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Impeachment Rhetoric, Then and Now

Impeachment Rhetoric, Then and Now

Using Barbara Jordan’s words from 1974

A few days ago, Hillary Clinton tweeted this message:

Interesting that Barbara Jordan said that way back in 1974, isn’t it? The context was Watergate. The call for an investigation, impeachment, and a conviction of President Richard Nixon received strong bipartisan support (unlike only slight bipartisanship with Bill Clinton in the 90s and no bipartisanship now with Trump). Therefore Nixon resigned rather than put the country and himself through it.

But there’s more to what Jordan said. Here’s some of the context provided by the text of Jordan’s entire speech. Some excerpts [emphasis mine]:

My faith in the Constitution is whole; it is complete; it is total. And I am not going to sit here and be an idle spectator to the diminution, the subversion, the destruction, of the Constitution…

The nature of impeachment: a narrowly channeled exception to the separation-of-powers maxim. The Federal Convention of 1787 said that. It limited impeachment to high crimes and misdemeanors and discounted and opposed the term “maladministration.” “It is to be used only for great misdemeanors,” so it was said in the North Carolina ratification convention. And in the Virginia ratification convention: “We do not trust our liberty to a particular branch. We need one branch to check the other.”

The drawing of political lines goes to the motivation behind impeachment; but impeachment must proceed within the confines of the constitutional term “high crime[s] and misdemeanors.” Of the impeachment process, it was Woodrow Wilson who said that “Nothing short of the grossest offenses against the plain law of the land will suffice to give them speed and effectiveness. Indignation so great as to overgrow party interest may secure a conviction; but nothing else can.

Common sense would be revolted if we engaged upon this process for petty reasons. Congress has a lot to do: Appropriations, Tax Reform, Health Insurance, Campaign Finance Reform, Housing, Environmental Protection, Energy Sufficiency, Mass Transportation. Pettiness cannot be allowed to stand in the face of such overwhelming problems. So today we are not being petty…

the President has counseled his aides to commit perjury, willfully disregard the secrecy of grand jury proceedings, conceal surreptitious entry, attempt to compromise a federal judge, while publicly displaying his cooperation with the processes of criminal justice. “A President is impeachable if he attempts to subvert the Constitution.”

If the impeachment provision in the Constitution of the United States will not reach the offenses charged here, then perhaps that 18th-century Constitution should be abandoned to a 20th-century paper shredder!

So, in essence, Jordan’s speech was a defense of the Constitution – although you’d never know it from Hillary’s oh-so-clever excerpt – and of the gravity of impeachment and the necessity for “high crimes and misdemeanors” to justify it.

Jordan’s speech occurred on July 25, 1974, about two weeks before Nixon’s resignation. Unlike the situation now, it came after an extremely lengthy bipartisan process that involved a roll call vote in the Senate [77-0] to establish an investigatory committee. The committee and numerous counsels involved were bipartisan as well. I remember Sam Ervin the Democrat and Howard Baker the Republican particularly, but there were others.

The difference between the process then and the process now is extreme. During Watergate, Congress reacted to an event and launched a bipartisan investigation. Now, one party is using the intelligence corps to create the appearance of an event, with the long-stated goal – one made clear even before Donald Trump became president – of removing this president from office.

One constant, though, has been the presence of Hillary Clinton:

In 1974, she was a member of the impeachment inquiry staff in Washington, D.C., and advised the House Committee on the Judiciary during the Watergate scandal. Under the guidance of Chief Counsel John Doar and senior member Bernard W. Nussbaum, Rodham helped research procedures of impeachment and the historical grounds and standards for it.

Now Clinton and her fellow Democrats are doing precisely what Jordan warned against: engaging in the process for petty, political, partisan reasons. And Clinton is quoting Jordan to defend it.

[Neo is a writer with degrees in law and family therapy, who blogs at the new neo.]


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legacyrepublican | October 11, 2019 at 11:08 am

If she is incapable of defending the constitution, then why did she want to be president?

Power, power, and more power. And nothing say power more than destroying things you don’t believe in.

