Impeachment nostalgia: 1868, 1974…

abused the power of the Presidency for personal and political gain

Erie County’s best blogger and writer, Jaquandor, a/k/a Kelly Sedinger, starts off this round of Ask Roger Anything.

We’re entering the second impeachment trial of my life (and there should have been a third, had Nixon not read the writing on the wall). Are you tired of these things?

richard-nixon---the-origins-of-watergate

The nature of the three impeachment procedures I lived through – I just missed Andrew Johnson’s – are so different. In Watergate, as you may remember, the beginning of the scandal was the break-in in June 1972. It was dismissed as a “third-rate burglary” by Nixon’s Press Secretary, Ron Ziegler. Nixon was re-elected so easily that the networks called the election c 7:30 pm before I had even had a chance to vote.

Yet early in 1973, the Senate voted 77-to-0 to approve a “select committee” to investigate Watergate, with Sam Ervin (D-NC) named chairman. The hearings ran from mid-May until early August, and I watched quite a bit of it. It was shown by the three networks in rotation, so as not to tick off the soap opera fans too much.

But it got a whole lot more interesting in mid-July when White House assistant Alexander Butterfield acknowledged there was a taping system in the Oval Office. At some point, I was watching every day when I wasn’t in class. A special prosecutor, Archibald Cox, subpoenaed the tapes, as did the Senate. Nixon got all “executive privilege”.

SNM

Then there was the “Saturday Night Massacre” on October 20, 1973. Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus, who recently died, both resigned rather than fire Cox. The Solicitor General, Robert Bork, finally did. The public, who had voted for the man less than a year earlier, were generally displeased.

On March 1, 1974, a grand jury in Washington, D.C., indicted several former aides of Nixon, including H. R. Haldeman, John Ehrlichman, former Attorney General John N. Mitchell, and Charles Colson, for hindering the Watergate investigation. The grand jury secretly named Nixon as an unindicted co-conspirator. John Dean and others had already pleaded guilty.

Nixon lost in the Supreme Court over whether he could hide the tapes. He turned them over in July 1974. About the time the “smoking gun” tapes were released implicating Nixon, the House Judiciary Committee voted to approve three articles of impeachment over four days. As you know, Nixon resigned less than two weeks later at the urging of some Republicans.

As much as I despised Nixon’s policies, I didn’t feel a sense of elation when he announced he was stepping down. It was more, as Gerald Ford put it soon after, “our national nightmare is over.”

Slick Willie


Now Bill Clinton’s impeachment I was aware of, but I certainly didn’t watch any of the Senate trial. Before that, as I mentioned at some point, I was in the same Boston hotel as Bill Clinton in September 1998. I was there to be on JEOPARDY! Clinton was there for a political fundraiser. No, I never saw him.

There were thousands of protesters outside the Omni Parker House (?). About half of them thought Bill was awful. But the other half thought Ken Starr was terrible. This was the early days of the Internet, so such explicit info some considered unsavory, and they blamed Starr.

When it all went down, I felt bad for Hillary and especially Chelsea. But I didn’t watch the proceedings at all. I did follow the news, though. It was right that Bill Clinton apologized to the country. Some of the chief GOP accusers, it later came out, had no right to the moral high ground.

Impeachment #3

That’s what I did with the 2019 story as well. There was so much wall-to-wall coverage that I was feeling no need to watch in real time. I will say I thought, even before the fact, that forcing Robert Mueller to testify was a mistake. He said as much. Mueller had a part in getting several indictments or guilty pleas.

I did see snippets of a lot of compelling testimony from the hearings in the fall. Gordon Sundland, the EU coordinator, political fundraiser, and definitely not of the “deep state”, was oddly entertaining. The others were solid citizens, doing their duty to their country.

Rudy Guiliani, an extra-governmental figure, by his own admission, forced out the Ukrainian ambassador back in April. So the claim that the July phone call with the new Ukrainian president was “perfect” is rather beside the point. It was, as John Bolton said, akin to a drug deal. The man abused the power of the Presidency for personal and political gain. He obstructed Congress illegally, which was settled law when SCOTUS ruled Nixon had to turn over his tapes.

Still, I think the issues taken up here, while legitimate, are too arcane for most people to follow. Christianity Today, of all publications, seems to understand it, though.

