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Why President Andrew Johnson was impeached, and why we should care today

Warning, a major attack of the history nerd is coming:

Being smart MinnPost readers, I’m guessing that most of you could answer the trivia question: Who were the only two presidents to be impeached? Answer: Andrew Johnson, who served out Lincoln’s second term after the assassination, and Bill Clinton. Nope, can’t count Richard Nixon on a technicality. He resigned before the House could vote up the articles of impeachment.

And you probably know that, although in common parlance impeachment is often used to refer to the removal a president from office, in fact the impeachment is only the first step — equivalent to an indictment — which triggers a trial in the Senate. No president has ever been impeached, convicted and removed.

And chances are, you remember what Bill Clinton did to get impeached, so we won’t talk about that in front of the children. But unless you are a serious history nerd, I suspect that you can’t — without benefit of the Google — recall what Andrew Johnson did to get impeached (and to come much closer — within one vote actually — to being convicted and removed from office).

Andrew Johnson
J.C. Buttre
Andrew Johnson

So I’ll tell you the trivia: Andrew Johnson was impeached because he fired a disloyal member of his cabinet (disloyal in the sense that he was refusing to carry out the president’s policies and was actively conspiring with the congressional majority against the president).

This level of disloyalty, I would posit, is not a terrible reason for firing a guy. And I would postulate (having already posited) that such a firing would be a pretty poor excuse for the kind of high crime and misdemeanor required by the Constitution for the impeachment and removal of a president. Feel free to differ.

I can (and plan to) explain a bit further. But first I suppose you are entitled to some clue as to why we might want to think about this ancient history in the year 2011 (other than that it is an exciting and interesting chapter of U.S. history and every year is a good year to learn about those, eh?). But one of the norms (which I hate) of the news business is that in order to write about anything that happened longer than 24 hours ago, you have to have some way to tie it to what’s happenin’ now.

So here’s what’s happenin’ now
Our national government is currently performing poorly (understatement) in the category of cooperation between parties and across branches. Republicans in the Senate have recently made unprecedentedly frequent use of the filibuster (a tool, by the way, which is not provided by the Constitution) to prevent legislation from coming to a vote.

Democrats (in Congress and the White House) ginned up a very tricky and edgy but technically legal use of the “reconciliation” maneuver to sneak final passage of the big health care bill past the Republican filibuster. Most bills involving taxing or spending (or, God help us, the debt ceiling) have been a cause for full partisan warfare leading to brinksmanship, a near-default and a downgrading of the U.S. government’s credit rating.

Because of the inability of Democrats and Republicans to agree on a plan to do something that both parties favor (reducing the projected future deficit), the Congress devised a bizarre self-threat to make spending cuts that both parties will dislike unless a Supercommittee can come up with a package of cuts that both parties like better.

President Obama has essentially declared that nothing he considers a constructive step to deal with the nation’s severe economic problems can be accomplished if it has to go through Congress, so he has just recently launched a series of small policies (the change in payback requirements for college loans, for example) that he has apparently discovered he can do by executive order. (Apparently this is within the reach of such presidential powers, although I think I would agree with Congressman John Kline that this is not the way such things are supposed to get done. )

And speaking of both impeachment and cross-branch power struggles: Although it hasn’t gotten much attention, Newt Gingrich has used his campaign for president to suggest that the federal judiciary could be made to see reason if a few federal judges (those that Gingrich believes have misinterpreted the Constitution) were impeached or perhaps informed that Congress retains the power to do away with entire courts. (Jefferson did it, Gingrich says.) And then there was Rick Perry’s suggestion that secession isn’t really out of the question in the 21st century.

The American system of government is far far far from perfect and I can think of several structural reforms that I would support. The framers’ system has held up remarkably well for two and a half centuries, all things considered. But in the absence of cooperation and compromise across party and branch lines, weird, ugly things start to happen as hyperpartisans start to scour the rulebook for tricks they can pull that bend but don’t quite break the rules.

