Is callous incompetence an impeachable offense?
bobsheridan at earthlink.net
Fri Sep 2 07:42:52 PDT 2005
California's current governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, replaced the
hapless Gray Davis, who was recalled as the result of losing touch with
his base and having been hornswoggled in a bad energy deal that cost the
state billions involving Hurricane Enron.
Treating impeachment as the equivalent of recall to get rid of an
unpopular president is a difference of kind, not degree, and seems
unconstitutional, for not meeting the definition of high crimes or
misdemeanors, whether a president so-recalled has a remedy or not.
Having made the policy decision to have elections on a four-year cycle
and not a parliamentary system, I think we tend to sigh and say "Wait
'til next election, it's only a few more years and we've endured worse."
This may help explain the limp public reaction to Bush v. Gore, 2000.
One of the implications of this, "Oh, well," attitude is that the
incumbent may be able to parlay the initial victory into four more
years, after which questions like this may tend to arise when bad things
happen to good people...
James G. Wilson wrote:
> Imagine a President, no longer ideologically in tune with the
> times, who enrages and alienates over eighty per cent of the American
> populace due to numerous bad decisions, polarizing acts, an
> inappropriate affect, and extraordinarily bad luck. To a large degree,
> he is the victim of the tendency of humans to blame their leaders when
> things go wrong. His political opponents, including many who had
> collaborated on numerous occassions, seek to impeach this President.
> Many staunch supporters abandon the President, now a "Symbol of
> Failure," because they fear the next election results. The media goes
> into a predictable frenzy. Let us also assume there has been no
> criminal behavior: no burglaries, no perjury, no bribes. Nor have
> there been any personal moral failings, such as using one's power to
> sexually exploit employees. Nevertheless, Congress rushes through an
> impeachment of this beleagured President. Was there an "impeachable
> offense?" Did the President somehow commit a "High Misdemeanor?"
> Should such a failure of leadership ever be an "impeachable offense?"
> If you agree with my long-held belief that the substance of
> impeachable offense, like the process, is a nonjusticiable political
> question, then there seems little doubt that any Congressional
> impeachment of a President, whatever the causes and motives, is final.
> And Congress, like the Supreme Court, sometimes has the power to
> interpret/twist the Text. Thus, the populace could conceivably put
> enough pressure on Congress to make bungling an impeachable offense.
> I am far more ambivalent about whether such acts warrant
> impeachment. Our constitutional system has been remarkably stable in
> large part because we have relied so much on the electoral process to
> change political leadership. Yet there may be that rare moment when a
> President totally loses the confidence of the Nation; he or she no
> longer has the "mandate of Heaven." Also, the threat of impeachment
> is one of the few things that prevents a President from being a
> virtual emperor for four years. One of the obligations of lawyers and
> judges is to overcome understandable hesitation and make a decision
> about a particular issue. I am fairly certain I would have voted to
> impeach President Johnson after the Civil War, so I am pretty sure I
> would go after a President who does not seem to have committed any
> High Crimes and Misdeameanors, but has led the country into numerous
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