Impeachment Evaluations and Reasons for Your Determination Essay

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Impeachment evaluations and reasons for your determination. 1. Which one was the most serious in terms of criminal conduct and why? 2. Which one was the most politically motivated and why? 3. Which one was the most and least damaging to the country as a whole? C. Should President Clinton have been censored instead of impeached? Explain.

To impeach a president: A comparison of the Johnson, Nixon, and Clinton impeachments

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Impeachment of the president is an extreme measure only to be undertaken in the most unusual circumstances of abuses of the office. The President, Vice President, "and all other civil officers of the United States, including members of the federal judiciary," can be only removed from their offices if they are found guilty of "treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors" (Ellis 2009). "Articles of impeachment, or accusations of misconduct, are drafted in the House of Representatives and approved by majority vote; the trial is before the Senate, with a two-thirds vote needed for conviction. In cases of presidential impeachment, the trial is presided over by the chief justice. Conviction in a case of impeachment can result only in removal from office and disqualification from holding office in future, but does not prevent the guilty party from being held further accountable in regular courts of law. Finally, the presidential pardoning power does not extend to individuals convicted in cases of impeachment" (Ellis 2009). Articles of impeachment have only been seriously entertained three times in American history, twice during periods of intense national self-examination and shame, once when the president was enjoying a 70% approval rating (Impeachment: Bill Clinton, 2000, the History Place). When asked the question if these impeachments were politically motivated, one might say -- of course they were, rather the better question is to the degree they were motivated by partisanship, versus out of political interests in preserving the integrity of the office of the president and the union.

Essay on Impeachment Evaluations and Reasons for Your Determination. Assignment

The first impeachment that occurred in American history was that of Andrew Johnson, in the wake of the divisiveness still afflicting the nation after the Civil War. Vice-President Johnson assumed the presidency after Abraham Lincoln's assassination during Lincoln's second elected term in office. Johnson was a southerner and a slave holder, and Lincoln choose him as the second half of his 'ticket' to appease southerners, and to hopefully heal the nation once the war was over. This immediately pitted Johnson against so-called 'Radical Republicans' in Congress. Today, so-called radicals would simply be seen as individuals lobbying for the civil rights of all Americans. "Radical Republicans wanted to enact a sweeping transformation of southern social and economic life, permanently ending the old planter class system, and favored granting freed slaves full-fledged citizenship including voting rights" (Impeachment: Andrew Johnson, 2000, the History Place). They pointed out that Black Codes in the South were just as oppressive to African-Americans as slavery.

When Radical Republicans achieved a two-thirds majority in the House and Senate, they passed three acts: The Military Reconstruction Act, Command of the Army Act, and Tenure of Office Act that imposed strict requirements on southern states to be re-admitted to the Union including ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment and new state constitutions in conformity with the U.S. Constitution. They also limited Johnson's presidential powers to interfere with Reconstruction. "The Command of the Army Act required Johnson to issue all military orders through the General of the Army (at that time General Ulysses S. Grant) instead of dealing directly with military governors in the South. The Tenure of Office Act required the consent of the Senate for the President to remove an officeholder whose appointment had been originally confirmed by the Senate" (Impeachment: Andrew Johnson, 2000, the History Place). The five military governors in the South were made answerable to Congress and not to the President and that the new military chain of command passed from the Commander of the Army through the House of Representatives. The outraged Johnson fired the radical Republican Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton in violation of the Tenure of Office Act, which he declared was unconstitutional. Three days later, the House of Representatives voted impeachment on a party-line vote of accusing Johnson of "high crimes and misdemeanors" (Impeachment: Andrew Johnson, 2000, the History Place). The eleven articles of impeachment accused President Johnson with illegally removing Stanton from office, violating the Command of the Army Act and libeling Congress. Johnson survived by only one vote (Impeachment: Andrew Johnson, 2000, the History Place).