High crimes and misdemeanors
There’s only been one complete breakdown, in 1861, when Abe Lincoln’s election (on a platform that said that the federal government had no power to abolish slavery in any of the then-existing states) caused 11 states to secede from the union. Only one senator from one of those states (Sen. Andrew Johnson of Tennessee, himself a slaveholder) declared his loyalty to the union, stayed in the Senate and was subsequently appointed by Lincoln as military governor of Tennessee.

The war lasted so long that Lincoln came up for reelection before it was over. It’s a little remembered fact that Lincoln – the first-ever Republican president — did not run for reelection as a “Republican.” A faction of the party split off and the main portion, which stuck with Lincoln, called itself the National Union Party. Hoping to attract the votes of Democrats who supported the war effort, the party nominated Johnson (who had been a Democrat) as Lincoln’s running mate.

The NUP ticket won, of course, but Lincoln was assassinated five weeks after the inauguration, just as the war was ending, and Johnson became president with almost a full four-year term ahead and a term in which the terms of the readmission and “reconstruction” of the seceded states would have to be work out.

Although Lincoln had outlined a fairly moderate policy for dealing with the conquered South, the “Radical Republicans” who dominated the Congress had much more aggressive ideas.

If you get into the substance of the matter, the case can quickly become morally confusing. Johnson was a virulent racist. Although he did not favor secession, he also did not agree with the Rad Repub agenda to force the southern states to respect the rights of the newly freed slaves. He argued that blacks were “corrupt in principle” and should never be given the right to vote. He vetoed the Rad Repub bills. They overrode the vetoes (on one party-line vote after another). The Rad Repubs had two-thirds majorities in both houses because, remember, the southern states weren’t represented.

Johnson used his control of appointments to put men in charge in the occupied South who shared his views. By some accounts, the tension between the visions of Johnson versus the Rad Repubs was so hot that the Civil War might have broken back out, although that seems far-fetched. In one five-month period, Johnson fired 1,352 postmasters around the country who were loyal Republicans and were not sympathetic to his policies.

Frustrated at Johnson’s use of his appointment powers to frustrate their program, the Repubs passed the Tenure of Office Act, which prohibited the president from firing any confirmed appointees without the Senate’s agreement. That meant Johnson couldn’t even decide who was in and out of his own cabinet. (Johnson vetoed the Tenure of Office bill, of course, but was quickly overridden. Years later, after Johnson was long gone, the Supreme Court did strike down the Tenure Act as an unconstitutional congressional usurpation of presidential power.).

Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, a holdover from Lincoln’s cabinet, vehemently opposed Johnson’s Reconstruction policies and used his place in the Cabinet to spy for and collaborate with congressional Republicans. Johnson fired him on a Friday. The following Monday, by a party-line vote of 128-47, the House impeached Johnson without waiting for articles of impeachment, which were drawn up afterward.

Unfit to be president
There were 11 counts, nine of which repeated over and again that he had violated the Tenure of Office Act by firing Stanton. The last two accused him of bringing Congress into “disgrace, ridicule, hatred, contempt and reproach” by speeches he had given, and the 11th summarized the other 10 and said Johnson’s conduct demonstrated his unfitness to be president.

It seems pretty unlikely that Johnson’s offenses meet an objective standard of “high crimes and misdemeanors” which is what the Constitution establishes as necessary for impeachment and removal. But the Congress had had a bellyful of this accidental (and apparently obnoxious) president pursuing policies that he presumably felt were in the best interests of the country but which they felt strongly were not.

The trial of Johnson on the impeachment charges took two months on the Senate floor. Johnson wanted to attend to defend himself but his lawyers insisted that the sight of him would energize the pro-impeachment forces.

More than two-thirds of Senate members were Republicans. Seven would have to vote against the party line to save Johnson’s presidency. As the vote approached, several expressed reservations.

Sen. Lyman Trumbull, an Illinois Republican and a friend of Lincoln, voted to acquit. He said that if Johnson could be removed without having committed any real crimes or misdemeanors, then “no future President will be safe who happens to differ with the majority of the House and two-thirds of the Senate on any measure deemed by them important.” I hate to show undue sympathy for the racist Johnson, but I have to admit that Trumbull’s point works for me.

