Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Obama and Impeachment; The Reality?

Alexander Hamilton in Federalist No. 65 described impeachment as, “[T]hose offences which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of the public trust.  They are of a nature which may with peculiar propriety be denominated political, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to society itself…”  Our founding fathers were mindful of why the Revolutionary War was fought – against the tyranny of a king and his council – and wanted safeguards against executive abuse and usurpation of power. 

James Madison, a key author and catalyst for the constitution (see) (see) (see), made his pro impeachment thinking clear when he said it was “indispensable” to defend the community against “incapacity, negligence or perfidy of the chief Magistrate”.  Madison contended that with a single executive it was needed since a “loss of capacity or corruption was more within the compass of probable events, and either of them might be fatal to the Republic.”  Edmund Randolph also favored an impeachment provision when he stated “The executive will have great opportunities of abusing his power, particularly in time of war when the military force, and in some respects the public money will be in his hands.  Should no regular punishment be provided it will be irregularly inflicted by tumults and insurrections.”

These stunningly prescient words were uttered in 1787/8 and prophesied many of the actions President Obama has taken and did lead to Article II of the Constitution (Section 4)that states “The President, Vice President, and all civil Officers of the United States shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery , or other High Crimes and Misdemeanors.” 

Some basic facts and history regarding impeachment are warranted.  Impeachment is defined as “the presentation of formal charges against a public official by the lower house, trial to be before the upper house.”  Congress has held serious discussions on presidential impeachments only four times in our history.  

Only Presidents Andrew Johnson and William Clinton have been impeached; Johnson due to post civil war actions and Clinton because of perjury and obstruction of justice.  Both presidents were acquitted after trial in the Senate.  Richard Nixon resigned during congressional debates regarding impeachment and the Watergate break-ins and John Tyler witnessed the defeat of a resolution to impeach him on a dispute over state’s rights.  If a conviction is obtained the person is dismissed from office, can be barred from holding a future office and suffers exposure to further penalties.

The history lesson aside, since President Obama’s inauguration in January of 2009 numerous actions, missteps and scandals have raised the impeachment issue.  In general the mainstream media (MSM), Obama’s political operatives and Democrats have been quick to charge sour grapes, right wing extremism and even racism at the mere mention of the word.  Simultaneously many Republicans, Libertarians and Conservatives are chary of using the word due to ‘battered politician syndrome’…a condition created by Obama’s penchant for blaming others for every failure conceivable with the mindless backing of the MSM that has supported in a Pavlovian manner almost every presidential absurdity.

Nevertheless given Rand Paul’s filibuster, Obama’s sequestration missteps (outrageous claims & ‘making it hurt’ tactics), an economy on life support, an attack on the Second Amendment and overall fatigue the issue of impeachment is no longer a whisper but barely more.  America is stirring due to Obama’s crony government and his smothering nanny state.  Conservatives and Republicans have rediscovered constitutionalism and a heightened awareness for our rights as presented in Amendments I, II, IV, VI, X and XIV in particular.  With an assist from the Obama’s recent stumbles, an edgier MSM and an increasingly disenchanted public, removal from office has begun to receive hopeful support from a surprisingly broad and vocal yet small (emphasis added) group.

The list of some of the notables that have suggested or discussed impeachment include Trent Franks (R-AZ), Ron Paul (L-TX), Dennis Kucinich (former D-OH),  Robert Woodward (WaPo editor/reporter), Mike Huckabee (Fox News host), Dave Lindorff (liberal reporter) and Andrew McCarthy (former US Asst. Atty. Gen.).  Without exception each has commented on President Obama’s constitutional overreach by attacking Libya without Congressional approval and the use of drones to target and kill Americans overseas without due process.   Each has also identified Obama’s penchant for hiding and/or withholding information from congress.

Dave Lindorff, the liberal investigative reporter, astonishingly said “If the Constitution is to have any relevance, and if America is to remain a free society, then there is really no alternative: there must be a bill of impeachment drawn up (on President Obama) and submitted to the House…”  Mr. Lindorff’s anger is driven by Obama’s violation of the Sixth Amendment (right to a speedy & public trial) and his disdain for the separation of powers that was apparent in his use of drone strikes against an American citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki.

This small and growing group of Obama decenters is not enough to create the momentum necessary to impeach regardless of his missteps and disdain for the rule of law and Constitution.  At least three conditions are required and currently do not exist.  First, a massive public ground swell akin to the Watergate/Nixon outrage needs to be present.  Second, the MSM would have to abruptly abandon and simultaneously become highly critical of the President on a consistent basis…a completely unrealistic transformation.  Three, the GOP would have to gain a majority in the Senate.  And fourth, a large number of politicians would require ‘courage pharmaceuticals’ to commence the necessary political actions.

This is the reality even in the face of recent analyses similar to WorldNetDaily’s (WND) post of an assessment asking if Barack Obama should be impeached.  WND empaneled three noted constitutional experts to assess the merits of impeachment relative to twelve possible charges such as Secret CIA-drone strikes on American citizens, Fast and Furious, Recess Appointments and even the appointment of Czars.  The experts rated each action as Severe, High, Elevated, Slight and Low…seven Obama acts fell between Severe and Elevated while four were identified as Severe or High

The experts included Bruce Fein, a Reagan justice department official and an equal opportunity impeacher (constructed articles of impeachment for Clinton, Bush & Obama)Louis Fisher, who twice voted for Obama and is a scholar in Residence at The Constitution Project…and Herbert Titus, formerly a professor of Constitutional and common law now practicing with the William J. Olson law firm.

Each of the experts believe that at least three issues (the issues varied) rise to a level warranting Obama’s impeachment.  Issue unanimity was achieved on the drone killing of Americans and the war against Libya as viable impeachable offenses.  However their assessments were both informational and shocking.

For example Mr. Fein opined, “No doubt the predator drone killings, usurpation of the war power, and secret interpretations of the Patriot Act…those three, in my judgment, are vastly greater in their threat to the constitutional processes and structure than anything under Clinton or Nixon (emphasis added).”  Mr. Fisher stated, “Watergate was the last time anyone was held accountable.  Attorney General, John Mitchell went to prison.  A lot of people went to prison.  We haven’t had any accountability since Watergate (emphasis added)…”  Fisher’s implication is that if the Constitution is not protected against executive overreach the Constitution is damaged by default and a precedent is set by legitimizing a ‘transfer of power’ to the executive.  Mr. Titus said, “If the American people really wanted constitutional government – if they were really committed to the kind of constitutional republic that is reflected in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States – things would change.” 

Nevertheless, the cadre of Americans who find this President’s contempt for the rule of law, the Constitution of the United States and the American people deeply disturbing remains small.  President Obama may have crossed the line into impeachable territory…yet it is also clear that Obama will serve a full eight years and that further damage will be sustained by our Republic unless an unlikely tsunami sweeps him from office   

Note: The above reflects a rewrite of Obama and Impeachment; A Growing Possibility?  The rewrite was motivated by many direct messages asking my opinion on the practical realities of an impeachment of Obama given the current political climate.  The above answers that question even though strong grounds for an impeachment exist.