In 1998, two years into his second term, the Republican majority in the House of Representatives voted articles of impeachment against then-president Bill Clinton. He was accused of perjury and obstruction of justice, in connection with the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal in the White House. The perjury charge came from a deposition President Clinton had given in which he said he had not had sex with Monica Lewinsky, and the obstruction charge came from the related Paula Jones lawsuit for sexual harassment against Clinton during his time as governor of Arkansas. As we all know, Clinton was not removed from the presidency, and the Republican-led attempt to embarrass and discredit him ultimately failed.
Here is how impeachment works. Constitutionally, only the House of Representatives can indict or bring charges against a sitting president/vice president of the USA, and federal judges. The indictment is by majority vote in the House, and such an indictment is, by itself, impeachment. So Clinton, along with Andrew Johnson, who succeeded President Lincoln in 1865, are listed historically as the only two U.S. presidents to have been impeached. However, neither was removed from office.
That is because the second phase of impeachment proceedings is a trial by the U.S. Senate. To convict and remove a president/vice president or sitting federal judge, there must be a two-thirds Senate majority vote. Republicans did not have the votes in 1998 to do that, although they certainly did in 1865. President Andrew Johnson escaped being convicted and removed by a single dissenting vote. But our history books report both former presidents as having been impeached.
The Republican Party seems hell-bent on repeating the mistakes they made in the late 1990s. Darrell Issa, a California Republican chair of the House Oversight Committee, is mimicking former representative, Henry Hyde (Illinois), who served as one of the House managers or prosecutors in the Senate trial. Clinton was acquitted in February 1999, after Newt Gingrich, the Republican leader, resigned from Congress.
Hyde had played fast and loose with evidence for the impeachment proceedings, not letting lack of evidence and making stuff up get in the way of trying to remove the president. Issa has regularly been in the media recently decrying President Obama’s alleged misdeeds in the Benghazi terror attack and the newer IRS scandal. Most of the “evidence” he has presented of any White House involvement in either issue has been his own interpretation of information, and sometimes just blatant misrepresentation of information his committee has been given by others.
Other Republicans still seem head-locked into trying to tie the death of American ambassador Chris Stevens in Benghazi, Libya, to something President Obama did or did not do; there are still on-going hearings and collections of testimony regarding the IRS extra-screening of Tea-party related nonprofit groups who filed for a 501 (c)(4) designation to pursue political activity; and there is a hurricane-sized body of wind now directed at the president for the Department of Justice’s collection of phone and computer data of AP reporters regarding the leak of classified security information (and an even newer challenge from a whistle-blower about pervasive government snooping in private American lives).
In other words, the Republicans still have not gotten over the president’s repeat victory in the 2012 elections, just as they reacted to Clinton’s 1996 re-election victory. The Republican Party, especially in the House of Representatives, misspent a huge amount of public money in efforts to undermine, humiliate, tarnish the reputation of, and, fundamentally embarrass Clinton into resigning his office. That did not happen, and their narrow-minded, wrongheaded stubbornness eventually cost them dearly at the ballot box, although they were able to bulldoze George W. Bush into the presidency through various nefarious activities in 2000.
Well, they are at it again, so don’t be surprised when the Republican-majority House of Representatives votes to impeach President Obama within the next few months. Of course, any charges the Republicans present will be ephemeral, and won’t come close to the constitutional standard of “high crimes and misdemeanors” for impeachment. Any Senate trial will also not convict Obama of impeachment nor remove him from office. The Senate is currently a Democratic Party majority, and there is no possibility that that body will vote 67-33, the required 2/3 majority, in favor of convicting Obama of anything except being a smart, strong-willed African American trying to do his best as the 44th and re-elected president of the U.S.
But, you have been forewarned.
Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.
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