Kansas Republican Edmund G. Ross was the seventh Repub to break ranks, which was just enough that the final Senate vote of 35-19 to remove Johnson fell one vote short of the two-thirds required by the Constitution. None of the seven Republicans voted against the party line was ever reelected.

When John F. Kennedy’s ghostwriter Ted Sorenson wrote the Pulitzer Prize Winning “Profiles in Courage” about great acts of political principle, Ross was included as one of the case studies. But more recent scholarship (“Impeached” by David O. Stewart) concludes that Ross was receiving offers of various bribes and appointments in exchange for his vote and playing the sides off against each other. In general, the level of bribery available was so prevalent that Stewart concluded that votes for Johnson’s acquittal “were purchased for with political deals, patronage promises and even cash.”

Johnson beat the conviction by one vote and served out what was left of his term, returned to Tennessee, a hero for his defense of white supremacy, and was reelected to the Senate in 1874. When he died in 1875, he was buried with his head resting on a copy of the Constitution. How touching.

OK. Must. Stop. Return. To. Present.

I’ve been fairly depressed about all of Washington’s recent deviations from the happy story we tell our kids in civics class about how our system works. It’s really much hard to take action than to block it. The boundaries of each branch’s power is not really as clear as we like to believe. The system really doesn’t work without compromise. But it doesn’t quite fall apart either. At least so far. Which is pretty amazing.

And we’ve been through worse. Much worse. And here we still are.

Comments (25)

  1. Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 11/02/2011 - 11:13 am.

    Interesting article, Eric. I didn’t know the details about Johnson’s impeachment nor did I know about the National Union Party. I guess we have a precedent for a successful third party gaining the Presidency.

    But is your point that Congress might impeach Obama for his use of executive power like Johnson did? From the Bill and Monica episode, we already know a Republican Congress is not deterred by mere things like the actual words of the Constitution, which they claim to revere. The Republican view is a “high crime and misdemeanor” is what we say it is. A Democratic Senate will not vote to remove a Democratic President no matter how Republican a lot of these so-called Democrats, like Lieberman, Baucus, Tester and Nelson are.

    BTW, I believe the reconciliation process was not invented by Obama and the Democrats. Bush and Republicans used the same process to pass the Bush tax cuts for the rich. But, IOKIARDI.

  2. Submitted by Derrick Schluck on 11/02/2011 - 11:45 am.

    Looks like those darn lobbyist have been around for a really long time. “In general, the level of bribery available was so prevalent that Stewart concluded that votes for Johnson’s acquittal “were purchased for with political deals, patronage promises and even cash.”

    It appears somethings never change. Got to love this great yet hippocritical country of ours.

  3. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 11/02/2011 - 12:18 pm.

    It seems to me that perjury, obstruction of justice and witness tampering where you’re the defendant in a sexual harassment lawsuit should meet the test of high crimes and misdemeanors since he was ultimately disbarred and made to pay $750k to the plaintiff. No other sitting president had ever been sued for sexual harassment before, much less convicted.

  4. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 11/02/2011 - 01:06 pm.

    I’m not aware that any sitting president has been a defendant in a sexual harassment lawsuit.

  5. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 11/02/2011 - 01:10 pm.

    A minor (or maybe not) point….
    As I recall, President Clinton was not impeached for committing a sexual act in the White House, which would be a shaky basis under constitutional law for impeachment.
    Rather, he was impeached for lying while under oath to Congress about it, which clearly IS an impeachable offense.

  6. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 11/02/2011 - 01:15 pm.

    Final (hopefully) comment on Bill Clinton and lawsuits:
    He was sued for sexual harassment by Paula Jones for actions while he was Governor. He settled the lawsuit out of court (actually for $850,000).
    Since he has always denied the allegations, there is a parallel to Herman Cain.
    But this is only indirectly related to his impeachment.

  7. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 11/02/2011 - 01:59 pm.

