Thursday, October 24, 2019

Impeachment: Historian explains it all for you

Warren Hastings impeached,
 acquitted in Britain, 1795
Jill Lepore, Harvard historian, New Yorker writer, and Cundill Prize nominee, has in the current New Yorker an explanation of impeachment that goes back to 1376 to make sense of it all.
In one view, nicely expressed by an English solicitor general in 1691, “The power of impeachment ought to be, like Goliath’s sword, kept in the temple, and not used but on great occasions.” Yet this autumn, in the third year of the Presidency of Donald J. Trump, House Democrats have unsheathed that terrible, mighty sword. Has time dulled its blade?
Impeachment is a terrible power because it was forged to counter a terrible power: the despot who deems himself to be above the law. The delegates to the Constitutional Convention included impeachment in the Constitution as a consequence of their knowledge of history, a study they believed to be a prerequisite for holding a position in government.
Short takeaway:
“High crimes and misdemeanors” does have a meaning. An impeachable offense is an abuse of the power of the office that violates the public trust, runs counter to the national interest, and undermines the Republic. To believe that words are meaningless is to give up on truth. To believe that Presidents can do anything they like is to give up on self-government.
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