To impeach or not to impeach.
That is the question.
The question on the mind of House Speaker Paul Ryan and most Republicans that is.
The impeachment process was never really supposed to be a political tool. Tied up in the Lockean philosophy to which much of early American political mechanics was based upon, once the criteria for removing an executive was established, all that remained was to devise a way to do so without resorting to bloodshed.
Thus a legal process was drawn up, mulled over and finally implemented using the by now classic American political formula. The utilization of wordings so vague that they could be applied to virtually any scenario coupled with a process deliberately designed to be something of a pain in the arse to execute.
All My Sons (Of A Bitch)
The fact that only two presidents have ever been impeached stands in stark contrast to the fact that almost all of them could have been.
Take Andrew Jackson for example. He disobeyed the Supreme Court over Georgia’s right to Cherokee land.
Or Polk, who like George W, Bush lied about the reasons for taking the nation to war.
Nixon’s carpet-bombing of neutral Cambodia could have seen him hauled before congress long before Watergate.
The Iran-Contra had the potential to cut short Regan’s presidency by three or four years.
Even Abraham Lincoln could have been impeached; he arbitrarily imprisoned tens of thousands of northerners over a vague suspicion that they might be ‘for’ the South.
What is lacking in all of the above examples of those who were not impeached is political will. Nixon wasn’t impeached over Cambodia for the simple reason that Congress did not want to impeach him over Cambodia. A far away country of which most American’s knew little? Such a matter lacked the sensation of Watergate.
There are in fact, two factors that constrain the urge to impeach. Firstly there is the separation of powers. A Democratic Congress is unlikely to impeach a sitting Democratic president. Secondly, a tit-for-tat response where the Congress of one party routinely impeached the White House of the other would lead to never-ending internecine bickering.
Zero-sum games are best avoided.
Dishonors At Dawn
President Donald Trump is no more immune from impeachment than any other president. Indeed, there are good reasons to believe he is more susceptible than most.
Case in point. His violation of the Emoluments clause alone is more than sufficient to sink him. So why is he still in power? The answer is the same as the one given for Nixon over Cambodia. House Speaker Paul Ryan and the GOP-controlled Congress simply does not want to remove him.
Why the hell would they?
Having reneged on almost all of the promises he made to the politically naive people who voted for him, he is being more than cooperative when it comes to areas such as gutting health care, removing environmental regulations and firing federal employees.
Still, what about Russia? Surely here they have reason to go for the jugular?
And yet, without hard evidence to back up the nagging suspicions of his opponents, he is still able to maintain an air of barely plausible deniability.
As such, Republicans in Congress can continue to bide their time.
But only for so long.
Death Of A (Used Car) Salesmen
Because although an impeached president is replaced by his vice-president that’s not necessarily the end of the story for the GOP.
Their best case scenario would be that Vice-President Mike Pence took over, pardoned Trump in the name of ‘national unity,’ and then muddled through what remained of his time in the White House like the spoon jutting out of a bowl of reject pancake batter mix that he is. By 2020 he could make like Gerald Ford and become the second never-elected president in U.S. history.
But what if Pence were implicated too?
What if it turned out that Pence was as dick-deep in Russian dirty money as the rest of the family appear to be?
That would hand the presidency to the flesh-toned Jelly Baby excreta that is House Speaker Paul Ryan in accordance with the Presidential Succession Act.
A piece of legislation that makes no mention of party affiliation whatsoever.
Which raises an interesting hypothetical.
If in 2018 the Democrats regained the House, the option to impeach both Trump and Pence would not only be theirs for the taking…
It would offer them the White House too.
The midterms loom and Trump’s approval ratings had better start moving upwards.
Because if they do not, the GOP might just head the Democrats off at the pass.
And take credit for his fall from grace themselves.