    Naturally, an old, broken-down history teacher loved this piece, Eric, but that should come as no surprise. Indeed, the version of events that we tell the kids in civics (and history) classes is often rather far removed from the reality.

    While I was plenty suspicious before then, simply because I read newspapers and magazine articles about politics as a kind of professional necessity, my most genuine and visceral introduction to that difference between political reality and civics class came after I’d retired and began to serve as a planning commissioner. To my genuine surprise, never having been even slightly involved in the process in preceding decades as an adult, I found that local government doesn’t work at all like the official government textbooks say it does. Then, as I got more involved in local government affairs, it became apparent that government textbook descriptions of state government – especially those “How A Bill Becomes A Law” flow charts – were hilariously off the mark. They were technically correct, of course – on paper – and wildly inaccurate in the less formal world of real life. And the federal government? The same thing, but on steroids.

    What the textbooks leave out is the most important stuff – namely, the people involved in translating the abstract and often archaic language of a document like the Constitution into actual policies and procedures, and how their particular translation matches up with the words in the document(s) that are relevant. Sometimes the correlation is very close, and sometimes they’re hardly within shouting distance of each other.

    I’m not at all enthused about Obama’s use of executive order to get things done, even if it does seem like the only way to get policies implemented at present. The previous administration, and the one before that, and the one before that, and so on, have already worked hard to expand the powers of the presidency beyond what even Lincoln would likely recognize. If we think the President has too much power, the criticism should probably be leveled at Dick Cheney.

    In line with that, however, is the fact that the current stalemate basically provides us a government that is paralyzed – unless some genuine national emergency unclogs the valves for a short period. I don’t have a Ph.D. in constitutional history, but I find it difficult to believe that the current obstructionism (the filibuster is a fine example to toss at those who purport to be “constitutional conservatives”) is what Messrs. Hamilton, Madison and even Jefferson had in mind.

    As for Mr. Tester’s gleeful concern with Mr. Clinton, the demonstrably-true right-wing conspiracy against both him and his wife while he was in office wasted millions of taxpayer dollars to investigate behavior in the Whitewater Case that showed the Clintons had… tried to make a little money in real estate, and largely failed. That Republicans would waste so much time and national treasure over something that many a Republican would find admirable capitalist behavior if it were by one of their own struck me at the time as a fine illustration of that gap between rhetoric and practice when it came to the Constitution. That said, however, it’s difficult to defend Mr. Clinton’s frequent lowering of the zipper over the years, though sexual behavior, in itself, seems relatively trivial. I believe Paul Brandon is correct – the impeachment was based on his lying to Congress about it while under oath. The harassment case was, as Brandon also said, settled out of court, so Mr. Clinton was never sued for that particular behavior while he was President.

    On the other hand, Mr. Obama’s predecessor lied to the public as well, only his particular lie has cost thousands of American lives, and tens of thousands of Iraqi lives, not to mention a trillion dollars, give or take a few billions. If justice is truly blind, I know which one of the two has earned the greater celestial punishment.

  8. Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 11/02/2011 - 02:02 pm.

    if we’re going to be really technical about this, Clinton did not lie to Congress. He was accused of lying in a deposition in the Paula Jones sexual harassment civil case. I disagree that is an impeachable offense. You might say he also lied to the American people when he said on national TV that “I did not have sex with that woman.”

  9. Submitted by James Warden on 11/02/2011 - 02:17 pm.

    Here’s the point I can’t get behind: “The framers’ system has held up remarkably well for two and a half centuries, all things considered.”

    This is a frequently made statement that I think merits further scrutiny.

    We’re really in our third iteration as a country.
    — We had the Articles of Confederation from 1777.
    — We had a supposed Constitutional Republic after 1789 — although we acted more as a confederation of semi-autonomous states in reality. There were nullification threats from both North and South. There were near secession crises, even before the big one in 1861. The framework we cherish so much didn’t really do all that great a job of resolving conflicts.
    — The government we have today only came into existence after 1865. You could push that as late as the end of Reconstruction in 1877 if you’re not feeling generous. It may have the same founding document as the prior one, but the relationship between the federal government and the states is fundamentally different.

