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The Impeachment game

It’s a dangerous political dance, one most responsible congressmen and senators readily shy away from, but unfortunately Congress, at least in the House, isn’t run by responsible adults anymore. The issue is impeachment and the House majority in particular, and even a few Republicans in the Senate, are talking about the notion of impeaching President Obama. The rationale behind impeaching the President isn’t particularly sound, but that’s not stopping some of the impeachment stalwarts.

Impeachment is the first stage in removing a President from office. The House has to approve the charges through a majority vote. At which point, the charges are formally delivered to the Senate who are then obligated to conduct a trial. The proceeding is presided over by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court acting as judge. The Senators sit as a silent jury. Debate doesn’t occur until after the trial proceedings are over. A two thirds vote is required to convict. Only two Presidents have ever had an impeachment proceeding reach this stage. None were removed from office. President Andrew Johnson, who was charged with violating the highly questionable “Tenure of Office Act” (a rather silly bill that said the President couldn’t remove a cabinet member without Senate approval) and Bill Clinton who lied under oath. The latter, in case you’ve forgotten, had to do with the former President’s dalliance with a young White House intern.

President Obama, no matter what some of the whackier voices in the House say, has done nothing that comes to close to the constitutional requirement for “high crimes and misdemeanors.”  What apparently is driving the impeachment movement is a mythology of sorts which claims the President has “illegally” exceeded his authority. This is a fuzzy charge if ever there was one and what’s more there is no evidence that he has inappropriately used his Presidential powers. As Chief Executive, by design, he has considerable power. He directs and manages the government and in deciding how existing statutes will be enforced has a lot of latitude. The impeachers cite, and these charges vary depending upon who you talk to, his negotiating the release of terrorists imprisoned at Guantanamo in exchange for a captured army solider in Afghanistan as one example. Others argue he has exceeded his authority when it comes to implementation of the health care act, while still others refer to his decision regarding acceptable limits on coal emissions.

It’s a long list, but none of it points to the President exceeding his authority. Besides, if he did, and Presidents have done it before, then there is the judicial branch and the Supreme Court, whose purpose, among other things, is to keep the other branches in check. It’s an established process. Indeed, if every Congress that thought the President had exceeded his authority had proceeded with impeachment then every President since John Adams would probably have been removed from office.

According to some sources on the Hill, GOP House members, after a successful mid-term election, which is likely, plan to impeach the President in the fall. They say they have the votes in the House. However, there is almost no chance the Senate would convict. Their hope is simply to tie up the administration in a long impeachment trial. That way the President would be hamstrung at every turn. They think its great politics. However, they don’t seem to realize or care about the harm they will doing. Much of the world will think our government has become unstable. And they wouldn’t be far off. The economy, both domestically and internationally would suffer.  Hopefully, GOP members of the House anxious to pass an impeachment bill will think better of it and ditch this whole crazy notion.

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