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    Posted May 26, 2013 by
    Porter Ranch, California

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    Terms of Impeachment

    Article II, Section 4 of the United States Constitution states that “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.” (1) The House of Representatives is given the responsibility of starting the process and has the “sole Power of Impeachment.” (2) The Senate decides on guilt or innocence with the “sole Power to try all impeachments.” (3) If it is the President who has been impeached, then the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court presides over the trial.

    Conviction on charges of Impeachment not only results in removal from office but can also mean disqualification from holding any office in the future. It is the political equivalent to the death penalty. Therefore, it has been used relatively sparingly throughout history. Of the 64 impeachment proceedings that the House has initiated, only 19 have resulted in the Articles of Impeachment being passed. (4) Seven of these officials, all of them judges, have been convicted and removed by the Senate. (5)

    The scandal that set the bar for impeachment in our modern era never even reached the Senate. Articles of Impeachment were drawn up for Nixon’s role in covering up the break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate office complex, but he resigned before they could be voted upon by the entire House. (6) The whole affair not only fanned the public's’ distrust of government, but opened the floodgates to the possibility of impeaching a President, at least for one party.

    Carter was protected from the possibility of an impeachment based on politics by the fact that he had a legislature controlled by his own party. Reagan faced a House controlled by the opposite party, but still was able to ignore the legislative branch’s restrictions on funding the Contras without getting impeached. (7) The first President Bush faced a Congress with both houses controlled by the Democrats. He was not impeached.

    Within months of taking office, Republicans were already investigating allegations against Clinton. They started with Travelgate, which involved the firing of employees who served at the will of the President, and continued through Whitewater, Troopergate, the White House FBI Files Controversy and the 1996 United States Campaign Finance Controversy. (8) This all culminated with Clinton becoming only the second President to be impeached. His alleged “high crime and misdemeanor” was lying about an extramarital sexual encounter during a deposition. He was acquitted by the Senate.

    George W. Bush took office with the safety of having his own party in control of the House. When the Democrats regained their majority in the House two years before the end of his time in office, they did not impeach him despite his having been President during the worst domestic attack since Pearl Harbor, turning a budget surplus into a deficit, a failed response to Hurricane Katrina, the political firings of U. S. attorneys, the outing of a CIA operative, lying to justify a war with Iraq, wiretapping Americans’ phone calls without a warrant or presiding over the use of torture. (9) Dennis Kucinich made an attempt, but since it was too divisive and unlikely to succeed, it was squashed by his own party. (10) As a Senator, Obama supported the investigation of Bush for some of these issues, but not his impeachment. (11)

    When the Democrats regained the Presidency, the Republicans picked up where they left off when Clinton was in office. Various conservative politicians have called for the impeachment of Obama for a variety of issues including failing to realize that “we are in a clash of civilizations between radical Islam and the West,” disagreement with his immigration policy, failure to defend DOMA and not releasing a birth certificate that satisfied their curiosity. (12) Texas Representative Michael Burgess wins the political honesty award for admitting that he supports the impeachment of the President not for any specific cause but because “we need to tie things up.” (13)

    The current issue being focused upon by the Republicans are the events that occurred in Benghazi on September 11, 2012. For example, Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) has called Benghazi the “most egregious cover-up in American history” and stated that “people may be starting to use the I-word before too long.” (14) However, if the basis of their argument is that the administration covered up the fact that this was a terrorist attack to protect the President’s reelection, then the following report shows that the media was not fooled:

    “‘This is an attack that should shock the conscience of people of all faiths around the world. We condemn in the strongest terms this senseless act of violence and we send our prayers to the families, friends and colleagues of those we’ve lost.’ Secretary of State Hillary Clinton...about the violence that killed the U. S. ambassador to Libya. Violence apparently by an organized Libyan Jihadi group.” (15)

    Even voters seem to forget that impeachment is a punishment for committing a crime. Instead, they too often look at is as a way of reversing election results with which they are not happy. A poll of Texans taken the same month that Obama was being sworn in for his second term found that 67% of Republicans would support impeaching the President. (16) Obama’s policies had been heavily debated during the election cycle and the voters decided he met the lower bar of being qualified for reelection. What new information could have possibly come to light that meant that his actions now met the criteria of “high crimes and misdemeanors?”

    (1) http://www.senate.gov/civics/constitution_item/constitution.htm#a2_sec4
    (2) http://www.senate.gov/civics/constitution_item/constitution.htm#a1_sec2
    (3) http://www.senate.gov/civics/constitution_item/constitution.htm#a1_sec3
    (4) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impeachment#United_States
    (5) http://www.infoplease.com/spot/impeach.html
    (6) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Watergate#Resignation
    (7) http://www.infoplease.com/encyclopedia/history/iran-contra-affair.html
    (8) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Clinton
    (9) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bush_impeachment
    (10) http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/06/11/kucinich.impeach.vote/index.html?_s=PM:POLITICS
    (11) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eq8gtGqotjk
    (12) http://www.salon.com/2013/05/10/impeach_obama_again/
    (13) http://www.star-telegram.com/2011/08/08/3277547/burgess-meets-with-unhappy-tea.html
    (14) http://www.rightwingnews.com/barack-obama/gop-senator-james-inhofe-on-benghazi-we-may-be-starting-to-use-the-i-word-before-too-long/
    (15) Meet the “Candidates: NYS Senate District 31”, WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show, September 12, 2012
    (16) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/12/obama-impeachment-poll_n_2669820.html?ncid=edlinkusaolp00000003
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