Watergate Forever


In the first 198 years of the nation’s existence, there was one impeachment of an American president. In the past 45 years, there has been three. The “United,” it’s plain to see, is being taking out of the nation’s legal title.
Andrew Johnson is a forgotten figure in American history, reviled by one and all: liberals, conservatives, Democrats and Republicans. His high crime and misdemeanor? According to Congress, he violated the Tenure of Office Act over the firing of Secretary of War Edwin Stanton. Can presidents appoint and dismiss as they please? Congress had sought to put limits on such actions. Johnson resisted. His impeachment had failed twice before succeeding. Radical Republicans were enraged that Johnson vetoed much Reconstruction-era legislation, including a civil rights bill that passed over his veto. Abraham Lincoln had pulled Johnson out of obscurity by naming him his 1864 running mate. The slain president had promised a “let ‘em easy” policy towards the defeated Confederacy. Johnson, for his part, believed he was carrying out Lincoln’s policies by issuing such vetoes.
Watergate is now a turning point in American history. Instead of resigning, Richard Nixon should have dared the Senate to convict him. Now, the genie’s out. If a Democrat president faces a Republican congress, you can guess what’s next. If a Republican president squares off against a Democrat congress, more of the same. If President Trump is re-elected and the Democrats hold Congress, he will likely be impeached again.
Impeachment is not a legal procedure but has always­—and will continue—to be used as a political weapon. This was the case with Johnson, Nixon, Bill Clinton and now President Trump. As Gerald Ford once observed, impeachment simply means getting to 218 votes. By electing a Democratic congress, the American people voted for impeachment. If public opinion polls are to be believed, people got cold feet as the vote approached, opposing something they earlier endorsed.


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