.

It remains a highly partisan, divided endeavor. Republicans voted “no” on the inquiry resolution, while all but two congressional Democrats voted “yes.”

The resolution lays out the rules and procedure that the House will follow from this moment forward as it decides whether to impeach the president on grounds that he violated his oath of office.

If only it wasn’t so damn partisan!

Looking back at the impeachment proceeding that resulted in President Nixon’s resignation from office in 1974, I am reminded that Republicans joined their Democratic colleagues in the search for the truth about the Watergate break-in and who was behind the coverup of the crime.

Nixon, the Republican president, quit when GOP senators told him eventually that he was toast, that a Senate trial would convict him. Indeed, during the Senate Watergate hearings in 1973, it fell to a GOP senator, Howard Baker, to ask famously, “What did the president know and when did he know it?”

And then came the question from the committee’s Republican legal counsel, Fred Thompson, who would go on later to be elected to the Senate alongside Sen. Baker of Tennessee: “Are you aware of … any listening devices in the Oval Office?” Thompson asked White House aide Alexander Butterfield, who answered “yes.”

Are there any Republicans now who are willing to exhibit that kind of courage? No. They are digging in to defend a president who has actually acknowledged that he sought political help from a foreign government. They are challenging the “process,” calling it a “Soviet-style” inquisition.

The partisanship being exhibited here reminds me of the shamelessness we saw during President Clinton’s impeachment in 1998. Republicans were hell bent toward impeaching the Democratic president, whose Democratic allies in Congress were equally hell bent in protecting him from the GOP attack dogs.

It’s playing out all over again.

But we have this major wrinkle: We’re now staring straight into a presidential election.

You want partisanship? Let’s hang on with both hands.