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Removing Bad Presidents from Office Should Be Easier

May 13, 2014 in Economics

By Gene Healy

Gene Healy

“Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow,” commands the relentlessly chirpy Fleetwood Mac tune that served as Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign theme.

But last week, in an exclusive article for Vanity Fair, “that woman,”Monica Lewinsky, forced Bill, Hill and the rest of us to take a look back.

There’s essentially no way to remove a president for misbehavior, neglect, or incompetence.”

Lewinsky, now 40, is someone who definitely didn’t “love the ‘90s.” “The Clinton administration, the special prosecutor’s minions, the political operatives on both sides of the aisle” and the emerging new media turned Lewinsky’s youthful indiscretion into a life-wrecking mistake, making her the permanent punchline to a dirty joke.

It seemed like great fun at the time, I’m embarrassed now to admit, digging through the Starr Report and cackling over the naughtiest footnotes. With the benefit of 15 years of mature hindsight, what should we make of the Clinton impeachment imbroglio?

Clinton figured out what he thinks long ago: he’s the hero of this sordid little drama. “I am proud of what we did [on impeachment]” he proclaimed in April 2000: “I think we saved the Constitution of the United States.”

To borrow George Will’s signature line: Well.

Clinton saved something, alright, but the national charter isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. Still, there is a constitutional lesson we can draw from the Clinton impeachment: Our system makes it far too hard to remove a president.

In an important new book, The Once and Future King: The Rise of Crown Government in America, legal scholar F.H. Buckley argues that our presidential system of government lacks important “safety valves” present in parliamentary regimes. The president’s fixed term makes it nearly impossible to remove him. We manage fewer than one presidential impeachment per century, and in 225 years, the Senate has never successfully removed one. In contrast, “prime ministers may be removed at any time when Parliament is in session through a nonconfidence motion”; weak leaders can even be dumped by their own party without bringing down the government.

“Impeachment, observed Jefferson in his old age, was not even a scarecrow,” Buckley writes; if anything it’s an even weaker check today.

In the view of the impeachment clause that currently dominates the legal academy, there’s essentially no way to remove a president for misbehavior, neglect or incompetence. During the Clinton imbroglio, scads of concerned law professors dutifully advanced an interpretation …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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