    If we were France, we’d call this the third republic. But we’re not, so we pretend we’re the inheritors of an unbroken lineage of Constitutional perfection.

    This warps thinking about both domestic and foreign politics. On the domestic front, it causes us to forget the adaptation and flexibility that changing times required. In foreign policy, it causes us to underestimate just how hard it is to develop a stable political system that can reconcile competing factions.

  10. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 11/02/2011 - 02:26 pm.

    “On the other hand, Mr. Obama’s predecessor lied to the public as well, only his particular lie has cost thousands of American lives”

    Mr. Bush claims he acted on intelligence regarding WMD that his and other intelligence agencies around the world believed to be true.

    To say that he “lied” is an outrageously false charge and one that an alleged former educator shouldn’t be making. Even the despicable Obama would never make such a charge, in public at least.

    Regarding Clinton – Given the Johnson standard, any president who’s actions would cause him to to be disbarred for five years would certainly be guilty of impeachable offenses. And witness tampering is a felony btw.

  11. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 11/02/2011 - 02:55 pm.

    To lie is to make a statement that one knows is contrary to the facts. If Bush II did not lie then he was wither grossly negligent or living on another planet. The fact that he claimed ignorance is not enough.

    And again, an impeachable offense must occur while holding office. Disbarment is not a legal action.

    And Clinton was never convicted of witness tampering.
    There’s a difference between an accusation and a conviction.

    There’s a good history at

    One quote:

    “Three weeks before the President’s deposition, President Clinton gave Ms. Lewinsky a number of gifts, including a Rockettes blanket, a marble-like bear’s head, sunglasses, and a stuffed animal wearing a T-shirt from the Black Dog. Lewinsky produced these gifts for the OIC on July 29, 1998. The evidence also shows that the President gave Ms. Lewinsky a hat pin on February 28, 1997.”

  12. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 11/02/2011 - 05:02 pm.

    Mr. Warden’s points are well-taken, indeed, and not usually seen in these kinds of discussions. I heartily agree that what’s existed since 1865 is fundamentally different from what existed before that, and his further points about the domestic front and foreign policy are both well-taken and illustrated currently by the gridlock in Washington and a series of foreign policy mistakes over the past couple of decades that have, too often, involved the military.

    As for Mr. Tester, “Mr. Bush claims…” is not the same thing as fact, and saying that he lied is not outrageously false, as Paul Brandon points out. There’s plenty of documentation that quite a few people in intelligence, both here and in other countries, in the U.N. that was trying to do the inspections, and including our own terrorism advisor, never believed that Iraq had *any* WMD. An active CIA agent was “outed” (i.e., betrayed) by the Vice-President’s Office because her husband suggested as much. Sending the nation to war on the basis of “Gosh, I didn’t know…” might itself have been an impeachable offense if the society and Congress hadn’t been so thoroughly caught up in 9/11 hysteria. It seems Mr. Tester is not willing to grant the same broad interpretation of “truth” to Mr. Obama and Mr. Clinton that he grants to Mr. Bush.

    Sigh. There’s nothing “alleged” about my 30 years in a public high school classroom. One of the lessons I presented to my students each year was the time-honored technique of, “If you can’t win the argument on facts or logic, attack your opponent personally.” They understood it all too well, and most had personal examples. Now I have another one myself. Mr. Bush has the blood of thousands of Americans on his hands, and Mr. Obama has – not to his credit – added hundreds more to the total.

    And Mr. Tester’s final paragraph in #10 is factually baseless and silly. Mere vitriol is a poor substitute for reason.

  13. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 11/02/2011 - 08:13 pm.

    I wish we could impeach a president for committing war crimes.

  14. Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 11/02/2011 - 08:18 pm.

    James @ #9: An excellent point! What we’ve really accomplished is a somewhat intact line of peaceful succession of administrations and leaders for 200 years. A far cry from a successive single government.