Follow the money

Frankly, I wish the House had gone after the emoluments issue. He may have been guilty of that on January 20, 2017, when he failed to put his businesses in a blind trust and maintained controlling interests.

He encouraged foreign entities to stay at his properties with the suggestion that it’d be in their countries’ best interest. The Air Force refueling near his Scottish resort, and staying there longer than necessary. (If the G7 did stay at Mar-a-lago, that would be prima facie proof of corruption.)

Yeah, he should have been impeached. But since the charges won’t stick, I suppose there is some fatigue on my part. A lot of it is towards the 2019 GOP, which is not the 1974 GOP. You can say you don’t believe the charges reach the level of impeachment, as Will Hurd (R-TX) stated. But to say things that happen didn’t happen, even though Guiliani, Mick Mulvaney and the man himself have acknowledged them publicly, that’s exhausting.

One more thing

The suggestion that because he’s “doing a good job”, one shouldn’t impeach a president is weird to me. Let’s say that he did something clearly a high crime or misdemeanor. He shoots someone on Fifth Avenue, for which one of his lawyers claims he couldn’t be prosecuted. Would you not impeach him – it’s always him – because the unemployment rate is 3.5%?

On the other hand, I would oppose impeaching him because of policies I disagree with. And I disagree a lot. Or because he’s a vulgar and boorish liar; those are not reasons to impeach.

Bill Clinton is 70

bill_clintonBill Clinton has long confounded me. In 1992, I was somewhat suspicious of the guy some of the nastier pundits dubbed Slick Willie. I certainly did not vote for him in the primary, choosing either former Senator Paul Tsongas (MA) or now-governor Jerry Brown (CA).

I watched Clinton pretty much every time he was on TV, from that surreal saxophone playing on The Arsenio Hall Show to that less-than-comfortable interview, along with Hillary, on 60 Minutes.

Ultimately, I picked him for the general election, making Bill Clinton the first person in my 20+ years of voting for President who actually WON. It may have been because I had tired of Reagan’s third term of George H.W. Bush, with a President so isolated that he didn’t understand a pricing scanner.

Like so many before them, Bill and Hillary failed to enact a health care plan. I didn’t fault them, but it was a lot of political capital spent. Meanwhile, in other areas, I was disillusioned.

After promising to end the ban on gays in the military, the compromise was “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” which was quite unsatisfactory to me, in some fundamental way, worse than the ban. And he attacked the safety net that was welfare as though he were a Republican. His emphasis on more incarceration, which he has since repudiated, did not win me over.

And I had serious doubts about the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which was supposed to create greater competition among providers, so that, theoretically, someone would compete with Time Warner Cable in this market; I had my doubts, and they seem to have been justified.

I did not vote for Bill Clinton in 1996, choosing Green Party candidate Ralph Nader instead. But when he was ultimately impeached for cheating on his wife – OK, lying to Congress about cheating on his wife – it seemed like an inappropriate use of Congressional power. In retrospect, it was especially galling when the Republican leadership had engaged in arguably more reprehensible activities.

In mid-September 1998, I happened to have been staying at Boston Park Plaza Hotel when Vice-President Gore, Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA), and other dignitaries were going to be at the hotel for a fancy (read: high-priced) fund-raising dinner.

I looked from my upper story room saw several hundred protesters. They were split about 50/50 between those who were upset with the President and the effect his behavior had on the country, and those outraged by Kenneth Starr, the special prosecutor, who put all of the lurid details about Bill and Monica Lewinsky on the Internet at a level with may not be noteworthy now, but assuredly was then.

(Ironically, Ken Starr got booted from his position at Baylor University, for his poor handling of a sex scandal. Monica Lewinsky gave a famous TED talk about the effect of the scandal on her, and cyberbullying generally.)

I’m not sure what to make of the Clinton Foundation. The goals appear noble, but at least the appearance of scandal troubles me.

Bill Clinton is generally seen as a great asset in his wife’s Presidential campaigns of 2008 and 2016, but I remain unconvinced. His astonishingly bad judgment in meeting with Loretta Lynch while Hillary was being investigated over her emails boggles. He ended up besmirching the reputation of Lynch and FBI Director Comey while making the eventual non-indictment look like the fix was in.

But at the Democratic National Convention, Bill Clinton stopped embarrassing Hillary with an emotional speech, telling “an intimate story of how they fell in love and built a remarkable political partnership.

