Impeachment Addiction Affliction

Pipe Dream, Meet Fool’s Errand

As left and right partisans fold Chicken Little into the Boy Who Cried Wolf, high time to label our latest national derangement: Impeachment Addiction Affliction. One day militant Tea Partiers sound the alarm, capping off laughable threats to “sue the White House” with the primal scream, “impeach the anti-American devil president.” Next day contrite House leadership demurs, “No, no, not on the agenda,” sweeping “off the table” a true nuclear option. Yet, weeks later, rising like an untreated infection, the House Majority Whip, Steve Scalise (R-La.), bluntly refuses to take “off the table” the time-bomb his own party denies was ever on.

Where is this metaphoric “table” anyway, between the tabula rasa and the tabula null? I bet the anti-Obamacare House gang, bragging about 40 House assaults, tease would-be impeachers with nary a single vote. That chicanery aside, left wing extremists then distort Obama’s nasty brand of neo-con belligerence as the incarnation of mass-murdering WWII fascists, with Pol Pot tossed in for seasoning. Frustration mounts after two terms of WH betrayal: unless Obama is yanked from office (“just fire him, or whatever”), scratch the Democratic Party, America, fairness and democracy. My sympathies: what to do with the surge-friendly, drone-driven, warrantless spying, faux “peacenik” president?

Not House impeachment, not probable now, not with Obama in decline. Why impeach an unpopular, staggering president routinely hogtied and cornered, hardly a threat to the opposition – and too loaded a figure for his own team. Yet real-world impeachment, not just election chatter, culminates after three distinct waves, none in evidence:

• An aggressive House majority ready to countermand the last national election, inviting massive civil discord because this latest miscreant jeopardizes viable government (and the challenge fuels members’ reelection). Though impeachable acts need not reach criminal standards, any suspect House politician so presumptuous to threaten a minority president with his life story must eventually confront “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

• The Senate, and its Judiciary Committee, must be on board, offering a reasonable shot at conviction. If the Senate objects, or lets the trial turn farcical (as with Clinton’s non-governance sins), the outcome boomerangs, not just redeeming the now victimized leader but confirming impeachers as even worse culprits, guilty of abusing a precious, democratic corrective. Thus pre-emptive WH noise about “welcoming” House over-reach.

• Because exile shreds the last electoral mandate, there must be considerable, if not majority popular approval. As with assassination, voters get disenfranchised. Equally important is a strong consensus the stand-in would be better, certainly not worse, than the discard. Remember the nasty ’08 jokes: thanks to Palin, President McCain would be unimpeachable.

Today, knee-jerk cries for removing the current malefactor are so commonplace, the Boy Who Cried Wolf begins to look sensible. Why not add a proposition alongside presidential voting specifying how many months or years must pass before impeachment threats start? If impeachment proceedings started a few weeks after inauguration, think of the time and emotional stress we’d all avoid. Perhaps we should vet candidates with an abbreviated Impeachment and trial to immunize them for the inevitable, when the People’s House maddeningly equally “indicts” the voting majority for it latest, calamitous screw-up. Alas, the shock value is gone.

Impeachment, Every Season

One must seek ancient history, well before Clinton, to a golden age when impeachment was not the first, second and third war cry from bad losers. Why, all a president has to do these days is get elected and instantly one-third declares him unfit, dangerous and illegitimate. Don’t the deniers understand that if elections don’t matter, then concentrated money dictates everything? Or that the Electoral College confirms legitimacy, such as it is? What country long survives when its majority choice is tainted as legitimate before the year is out?

Reality check: what’s the most obvious, most indisputable fact about the impeachment/conviction two-step? Impeachment happened twice, conviction not once, NOT one presidential removal in our entire history. Nor one VP, an estimable record. Good reasons and bad explain why Congress, typically awash with bluster and mayhem, never dispatched a sitting president. Only federal judges — and when overwhelming testimony proved corruption – have gotten the Senate boot (and good riddance).

Hello, Central, time to address a monumental blow to the last vestige of democracy: the modest credibility a single country awards presidents. If no official avoids getting tarred and feathered, then surely America suffers from impeachment addiction affliction. Aware I’ve warned about the folly of predictions (especially about the future!), here’s a low-risk projection: no future president in my lifetime will go a full term without thunderous screams of impeachment sounding from sea to shining sea. Presidential sainthood is over (which is good) but winners are now assumed guilty until proven otherwise. Even without evidence, too many proclaim any politician crooked enough to win office must be crooked himself, a puppet on the take to our most reactionary anti-democratic demons. Winning itself becomes proof of illegitimacy, and that, my friends, drops a bomb on what remains of the democratic spirit.

National Nullification Parade

No president is now fully legitimate, none got there with fair and impartial elections, and certainly the next leader (like a Hillary) will have no more than week or two grace before the gong rings. Forget the shining beacon on the hill: America is more like the harsh police spotlight decimating top suspects in the line-up gallery.

For today’s weird American psyche, impeachment has less and less to do with high crimes, bribery or treason than a frenzied demand for instant satisfaction. How simple: take a complex, entrenched brand of corporatist governance (spearheaded by energy, defense, health and banking cartels), demonize the most visible public enemy, then fix everything by handing out one undersized parachute. What better way to postpone genuine reform? Right, tar and feather the black president, haul his ass into the Senate, then put on the liveliest melodrama in the political repertoire – with the great prize being zero change – or President Biden. That’s redemption, for sure, plus sending the message no Democrat is safe, whatever his rhetorical and military ferocity.

One result is clear: before we start banishing presidents like any good banana republic, we better vet vice-presidents with supreme care. No more dimwits. Gone are old VP selection standards: 1) good campaign attack dogs, 2) residence in a battleground state, or 3) the ideal ethnic, gender or geographical footprint. Maybe Ralph Nader’s latest book is on to something, proposing natural alliances simmering between left and the right. When I heard our shrillest shill, Sarah Palin, doing her witchcraft dance for Obama’s impeachment, oddly then echoed uncomfortably by much savvier left wingers, I thought of wayward Ralph’s thesis.

Just imagine the Black Caucus rubbing elbows with strident, racist, backwater Tea Party yahoos. What a model venue for a return to rational and functional government that may get nothing done, like meaningful legislation, but finds time to exile any president foolish enough – or competent enough – to win top office. Where’s the hook for that dead-end spectacle?

Robert S. Becker was educated at Rutgers College (BA) and UC Berkeley (Ph.D, English). He left university teaching (Northwestern, U. Chicago) for business, founding and heading SOTA Industries, high end audio company from '80 to '92. "Writing for the public taught me how to communicate." From '92-02 he did marketing consulting, grant, and business writing. Since '02, he scribbles on politics, science and culture, looking for the wit in the shadows. Read other articles by Robert.