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ROBB AUSTIN'S TURN

The Country Pays a Price for Taking Impeachment off the Table

March 20, 2015


One would think that Speaker of the House John Boehner and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have a firm grasp and understanding of the government, and indeed, they do.

Each are smart, try to do the right thing, and have vast experienced in Congress. Whether one agrees with them politically or not, they are dedicated public servants and each have put their stamp on the public policy debate of their times.

As someone who has been elected, I have seen members get too close to the seats of power and lose sight of the simplicity of our government, what the Founding Fathers had in mind when they created the United States of America.

It’s easy to get caught up in the daily chit-chart of well-meaning and well informed persons, unelected pundits and political forecasters, who are observing from the outside.  Our Founders knew it would be the elected Members who would revere the responsibility that goes with elective office, and that’s who they entrusted with the power.

The essence of our system is the unique checks and balances and a free press established by the creators. They wisely specified that neither entity would rule over the other. The concern was that one or the other would establish another monarch or King if any branch became too powerful. Hence, the series checks and balances.

One of those checks is entrusted in the article of Impeachment, the removal from office of anyone found to have seriously, with intent, violated the law. In addition to the strict provision of Impeachment, the article also serves as a political deterrent, and was meant to loom in the back of every office holders’ mind while they served.

Nowhere in all of this did the Founders’ view the press as anything more than a Fourth Estate, a fourth entity that is necessary for transparency and an open government, but they did not see the press as an influential force on elected members.

All of this brings us to the politics of today.

Early in the 2014 Republican takeover of both Chambers, Senator McConnell and Speaker Boehner made it clear that Impeachment of President Barrack Obama was off the table. No one is saying that there is any reason to Impeach President Obama, but the Republican strategy of taking Impeachment out of any future equation was lauded and even advised by mainstream Republicans and pundits. The result is we now have a government running without true checks and balances on the President and Executive Branch.

The steady drumbeat from opinion leaders of the press, political pundits, and advisors of the Republican Party to forget about Impeachment has brought us to this point. The President has a free hand to operate as he darn-well-pleases, without meaningful restraint or interference from Congress and the press.

This is not what the Founding Fathers had in mind when they inserted the Impeachment article into the Constitution. It was inserted to make sure a President did not become a King, or anything close to it. 

The Founders’ would not accept the opinion that Impeachment could only be brought if there was some clear-cut evidence that a conviction would be the result. Impeachment works regardless of the final outcome, it keeps a President in check and away from the temptation to govern with absolute authority, as Kings do.

Backed by a tepid press and a Republican majority in Congress that is too frighten to proceed where it constitutionally has a right to go, McConnell and Boehner have assigned to the President the right to do as he legislatively pleases.

Who could blame future Presidents’ from taking a similar cue and further eroding our checks and balances?

This is the price we all pay for the Republican decision to take Impeachment off the table.