Saturday, October 9, 2010

Crossing the Impeachment Bar

The Times this morning informs us that some Republicans recall Bill Clinton with nostalgia:

I'd wonder a bit about whether the extent to which Clinton, compared to Obama, is, er, melanotically challenged, has anything to do with it. But said Republicans nostalgic for Clinton would, seems to me, be more credible were they to regret, in the slightest, in retrospect, the Clinton impeachment.

I hold that impeachment to be a deeply important event, one vastly underestimated today but which historians will view as far more significant than we do. Before, impeachment was universally regarded as an extreme remedy, its only exercise against a president--the incompetent, deeply unpopular Andrew Johnson, in the aftermath of Civil War and Reconstruction, no less--a near brush with disaster, escaped only by virtue of a single vote. Clinton's trivialized it, brought it down to the level of tabloid partisan politics, confirmed Republican embrace of the right's worst, drastically lowered the bar, and, by implication, made actions against Nixon's crimes a partisan exercise rather than a bipartisan, national revulsion and rejection of serious transgressions, inviting tit-for-tat retaliation. And Clinton's continued popularity afterwards only made these aspects of it worse. Democrats, meanwhile, frankly declined to even consider impeachment of Reagan over Iran-Contra, or GW Bush over a fictitious casus belli and frank violation of federal law as written and an assertion of unlimited authority to do so. The contrast between the parties is appalling. The media silence has been appalling. And the current tepid reaction in the media, and the Republican Party, to ever crazier excesses of rhetoric and obstructionism, spring in part, I think, from the Clinton impeachment, the impulses giving rise to it, the utter lack of inhibition with which it was pursued, its acceptance as business as usual then and now.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

An outstanding share! I've just forwarded this onto a friend who was doing a little homework on this. And he in fact ordered me dinner simply because I stumbled upon it for him... lol. So let me reword this.... Thanks for the meal!! But yeah, thanks for spending time to talk about this topic here on your site.

Feel free to surf to my site ... I recommend you read this