“The…former president chronicled his wife’s accomplishments from working to end housing discrimination to launching a children’s advocacy group in Arkansas to negotiating peace deals as secretary of state.”

A Daily Kos writer proclaimed that the speech was a success because even his dad liked it, and he was no Bill Clinton fan.

I continue to be fascinated by the 42nd President. He is the big kid mesmerized by the balloons at the DNC, and a master manipulator, Rhodes scholar smart, yet perplexingly inept. The term used a lot back c 1998 about him was compartmentalization. If it were true then, I think it’s more accurate now.

I think Hillary, as a woman, takes more heat for the sins of “the Clintons” than he does. He’s more personable, has that flirtatious twinkle in his eye.

What YOUR take on Bill Clinton?

The “national conversation”: guns, flags, race

Our “national discussion” is coming out of both sides of our collective mouth.

guns.AmericaTackling more Ask Roger Anything questions, where a theme seemed to emerge:

New York Erratic wants to know:

What is the #1 thing that annoys you on social media?

Mostly that so much of it is so banal. I post these blog posts to my Facebook and Twitter and get a few comments. I write, in response to an Esquire clickbait article, “If you think I’m going to click on this 80 times, you’re crazy;” it’s gotten over 120 likes, many of them in recent days.

Sometimes, though, it does some good. Which nicely segues to…
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Jaquandor muses:

I often hear calls for “a national conversation” to deal with Big Issues. What would a “national conversation” look like?

Since we can’t seem to agree on simple concepts, such as facts about science, I think the “national conversations” bubble up in ways that I don’t think can possibly be entirely controlled.

The Ice Bucket challenge last summer was one of those events. WE decided, via social media, to triple the amount of money for research for a disease most of us had been either unaware of or wasn’t of interest.

The sudden rush to remove Confederate battle flags from Wal-Mart, Amazon, and other retailers in recent days clearly was a conversation WE had. That emblem was obviously not a significant issue to most folk the day before the Charleston shootings. But when those people died, and their loved ones showed such grace in mourning, WE decided, or most of us, that the “stars and bars” that the presumed killer embraced were suddenly toxic.

Now if you WANT to have a “national discussion,” such as the ones President Obama has periodically attempted to instigate about race, it’s usually a flop. “He’s a race baiter.” “Ooo, he used the N-word,” without any understanding of the context of what he was trying to express. “There’s just one race, the human race,” which is both true and irrelevant.

In this age of increasing partisan division, I am finding it harder and harder to even empathize with the “other side” (in my case, the political right in this country). I used to at least understand how they arrived at their worldview, if not share it, but now I increasingly can’t fathom how or why they would look at the world that way at all. Does this make sense to you, and if so, what can be done about it?

For me, this is less of a problem of left/right, and more an issue of “Do they really mean what they say, are they just trying to be provocateurs, or are they just intellectually lazy?”

I get the sense that some of them just SAY things because it’s sensational. Ann Coulter attacked Governor Nikki Haley (R-SC) as “an immigrant” who “does not understand America’s history” because she changed her mind about having the Confederate battle flag on state grounds. Let’s ignore the fact that Nikki Haley was BORN IN SOUTH CAROLINA to immigrant parents. Facts need not get in the way of a convenient narrative.

My own defense mechanism is to declare that certain parties – Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Congressman Louis Gohmert (R-TX), and certain others – as unreliable reporters. I don’t mean “reporters” in a news sense, but that what they say, what they report, is, based on a great deal of observation, not worthy of my consideration.

This is actually useful because it minimizes my outrage. I don’t spew in anger ranting, “How can Hannity say such a stupid thing?” Instead, I can calmly note, “Oh, there’s Hannity saying something inane again. Ho-hum.” It’s SO much better for my blood pressure.

George Carlin said, over ten years ago on an album (closer to fifteen): “Wanna know what’s comin’ next? Guns in church! That’ll happen, you’ll see.” Nervous tittering laughter from the audience, and yet… here we are. How inevitable was this, and how do you see future historians looking back on our incredible resistance to the mere idea of giving up our guns?

Sure, Australia has a mass shooting in 1996, and the people decide to limit their guns. In 2012, 20 children and six adults were murdered at a school in Connecticut, and since then, nationally, there have been about as many laws expanding gun use as there have been restrictions. In other words, our “national discussion” is coming out of both sides of our collective mouth.