One of the great blind spots of “conservatism” of the last 70 years or so, is that the Supreme Court is allowed to subvert the constitution all the time, and the constitutional remedy (impeachment, according to Hamilton in the Federalist papers), is NEVER followed. Sure, conviction in the Senate would be a problem, but impeachment trials would be very educational and might put a bit of restraint on the justices; lawlessness

Word is Hillary wrote an incompetent, dishonest brief that was rejected for submission according to Jerry Zeifman, the general counsel and chief of staff of the House Judiciary Committee who supervised Clinton’s work on the Watergate investigation in 1974.

I notice that Barbara Jordan could cite specific “high crimes or misdemeanors,” as that term is widely understood in Supreme Court jurisprudence:

…the President has counseled his aides to commit perjury, willfully disregard the secrecy of grand jury proceedings, conceal surreptitious entry, attempt to compromise a federal judge

This was not the case during the Bush or Obama administrations. Nobody could point to a crime. There are those who are now pointing to what could be a crime by Joe Biden, and it would be a high crime within the Constitutional meaning of the term, namely using the power of the Vice Presidency to get a foreign prosecutor fired for corrupt purposes.

So far, the only thing the Democrats have said is that “there’s no proof he did it to protect his kid,” which of course does not negate other corrupt purposes, such as protecting his own hide.

Joe Biden’s actions stink, and hysterical reaction by Democrats due to our President’s mere mention of the matter, is telling.

Even the long-form Jordan is none too good.

…the President has counseled his aides to commit perjury, willfully disregard the secrecy of grand jury proceedings, conceal surreptitious entry, attempt to compromise a federal judge, while publicly displaying his cooperation with the processes of criminal justice. “A President is impeachable if he attempts to subvert the Constitution.”

A non sequitur. The enumerated offenses are all ordinary everyday crimes. None of them involve subverting the Constitution.

Subversion of the Constitution would be something more along the lines of “I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone”— an announcement of a plan to systematically subvert the Constitution via an end-run around the separation of powers. Any attempt to combine the legislative and executive functions in one person obviously echoes Adolf’s combination of the offices of Weimar president and chancellor after the death of President Hindenburg in 1934, and we all know how well that worked out. But the lightweight fluff Jordan cites hardly rises to any sort of Constitutional crisis.

    Barbara Jordan, a Democrat (natch), was an early AA trailblazer, representing the gimme-types of her day. Nothing has changed for the better since her days until today. Quite the opposite. More gimme-types, and more AA reps happy to give stuff to them.

    And they’re all Democrats. But you knew that.

Hillary clinton is the ultimate American piece of garbage.

Anything that comes out of her mouth has been mid-directed from her anus.

Her motives are pure evil. She has done as much damage to this nation as obama, and perhaps more.

    Yes. How much longer must the country have to abide this vile whore? why can’t she just go to bed with a case of chardonnay and drink herself to death?

She was a crook then, back during Watergate where had we had the media exposed as it is today, I’m not so sure Nixon would have resigned nor would there have been such support by the RINOs, yet she was just coming into her own as a criminal legacy member.
She cut her real teeth on full out corruption when Bubba was Governor, cutting deals for which she made far more than anyone should have made had it been honestly done.
As First Lady she got off because Starr wasn’t willing to charge the First Lady with crimes, yet most of the scandals during the Clinton presidency were hers.
As Senator and SOS she came full blown to establish the Clinton Criminal Foundation.
She is a crook. In a just world she would be locked away. But the left seems to always get away with crimes, they get away with projecting their own criminal behavior on their opposition while she can obstruct with impunity.
Deaths have followed in the Clinton’s wake at a rate that is far too convenient to be real.
Her email scandal was a cover up for crimes of pay for play through the Clinton Criminal Foundation. How many state secrets were sold for their enrichment we will never know.

In 1974, at age 39, I took a week off from work to paint my house. I listened on my radio to the Erwin hearings as I worked. First, I was shocked at the venality of those who lead and control the highest levers. Second, as now, I waited for the “how come?” At the end I said to myself, “Someday my grand kids are going to ask me why. And I will have to reply, I don’t know.”

So it’s pretty clear that Jerry Zeifman, chief counsel of the House Judiciary Committee during the Watergate inquiry, had a low opinion of the young Yale Law graduate Hillary Rodham; would liked to have fired her he said; but because she reported to the chief counsel of the impeachment inquiry, who was hired separately by the committee and did not report to Zeifman, Zeifman had no authority over her. He simply didn’t hire her for the permanent committee staff after the impeachment inquiry ended.