In contrast to Andrew Johnson, President Richard Nixon was never formally impeached. Rather, Nixon resigned his presidency given that he knew that he would almost certainly lose the impeachment vote in the full House and a trial in the Senate. The immediately precipitating action for impeachment was the discovery of audio tapes provided conclusive evidence that President Nixon had been involved in a cover-up and had personally ordered a halt the FBI investigation "just six days after the Watergate break-in" (Impeachment: Richard Nixon, 2000, the History Place). The events that lead to the impeachment began when 1972, "as part of Nixon's re-election effort, a massive campaign of political spying and 'dirty tricks' was initiated against Democrats, leading to the Watergate break-in to plant bugs (tiny audio transmitters) inside the offices of the Democratic National Committee" (Impeachment: Richard Nixon, 2000, the History Place).

Nixon was personally involved in the payment of hush money to the five burglars and two other operatives involved in planning the Watergate break-in. Other dirty tricks that ensued were when Candidate Senator Edmund Muskie of Maine was accused in a planted letter to a newspaper of making a racial slur as well as the break-in for incriminating evidence at the office of the psychiatrist of Daniel Ellsberg, the former defense analyst who had leaked the Pentagon Papers to the press (Impeachment: Richard Nixon, 2000, the History Place). Such actions had been common at the Nixon White House since 1970, when the New York Times brought to light the secret bombing campaign against neutral Cambodia in Southeast Asia -- Nixon had immediately ordered wiretaps of reporters and government employees to discover the source of the news leaks (Impeachment: Richard Nixon, 2000, the History Place).

Again and again, Nixon flouted the law. When Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox, who had been appointed by the Nixon administration, vowed to obtain tapes Nixon had made of his own Oval Office conversations, Nixon committed what came to be known as the "Saturday Night Massacre in which Nixon attempted to fire Cox, but was temporarily thwarted as Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus refused Nixon's order and instead resigned. Solicitor General Robert Bork agreed to carry out the order and fired Cox" (Impeachment: Richard Nixon, 2000, the History Place)

On one hand, one could argue that President Andrew Johnson's actions were the most damaging to the nation -- Johnson's refusal to force the south to recognize the rights of blacks had consequences that resulted in the disenfranchisement and death by lynching of untold numbers of African-Americans. However, in terms of violations of the law, as it was written at the time, Nixon committed far more egregious transgressions. Also, although the Congress' actions towards Johnson in an attempt to protect African-American rights may have been laudable, the method by which they achieved their aims was questionable, as they assumed the right to name, for example, a member of the President's cabinet and attempted to override presidential authority in policy towards the south. Nixon's extralegal actions were so outrageous, that even members of his own party were incensed, and the effort to oust him may be regarded as one of the more bipartisan efforts by Congress against a sitting U.S. president.

But perhaps the most partisan impeachment was the one waged against President Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton, governing during a time of peace and prosperity, was a beloved and popular president. However, Bill Clinton had been having an affair with an intern, Monica Lewinsky. In August 5, 1994, following the renewal of the independent counsel law, the three-judge panel responsible for appointing independent counsels appointed Republican Kenneth W. Starr, a former Justice Department official in the Reagan administration, a man who loathed Bill Clinton. "Starr's investigators learned, among other things, that Clinton's close friend Vernon Jordan had provided assistance to Lewinsky, on the President's behalf, in seeking a private-sector job in New York after Lewinsky had been listed as a potential witness in the [Paula] Jones [sexual harassment] case [against Clinton]. Jordan also found her a lawyer to help swear out an affidavit in the Jones case in which she denied having a sexual relationship with the President. Since Jordan had once aided Whitewater figure Webb Hubbell, Starr now asked for, and received, permission from the U.S. Justice Department to expand his Whitewater probe to investigate Jordan's involvement in aiding Lewinsky. The focus of Starr's investigation thus shifted into the personal conduct of the President, under the pretext of determining whether Jordan and Clinton… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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