To be fair, history will also laugh at us for being one of the wealthiest countries in the world, and yet:
has massive income inequality
is the only industrialized nation without paid maternity leave
is ranked only 12th in freedom
is 14th in education
*is a whopping 33rd in Internet download speed
plus relatively lousy scores in children’s health, and a bunch of issues about which we might consider having a “national discussion”, but can’t.

But we’re tops in gun deaths per capita AND in the number of prisoners. WE’RE #1! There’s some “national discussion” around the edges about the evil of mass incarceration; we’ll see where that goes.

At least the gun thing comes from an interpretation – a faulty one, I’d contend – of the US Constitution, backed, I’m afraid, by our Supreme Court.

After Charleston, I was watching a LOT of news. One security expert said churches, and other “soft targets,” need to have “situational awareness” when someone comes in who is a DLR, “doesn’t look right.” As someone who sits in the choir loft, I have seen a number of people walk through the church doors, who, some would suggest, “don’t look right,” but who have subsequently become members of the congregation.

Padlocking to keep “them” out is a formula to kill a religious body as sure as bombs or bullets would, just more slowly.

Moreover, I listened to two sisters of one of the murdered congregants of Mother Emanuel, and they talked about a fearlessness that comes from loving God. This is why, a week to the day after the shootings, they and over 250 others were present for the Wednesday Bible study.
***
SamuraiFrog interjected:

What is your opinion on the #WeWillShootBack hashtag that popped up on Twitter?

Thanks for pointing this out, because I was unaware of it. Not surprisingly, I’m generally opposed to it on both theological and strategic grounds. Nonviolent direct action as done by Gandhi and Martin Luther King was very effective, and shows the higher moral position; of course, both of them were eventually assassinated.

Did I mention that I LOVE Bree Newsome?

Sad but often true: when enough crap happens to black people, eventually a positive outcome is generated. Use fire hoses on black children, and white people get upset enough to want to do something about the situation.

The civil rights crusade has almost always needed white supporters, and they are welcome, although making sure white people are comfortable can be a drag.

Still, forgiving white supremacy can be a real burden. Mother Emanuel’s Bible study the week after the shootings was reportedly from the New Testament book of 1 Peter. I don’t know the verses they studied, but here are some representative verses from chapter 2, verses 19-21: “For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God… if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this, you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.”

I can imagine some black folks thinking, “To hell with THAT!” So I UNDERSTAND #WeWillShootBack. I don’t endorse it, but I know where it comes from.
***
Thomas McKinnon says:

With all that is going on in the news, have you talked to your daughter about racism?

Tom, it’s post-racial America. What’s to talk about?

Actually, The Daughter and I often watch the news together and discuss what it means. When she’s seen stories from Ferguson to Charleston, from Freddie Gray, who died in Baltimore in police custody, to Tamir Rice, who died about two seconds after the Cleveland police arrived. There’s fodder for a lot of conversation.

We both found the Donald Trump piñata story terribly funny. (Here’s a better picture.)

Current events have been a great point of entry, actually. I was loath to just dump on her some of the crap I had endured over the years. As Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” I was thinking, maybe hoping, that we were getting there sooner than it’s turned out.
***
Arthur@AmeriNZ picks up on a theme from others:

Thinking of race relations in the USA, and maybe racial politics, who has surprised you the most?

Jon Stewart. I didn’t think, in his political analysis on The Daily Show, that race was particularly his thing. By his own admission, he was slow to hire correspondents of color. Larry Wilmore, who now has his own show, might get to pontificate occasionally from 2006-2014.

But Stewart started taking on the issue of race from his own voice. It may have started before this, but the pivotal program for me was the August 26, 2014 episode, where he first experiences the Ferguson Protest Challenge, then ends the Race/Off segment with, and I’m slightly paraphrasing here: “If you’re tired of hearing about racism, imagine how exhausting it is to be living with it.”

More recently, Stewart parodied the “Helper Whitey” effect… in a segment with Jessica Williams and Jordan Klepper. “First Williams [a black woman] would make a point, but Klepper [a white man] wouldn’t listen to her. When Stewart made the exact same point a few seconds later, Klepper jumped to agree.”

Who has disappointed you the most?

