Impeachment is in the air as the Democrats take up the House. They promise a “cannon of subpoenas.” The nation will soon grapple with the precedents of properly relieving a President of duty.

The precedents are not encouraging, with regard to dressing up impeachment as a sort of quasi-legal process above tribal politics. The precedents do not encourage an expectation that Congress will elevate the needs of the country above partisan gamesmanship.

Nixon’s forced resignation is not included in the following impeachment musings, because it is an example of our system working the way it should, with people doing as they should. If politicians did as they should no impeachment would ever be necessary (if people did as they should, no government would be necessary). The Nixon lesson is a useful contrast, though, between a political culture which seems quaint in its honesty, not to mention its functionality, compared with our current bipolar partisan warfare.

The other two precedents of impeachment were clearly political devices. Andrew Johnson was impeached over reconstruction politics, and Bill Clinton was impeached for perjury when called to account for his inappropriate relations with his intern.

The only person to act honorably in the Clinton impeachment affair was the victim of that inappropriate relationship, Monica Lewinsky. The least of her victimization was her affair with the President. She was also the victim of an inappropriate pillory of “slut shaming,” as well as inappropriate threats of losing her God-given American privilege of freedom and the inappropriate media invasion of a person entitled to an expectation of privacy. The Republicans should never have put the country through it, they should not have put Ms Lewinsky through it. The Democrats should not have stood by the man who let the then-22 year old naif take a year’s worth of cutting from the sharpest knives in the media world, when just one true word from their leader would have ended it. The guilty man (and his wife) then joined in the slut-shame cutting. So, the Democrats defended a man denying a woman (several women really) her day in court, with her expectation that his testimony can be compelled by oath to be truthful. Truth the Democrats now expect to compel from President Trump. Which is not the same as saying the accusation against President Trump equals Bill Clinton’s in gravity, quite the contrary. But the partisan breakdown is midway down a slippery slope Bill Clinton started us on.

Nobody was fired for bringing such weakening discredit to the most powerful institution on the planet, the way a Starbuck’s barista would be. It’s hard to believe a man of such un-Presidential indecency as Donald Trump could occupy a healthier office (the contrast is doubly stark as we honor the life of President Bush 41).

Another tribal device for impeachment has been trotted out in the Stormy Daniels kerfuffle, really a dispute between a john and a prostitute, which involved streams of political campaign contributions, and reputation-preserving hush-money crossed. Contrasted with the Clinton impeachment, whose victim did not launch a lucrative stripping tour on the publicity, the charge is a joke whose punch-line writes itself (“there’s a difference between hiring a whore and making a campaign contribution?”). But the joke would be funner if the USA did not incarcerate more people than anyone on the earth, for kerfuffles non-hilarious because they don’t involve politicians. A seaman would be rotting in jail for offenses to security procedure far less egregious than our ex Secretary of State’s, had he not been pardoned. A woman was jailed in Texas for mistakenly voting.

It’s not right that politicians should not sit immune from the diarrhea of laws that effluviate from Washington and rain down on the rest of us. The most sure way to reform the law would be to make its makers eligible for the down-stream consequences (which would entail the prosecutor legally entitled to lie about their evidence in order to leverage a plea bargain (in 97% of cases), and with representation provided by someone handling a hundred other cases.

This leads to the conclusion that we are not impeaching or indicting politicians anywhere near enough. Laws governing the rest of the nation needs to be normalized to apply to the law-makers. Normalized to the point where accountability reappears commensurate with privilege, doubly commensurate with their power, and triply commensurate with their own ethics for the prosecution for everyone else.

If we were to normalize impeachment to include ineptitude or waste, there’d be no end to it, we’d be down to the White House butler. Things we haven’t, but should have, impeached for will be covered in at a future date, but, a couple examples for now (just starting with the 60’s): there were widespread race offenses involving every politician, everywhere. We have Kennedy, Johnson Nixon and the escalation ratchet in the Vietnam war, despite no viable strategy for success found in any [study][10], which killed tens of thousands of our people and hundreds of thousands of theirs. We spent the equivalent of our defense budget on a moon landing with no discernible purpose. We had the perverse miracle of Jimmy Carter’s “Stagflation.” We have the bribery of the political system by the hydrocarbon industry to kill nuclear power. We have the compounding distortions of our healthcare system, going on for generations. We have obstinate non-adaptation in the war on drugs, which has led to unprecedented mass incarceration. We have the Afghan quagmire. All perfect, if only a few, examples of ineptitude and waste that killed lots and lots of people unnecessarily, and wasted lots and lots of money.

But such a sudden enforcement of ethics, accountability, and commonly-applied law in the political process would create a yawning breach that our hated political other-enemy would storm through, with no assurance of reciprocation, however. In all likelihood, that road would take us the way of Pakistan and Brazil, where politicians are prosecuted with seasonal regularity, with no greater accountability gained.

Normalizing impeachment and applying the law to President Trump for the wrong reason would simply be a point scored in a tribal squabble, which will be revenged when Team Blue next gets the post. The end game, seemingly imminent, of the Special Prosecutor’s collusion investigation will answer the question of what would constitute the “right reason” (covered in another piece). But a prosecution over anything starting with “Stormy” would result in a Trump legacy as the guy who hauled the judiciary down into the partisan mire (many argue we are close to that already). In that case, we really would be lost, as a self-governing Republic consisting of the rule of law, since the remedy to the problem of normalizing impeachment and normalizing political law can only be a more empowered judiciary.

Tribal politics needs to be transcended the same way tribal law (historically) has been: by establishing a standard of objective law above the tribe for everyone. Americans must know that self-policing, and apolitical policing of politicians, is not now possible, if it ever was. A robust institution, say a branch of the FBI, with its own funding line (a large funding line to overcome the elite legal firepower), is needed to at least mitigate the divide. Impeachment, and the rule of law equally for everyone, needs to be “de-tribalized,” before it can normalized.

Politicians in the USA in general, and the President of the United States, in particular, are uniquely empowered to create mistakes that have broader-reaching consequences than any people who have ever lived. And judging by our latest impeachment precedent, our political system, as it is now, for truly holding them accountable is simply not worthy of the challenge. The environment has gotten worse in the age of Trump, and we have little cause for faith that when the issue inevitably reappears, our equipment will be improved in the future.

The kicker is that Donald Trump is not to even the most unstable man to hold the power. Richard Nixon liked to get [drunk and threaten the Soviets with nuclear war with his “madman” theory of negotiating leverage.


Eugene Darden Nicholas

About Eugene Darden Nicholas

Eugene Darden (Ed) Nicholas is from Flushing Queens, where he grew up sheltered from the hard world, learning the true things after graduating college and becoming a paramedic in Harlem. School continues to inform and entertain in all its true, Shakespearean glory. It's a lot of fun, really. In that career, dozens of people walk the earth now who would not be otherwise. (The number depends on how literally or figuratively you choose to add). He added a beloved wife to his little family, which is healthy. He is also well blessed in friends and colleagues.


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