Impeachment Blather


Jonah Goldberg

Nobody said the Democrats have to be internally consistent or logical. Nevertheless, what a strange day of constitutional bloviating yesterday was.

One Democrat after another bemoaned this “constitutional crisis.” What crisis? There’s no crisis. The Constitution spells out in black and white how this is supposed to work. We have constitutional crises when Judges find things in the document that aren’t there. We have Constitutional crises when President Clinton decides to fill the Government with “interim” officers so as to bypass the Senate’s Constitutional obligation to confirm appointments. In this case, Representatives are violating the Constitution by invoking impeachment about as much as they are when they cast a vote about cow flatulence. This may be a political crisis. It may be a moral crisis. But the Constitution is just fine, thank you.

One Democratic bloc took up the Alcee Hastings/Barney Frank school. Hastings was the Florida Judge who was impeached and then ran for Congress. He is fond of arguing that the Indpendent Counsel has usurped Congress’s Constitutional obligation to impeach the President. Indeed, he is trying to impeach Ken Starr for this, and other reasons. Similarly, Barney Frank complains, often, that the holy of holies—The Rodino Model—has been violated because Congress has not fulfilled its role as “fact-finder” as it did during Watergate. Nevertheless, this group of Democrats argue constantly for ending this as soon as possible, time limits, closure, etc. But if the Republicans followed the Rodino model in this regard, the hearings truly would be endless. And, since the Democratic proposal called for taking up only the Starr report, wouldn’t that obliterate the Rodino model too?

Then there is the larger argument about ending the hearings at a “time certain.” The Dems originally wanted Thanksgiving. Then they said they would compromise with a mid-December date. (Obviously, they would run out the clock by spending all of their time defining High Crimes and Misdemeanors, but that’s not the point.) The Dems argued that would be plenty of time for hearings to cover the Lewinsky Affair. But once the Democrats lost the vote, they immediately declared that Henry Hyde’s self-imposed December 31 deadline target was unrealistically short and could never be met.

And the whopper of Constitutional disingenuousness is this gobbledy-gook about “over-turning” or “undoing” an election. Nonsense. As I tried to argue with some C-SPAN callers this morning, impeachment doesn’t nullify an election. It doesn’t reverse an election. Impeachement fires someone who has been elected. If you can’t fire an elected person for breaking the law, among other things, then we live in a country which elects a king for four year terms. Of course it should be hard to fire a President. But, as a matter of principle even the most loyal of Clinton’s loyalists cannot want to live in a country where a President is above the law until elected out of office.