Bill Clinton, who got dubbed by someone as the “first black President,” for some reason, but who gutted the economic safety net, and continued the process of mass incarceration. Yeah, he did have a decent record overall on civil rights, but I guess I expected more.

Though the first person to really disappoint me was Jesse Jackson. He was running for President in 1984 when he used a slur against Jews in describing New York City, and that ended my support for him.

Presidents Day 2015

Q: Has the gun with which Oswald shot President Kennedy been returned to the family?

President Calvin Coolidge was designated Chief Leading Eagle of the Sioux tribe when he was adopted as the first white chief of the tribe at the celebration of the 51st anniversary of the settlement of Deadwood, South Dakota, August 9, 1927. This designation came as a result of Coolidge signing the Indian Citizen Act on June 2, 1924, which granted “full U.S. citizenship to America’s indigenous peoples.”

The bill happened in part as a result of World War I when “The Indian, though a man without a country…, threw himself into the struggle to help throttle the unthinkable tyranny of the Hun.”

I was unfamiliar with this picture until I saw it on the news around Christmas 2014, when it mentioned the risk of Chief Executives wearing things on their heads other than hats, and cited the headdress that the current President was wearing recently, pictured below.
***
Speaking of World War I, from Now I Know:

One of the more positive aspects of American presidential politics is the relatively orderly, entirely peaceful succession process. Every four years, on the Tuesday after the first Monday of November, voters across the nation go to the polls and cast their ballots. Those votes are translated into votes for… electors, and a few weeks later, those electors cast the votes which actually determine who is going to be inaugurated into the office of the President… Even though the campaign can be acrimonious, to date at least, no sitting president has ever attempted to disrupt this process.

But there was, almost, an exception. In 1916, incumbent President Woodrow Wilson faced a challenge from Republican Charles Evans Hughes…

Which US presidents have won the Nobel Peace Prize?

Secretaries of State who became President:

Thomas Jefferson (3) under George Washington (1)
James Madison (4) under Jefferson (3)
James Monroe (5) under Madison (4)
John Quincy Adams (6) under Monroe (5)
Martin Van Buren (8) under Andrew Jackson (7)
James Buchanan (15) under James K. Polk (11)

And none since unless Hillary gets elected President.

From The Weird, Embarrassing, Fascinating Things People Asked Librarians Before the Internet:
Q: Has the gun with which Oswald shot President Kennedy been returned to the family?
A: No. It’s at the National Archives and Records Administration building in College Park, Maryland.

Lyndon Johnson was a civil rights hero. But also a racist.
***
I’ve wondered why Bill Clinton, only the second President in American history to be impeached, got to be so popular by the end of his second term. I think Dan Savage of Savage Love hit upon it:

Here’s the takeaway from the Bill and Monica story: An out-of-control special prosecutor appointed to investigate the suicide of a White House aide wound up “exposing” a series of [sex acts] that President Bill Clinton got from a White House intern. Problematic power differential, yes, but consenting adults just the same. Politicians and pundits and editorial boards called on Clinton to resign after the affair was made public, because the American people, they insisted, had lost all respect for Clinton. He couldn’t possibly govern after the [detailed sex acts], and the denials (“I did not have sexual relations with that woman”). Clinton refused to resign and wound up getting impeached by an out-of-control GOP-controlled Congress…

But guess what? The American people weren’t [ticked] at Clinton. Clinton’s approval ratings shot up. People looked at what was being done to Clinton — a special prosecutor with subpoena powers and an unlimited budget asking Clinton under oath about his sex life—and thought, “…I would hate to have my privacy invaded like that.” People’s sympathies were with Clinton, not with the special prosecutor, not with the GOP-controlled/out-of-control Congress.

Presidential Libraries and Museums for every President from Herbert Hoover through George W. Bush

Handsome Franklin Pierce by Nik Durga

Behind the Presidents: at Mount Rushmore

The youngest Presidents: 26, 35, 42, 18, 44, 22, 14, 20, 11, 13
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Lots of different “worst” lists:

Indian-Killer Andrew Jackson Deserves Top Spot on List of Worst U.S. Presidents

10 reasons why Ronald Reagan was the worst president of our lifetime

The Worst Presidents, which includes all the Presidents between #9 and #18, except #11 and #16; plus three 20th century picks

obama-tiara-wh-photo