What does History tell us about the impeachment of an American President? It has only happened twice.
Today Lincoln is an icon. His Roman style temple and oversized statue dominate one end of the National Mall. But in 1864 he was an embattled president caught in a war he couldn’t win and running against George B. McClellan, a popular general who said he could end it. Even History was against Lincoln. No president had won a second term in over thirty years. Mr. Lincoln needed all the allies he could muster to win. So the first Republicans led by the President tried to split the opposition. They changed the party name to the National Union Party and chose a Southern Democrat as a running mate. In a surprise to everyone including Lincoln, he won re-election positioning Johnson one heartbeat away from the Oval Office.
After the worst mistake by a Southern sympathizer since the attack on Fort Sumter, the assassination of Lincoln, Andrew Johnson assumed the presidency and almost immediately ran afoul of the Radical Republicans who had a three to one majority in Congress and who wanted to punish the South. Johnson was the only Southern Senator to remain loyal to the Union. He served as the Union imposed military governor of Tennessee until chosen to run for Vice President. A mere forty one days into Lincoln’s second term Johnson was sworn in. When he sought to allow the South a path back into the Union that re-imposed limitations upon the freed slaves and ensured the rise of ex-Confederates to power, he was impeached for breaking a law concerning the firing of appointees. After a contentious trial he was acquitted by one vote.
Johnson and his presidency survived, barely. He was afterwards relegated to irrelevancy and served as a mere caretaker until General Grant came along to become the face of Reconstruction. In this first impeachment battle the President was acquitted, but Congress won.
If you ask the average person who lived through the national ordeal President Clinton was impeached because of his scandalous tryst with a young intern in the Oval Office. Though this was a shameful betrayal of trust, it was not the reason he was impeached. He was impeached for perjury and obstruction of justice in a legal matter that had nothing at all to do with Monica Lewinsky. And even though Clinton was later found in contempt by a federal judge for lying under oath and was later disbarred for ethical violations it was the leadership of the House that impeached him that paid the political price. The Senate which on a strict party line vote (all the Progressives voted to acquit), came out relatively unscathed. Today we are constantly told by the Progressive Press Mr. Clinton is a beloved elder statesman.
Etched upon the memory of the Republican wing of the party of power is the knowledge that unless there is a Senate willing to convict there is no glory in being a House ready to indict.
Republics rise and republics fall. They rise due to the explosion of creativity and production which always accompanies freedom, and they fall when demagogues convince a majority that they deserve a free ride at the expense of a minority. The good thing about History is that if we are wise enough we can learn from other people’s mistakes. And if we aren’t going to allow History to instruct us we should at least be wise enough to allow it to warn us.
Our History teaches us that the impeachment process is possible to initiate but difficult to consummate. So what are we to do if History warns us that what we are witnessing is the fall of our republic? Have we learned enough from History to navigate our way through to a safe harbor, or are we helpless in the face of a hurricane of transformation?
Due to the information developed by the American intelligence community and the bravery of Navy Seal Team Six we learned that the leader of Al Qaeda, the fraternity of terrorists America finds itself endlessly destroying, was not hiding in a cave. He was instead living in a compound barely 1,000 yards from the military academy of our principle ally in our decade long undeclared war. Today’s Hitler is dead, yet the war goes on as if nothing has happened. We have victory after victory with no conclusion and no peace in sight.
Looking at our current economic and social situation America appears more like an occupied nation than the victor of the Cold War and the sole remaining Super Power on Earth. Perhaps it is time to conceptualize the idea that our existential enemy is not a rag-tag group of malcontents dedicated to turning back the clock by six centuries. The enemy that poses a mortal threat to our way of life is instead the homegrown Progressive Movement that has labored for more than a century to subvert our education, corrupt our politics, and evolve their way from constitutionally limited government to central planning and total control.
The visible head of the Progressive Movement today is President Barack Obama. As portrayed by the Corporations Once Known as the Mainstream Media he is not just an Alinsky style community organizer, he is a constitutional scholar. We are told endlessly that he was a professor of constitutional law at the University of Chicago. Leaving the reality of these claims aside suffice it to say that this constitutional scholar professes to believe that the constitution is a flawed document because it does not provide for positive rights such as guarantees of housing, jobs, etc. The kind of rights that the constitutions of the Soviet Union did and of Red China does provide its slaves, I mean citizens. Not to worry our constitutional scholar-in-chief also believes that our Constitution, written to set strict limits on the federal government is a living document that each generation is free to interpret: that is, change at will.
President Obama has presided over the most calamitous decline in American prestige and influence since his fellow Progressive Jimmy Carter disgraced the office. Mr. Obama’s apology tours, his over-the-top spending which are nothing less than cross generational theft are eclipsed by his blatant assaults upon the very core of his responsibility: the integrity of the Constitution.
The president of the United States is sworn to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution, but instead Mr. Obama has trampled upon the letter as well as the spirit of this document meant to define the perimeters of federal power.
Unconfirmed Czars rule like potentates over shadow departments dispensing huge budgets while creating a parallel government outside of citizen scrutiny or control. Appointees at the National Labor Relations Board work at subordinating the nation to organized labor. A rogue justice department provides guns to Mexican cartels, refuses to prosecute obvious instances of voter intimidation, gives a pass to Islamist groups, and stonewalls Congress, while aggressively going after peaceful pro-life demonstrators and America’s Sheriff Joe Arpaio. They sue states that try to enforce immigration laws they ignore and seek to try the perpetrators of 9-11 in a New York trial that would parade itself through our national consciousness like a Broadway production of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed Superstar.
Beyond these abuses of power there are two glaring examples of the type of blatant transgressions of clear constitutional limits which, if not addressed set a precedent that may stand in the future as signs of the times that were missed at the time. If not addressed, they will point accusing fingers at a generation asleep at the switch when the bounds of limited government were finally breached.
Mr. Obama has said he can rule without Congress because he can’t wait. He travels the country at tax payer expense campaigning for four more years to seal the deal, inflaming class warfare, and dispensing government giveaways to buy votes. These two egregious affronts to the Constitution lie at the feet of the Washington Monument passed over by the media and explained away by the government’s propaganda arm. And what does the loyal opposition do? They huff and they puff but actually they do nothing.
Only two Congressmen had the integrity to point out that presidents are not allowed to take us to war by whim. And only one had the courage to point out that making high level appointments without Senate confirmation while the Senate is in session is more than bad form: it is unconstitutional and more compatible with a dictatorship than a republic.
We stand before the yawning maw of collectivism presided over by a self-proclaimed transformational president seeking to change us from what we have been to what he thinks we should be. Mr. Obama is supported by what amounts to a personality cult in the media and a legion of fellow citizens addicted to either distributing or receiving the dole. The Republican candidates are standing in a circular firing squad working hard at allowing the Progressive Media make them look like the bar scene from Star Wars. At the same time the media gives the President a pass for everything from gas prices to artificially deflated unemployment figures. If America as we have known her is to survive, we must elect a Congress with enough courage and enough votes to do what must be done. The Congress we have now is passive in the face of serial provocations and outright illegality. They will not call Mr. Obama to account on anything so he feels free to do everything.
If he wins again we all lose unless we replace those who merely go along to get along with those who are willing to speak the forbidden word…Impeach!
Dr. Owens teaches History, Political Science, and Religion for Southside Virginia Community College. He is the Historian of the Future and the author of the History of the Future @ http://drrobertowens.com © 2012 Robert R. Owens firstname.lastname@example.org Follow Dr. Robert Owens on Facebook or Twitter @ Drrobertowens