My Book World
End a Presidency: The Power of
Impeachment. New York, Basic,
This eminently readable book explicates a complex subject, one worthy of study during a period when the term “impeachment” is bandied about in the media with incredible ease. The authors do a commendable job of, first of all, discussing the laws governing impeachment of a president and how they sprang to life in the first place as part of the US Constitution.
On the other hand, Tribe and Matz help readers to understand that nothing about impeachment is simple. They limn the intricacies of the laws, how the proceedings must begin in the House of Representatives and can conclude only in the Senate. They tell us about how difficult it is to obtain a two-thirds majority vote (under normal times, let alone now with such great partisan divides) in either house to advance impeachment. They explain which offenses are impeachable and which are not and why, that it is not a matter of removing a president from office because he is a boor. He must have committed a crime or misdemeanor. Even with those parameters, it is never a simple matter for Congress to decide.
Ultimately, the authors rule against impeaching our current president, largely because of the disruption it would cause in our society. Under normal circumstances, the executive and judicial branches of the government would help to reign in the abuses of a president. Even now, during times that do not seem normal to those of us of a certain age, the other two branches are doing their job. The House will be governed, beginning in January, 2019, by Democrats, who can begin to call the actions of President 45 into question. Even the Supreme Court, which has now been loaded with conservatives, could surprise the president. The two men whom he seated owe him absolutely nothing. The president cannot remove them from their seats if they should rule against him. And if they do favor him in ways that are questionable, they themselves could be subject to impeachment . . . theoretically. As the authors say in conclusion:
“We must abandon fantasies that the impeachment power will swoop in and save us from destruction. It can’t and it won’t. When our democracy is threatened from within, we must save it ourselves. Maybe impeachment should play a role in that process; maybe it will only make things worse. Either way, reversing the rot in our political system will require creative and heroic efforts throughout American life. And at the heart of those efforts will be the struggle to transcend our deepest divisions in search of common purpose and mutual understanding” (240-1).
“Transcending forces of decay, disinformation, and disunion will not be easy. This is the great national calling of our time—the North Star that must guide decisions about ending, or enduring disastrous presidencies. There is no quick fix for the challenges we face. They are surmountable only if each of us resolves anew that American and democracy are well worth fighting for” (241).