    Dennis @ # 10: Not to beat a dead horse or anything, but Bush did lie about the WMD’s and the reasons for going to war with Iraq. Cheney went to the CIA and ordered them to doctor the intelligence to come up with reasons for going to war. The Valerie Plame, Joe Wilson affair was about punishment for Wilson having shown the “Saddam trying to buy yellow cake” document used by Cheney and Bush was a forgery and they knew it. Some of us at least are not real happy with Obama for not investigating those in the Bush administration for war crimes and other real “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

  15. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 11/02/2011 - 10:03 pm.

    Since Ms. Lewinski was scheduled to be a witness for the plaintiff to show a pattern of behavior of the defendant regarding young female government employees, gift-giving could be considered witness tampering.

  16. Submitted by Eric Paul Jacobsen on 11/02/2011 - 11:17 pm.

    ‘Here’s the point I can’t get behind: “The framers’ system has held up remarkably well for two and a half centuries, all things considered.”

    This is a frequently made statement that I think merits further scrutiny.’

    I agree wholeheartedly with James Warden. Eric Black is right insofar as our Constitution really has “held up” for two and a half centuries. However, I would leave out the phrase “remarkably well.”

    Our Constitution has many undemocratic flaws, which is not surprising considering the Founders’ aristocratic ambivalence toward democracy itself. The “strong presidency” that is built into our Constitution has enabled presidents past and present to overreach their authority. The two-chambered structure of Congress gives the less representative chamber, the Senate, the power to veto the more representative chamber, the House, thereby undermining the will of the majority, slowing the pace of legislation, and leaving us with a huge backlog of antiquated laws ill-suited to modern conditions. The continued existence of the Electoral College is an insult to democracy, as is the unrepresentative Senate, which gives the same representation to Wyoming as to California.

    I would even go so far as to blame the Electoral College and the Senate for the Civil War. If these two undemocratic structures had not been installed in our Constitution to defend slavery against “too much democracy,” slavery might have been peacefully voted out of existence. Instead, counting states became more important than counting votes, so that people had to resolve the slavery issue by undemocratic means, first by violent skirmishes in the Kansas Territory and then by secession and Civil War. And here’s the kicker: Since our Constitution still makes counting states more important in many cases than counting votes, there is no guarantee that we won’t have a second Civil War as people turn to the same old remedies – skirmish, secession, and war – to solve problems that I believe stem from the same old problem, which is: not enough democracy.

    Beyond this, our system of elections by district is prone to gerrymandering, and our primitive method of counting, the winner-take-all system, makes only two political parties viable – if we are lucky. There is nothing in our Constitution that requires or even encourages our elections to be multi-partisan, so that it is only a matter of pure luck that we have not become a mono-partisan country, as Mexico was for decades under the corrupt PRI. In contrast, many European countries, those with more advanced constitutions and proportional representation, have three, four, or five viable political parties participating in every election. We should not be satisfied with our clunky, unrepresentative, aristocratic, semi-democratic Constitution.

    So why do we still have it? I believe a mist of veneration surrounds our Constitution, so that we fail to see it as the work of fallible human minds. When the problems of structural gridlock become too obvious to ignore, we blame personalities, rather than undemocratic structures. Worse still, we may become disenchanted with ideological diversity itself, which we should regard not as a weakness, but as a strength, and which under a more democratic Constitution would also function as such. As a result, structural gridlock remains, as well as the threat of undemocratic “solutions” to the problem of gridlock. Sooner or later, we must realize that the poor performance of our federal government often has structural causes. I hope we won’t have to endure another Civil War in order to become so enlightened.

  17. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 11/03/2011 - 07:46 am.

    Mr. Clinton’s statement that he “did not have sex with that woman” was made in response to a question from the press.

    But it wasn’t absurd to ask that question in court because the plaintiff (Paula Jones) was trying to establish a pattern of inappropriate behavior to support her case that he exposed himself to her and asked for oral sex. Having sex with an intern on the job would be considered by most people to be inappropriate behavior.

