Quite a number of congressional Democrats want to impeach the president, which doesn’t surprise me. Those rascals are always up to something.
There are a number of problems with that idea, however, beginning with the understanding of the nature of impeachment. It’s just a process, that if successfully adopted in the House of Representatives, leads to a trial over the accusations in the Senate. A vote there will determine if the president is removed from office.
Pretty much everyone not wearing a straitjacket, or who should be in one, knows that isn’t going to happen.
What the marginally less agitated Democrats in the House really want is a public relations blitz. They assume that impeachment proceedings or the now detuned version, impeachment hearings, will give them an opportunity to hammer at the president until the next election and provide the 20 some odd Democrats running for president to have some time in front of the media.
There is a clear danger in all of this, however, which many in leadership roles should understand, particularly those who were present for the impeachment proceedings against President Bill Clinton.
Republicans had taken control of the House of Representatives after 40 years and were riding quite high on their “Contract with America,” which had some concrete actions outlined — some of which were actually addressed.
Nevertheless, they could not stay focused on that agenda and turned their attention to the person many in the GOP thought was their major problem — President Clinton.
The presidency of Bill Clinton had been a medley of peculiar incidents from Travelgate to Whitewater to Lewinsky, which garnered much media attention.
This fanfare led congressional leaders to institute impeachment proceedings and charges, passed by the House of Representatives and placed before the Senate.
The effort failed as most predicted and Clinton not only kept his job, he emerged with better poll numbers than he had before impeachment proceedings.
Democrats had gained six seats in the 1996 election and picked up five more in the 1998 midterms. It was extremely unusual for a president’s party to pick up seats in a midterm election. Traditionally, they lose seats to some congressional districts’ unhappiness over the president’s performance.
The result was a shakeup in the leadership of congressional Republicans with House Speaker Newt Gingrich eventually resigning from the speaker’s position and the House after taking much of the blame for congressional losses by focusing on proceedings the public did not find particularly important or understandable.
What voters did know was that as fascination with impeachment grew, attention to the people’s business and campaign promises decreased.
That really wasn’t even entirely the case. President Clinton, with an innate ability to mold himself to circumstances, suddenly worked with Congress to get a number of changes instituted, such as welfare reform, which were fairly popular and the president was able to look cooperative or make it appear that some of these items were his idea.
The lesson should be pretty clear. Going after the chief executive with the idea of removing him from office after he was elected had better have some concrete and understandable reasons for taking place.
Congressional Republicans didn’t really have them in late 1998 and Democrats don’t have them now. They have a mess of accusations, pockets of anger and vague charges which they are unable to attach to specific conduct or anything that seems particularly troublesome to most of the public.
It can and likely will all appear — at best — as a political stunt on the taxpayers’ time and dollar. Or, at worst, an attempt to remove a president they are afraid they can’t beat at the next election.
They even have a Democratic Party House member, Al Green, on record as saying, “I’m concerned if we don’t impeach this president, he will get re-elected.” That’s a pretty reckless and dangerous thing to say to the public.
I suspect an impeachment hearing or even a long-winded investigation will probably result in President Trump’s re-election and the loss of a number of House seats for Democrats.
Republicans only need to win back 18 of the 40 they lost in 2018 to take back control of the House and many of those districts were won by Trump in 2016.
I often complain that we don’t seem to learn lessons from the past, and now it appears even recent history holds no lessons for some.
Rick Wagner is a Grand Junction attorney. Email him at email@example.com. His weekly political talk show airs on KNZZ 1100 AM/92.7 FM on Saturdays at noon.