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Chief Executive Exit

June 29, 2018 in Economics

By Gene Healy

Gene Healy

In the wake of Donald Trump’s 2016 election victory, one
of America’s leading constitutional scholars exhibited
classic signs of “PTSD”: Post-Trump Stress Disorder.
Impeachment “should begin on Inauguration Day,”
Harvard’s Laurence Tribe howled in December 2016. The next month, Tribe demanded Trump “be impeached for abusing
his power and shredding the Constitution more monstrously than any
other President in American history”—a land-speed
record for somebody entering his second week in office. In the
months that followed, the dean of con-law profs urged Trump’s
defenestration for everything from emoluments clause violations to mean tweets.

Given that backdrop, when I opened Professor Tribe’s new
book, To End a Presidency: The Power of Impeachment,
coauthored with Joshua Matz, I was braced for an
impeach-at-all-costs jeremiad. The last thing I was expecting was
an earnest plea for “cool and evenhanded reflection, informed
by the Constitution and lessons from history.”

That, however, is exactly what Tribe and Matz have produced.
Their intelligent and informative book insists that impeachment is
an awkward weapon, one that can’t be “readily fired
twice during a single presidency,” and that holds no magic
bullet for the problems of American democracy—useful
reminders for #Resistance enthusiasts and Never Trumpers alike.

Whether they quite
intended to or not, the Framers made it extraordinarily hard to
remove a president. Yet our political culture makes it harder still
by conjuring up specters of wounded democracy and constitutional
collapse.

And yet, they lay it on pretty thick: Impeachment, Tribe and
Matz insist, is “a great power and a terrible one,” its
use fraught with “extraordinary danger.” If, God
forbid, we ever need to deploy it, “we can hope only that the
nation survives with its spirit intact and the strength to rebuild
all that’s broken.” To End a Presidency turns
out to be a sober, conventional case for approaching impeachment
with fear and trembling.

Too sober and conventional, for my money: The case for
impeachment-phobia has by now been adequately made. It permeates
our political culture and dominates respectable opinion, whether
it’s Senator Jeff Flake—who has compared Trump to
Stalin while insisting impeachment is out of
bounds—or Stephen Colbert, who rejects it as an
“extreme” remedy. Exaggerating the dangers of
impeachment, as Tribe and Matz do, has made its use all too rare.
Neither the Constitution nor the lessons of our history justify
their trepidation.

Few if any of the Framers viewed the prospect of presidential
impeachments with the dismay and perturbation Tribe and Matz
demand. “A good magistrate will not fear them,”
Massachusetts’s Elbridge Gerry insisted during the
Constitutional Convention. “A bad one ought to be kept in
fear of …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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