    @#14 – “Cheney went to the CIA and ordered them to doctor the intelligence to come up with reasons for going to war.” No he didn’t. An investigation of the charge showed that it was not true. Google it sometime. And the yellow cake assertion was made by British intelligence, not the CIA. Wilson was sent over in an attempt to verify the British information. Since Wilson and his wife were anti-Bush leftist moles in the CIA, their goal was to stop the invasion.

  18. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 11/03/2011 - 08:13 am.

    Just for grins, let’s try to imagine Mr. Tester’s measured response to the news that an active, covert CIA agent has been publicly “outed” by Joe Biden’s ‘office’ in retaliation for a public statement made by the agent’s spouse to the effect that chasing terrorists in Afghanistan was “…a huge mistake.”

    Or, for even more humor, let’s try to imagine Mr. Tester’s source of information for his ‘interesting’ assertion that Mr. Wilson and Ms. Plame were “…anti-Bush leftist moles in the CIA…” whose goal was to stop the invasion.

  19. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 11/03/2011 - 09:54 am.

    Let’s try to imagine that Valerie Plume was a covert agent. Because you’d have to. She was a desk jockey and everyone on the DC cocktail party circuit knew what she did for a living.

  20. Submitted by Nate Pete on 11/03/2011 - 10:57 am.

    #20 is completely FALSE. Plain and simple, A lie.

  21. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 11/03/2011 - 12:01 pm.

    //#20 is completely FALSE. Plain and simple, A lie.

    Yeah, it’s the dishonesty that bugs me. It’s A-O-K to impeach a president for his testimony in a dismissed lawsuit deposition, but the idea of impeaching a president for taking the nation to war (without a declaration of war) on false pretenses is outrageous. Why? becuase the former was a Democrat and latter a Republican.

  22. Submitted by James Hamilton on 11/03/2011 - 08:01 pm.

    Thank you all for a generally excellent discussion.

    A minor point of clarification on Clinton’s impeachment: it was his testimony before a federal grand jury convened by Ken Starr that lead to his impeachment, not testimony before Congress.

  23. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 11/04/2011 - 09:48 am.

    Thanks for the clarification.
    The old synapses aren’t what they used to be ;-).

  24. Submitted by john werneken on 05/16/2012 - 10:20 pm.

    Impeach the Voters?

    As to Presidents and removal from office: theoretically removal requires 2/3 of those present and voting to agree and that is it. So High Crimes and Misdemeanors are things felt serious enough to be High, and bad enough to be Crimes or at least Misdemeanors, and are not restricted to the definitions in the criminal law. Johnson in effectively continuing the rebellion by unarmed means certainly courted impeachment and I’d say it was a blunt choice which was worse, his conduct in opposing the side that won the war or Congress’s remedy. There’s a fair chance the same would have happened to Lincoln though he likely would have had a fair margin of victory on the removal vote.

    Nixon’s original authorization of criminal activity to seek intelligence which he decided would involve both Democratic electoral plans and foreign enemy subversion …in his mind making anything goes acceptable…probably was not a high crime or a high misdemeanor, seeing as the military and political enemies actually WERE coordinating, as had been the case 4 years before when the South Vietnamese and the Republicans worked in parallel to sabotage the then-President. It was the extensive subsequent obstruction of justice and its public nature – Nixon himself lying to the people…that gave him no hope of avoiding removal.

    Clinton did roughly the same sort of thing (felonious conspiracy to obstruct justice) but in a trivial cause, his inability to avoid the Packwood Problem. Like Packwood his service outweighed his sin in the eyes of many; unlike Packwood, Clinton somehow dodged being charged for what he really did and does, which is impose on vulnerable females. I am certain Bill deserved removal from office but his lies came off as those of an embarrassed truant whereas his pursuers came across as intemperate and fanatical, and lost the election before the impeachment could be brought to trial.

    Bill showed us how to do a couple of grand things and be re-elected on the politics of partisan division. Which is what Bush II did as his successor, and what Bush III aka Obama is trying to do now.

    Considering the ever-mounting string of disreputable Presidents, I personally think it’s the voters who should be impeached, and maybe convicted and removed from office.

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