Impeachment—I Like the Book So Let’s See the Movie

Impeachment may be possible, but only if this President is convicted in the right court.

It is not the House. It will not be the Senate.

And it will not be with any written report.

We are five years away from the half century mark. And conservative lawyer, author, and television personality Ben Stein can still be brought to tears. His voice breaks as we watch on weepy video:

Really sad. And I … I … don’t think any president has been more wrongly persecuted than Nixon. Ever. I just … I think he was a saint.

It seems like a minority opinion. It certainly was back in 1974, as Saint Nixon resigned. A widely accepted poll measured his popularity at 24%.

Hard to imagine sympathy today for a president who we now know ordered a firebombing that subordinates quietly countermanded, who is recorded screaming at aides about a burglary that had not been carried out, who directed government harassment of political enemies. All we knew about back then was the cover-up.

It is not hard to imagine an alternate timeline in which Ben Stein represents a majority, of a successful continuation of his second term, perhaps even more terms with fixed outcomes, for he was an ambitious individual, of continuing popularity.

All we would need would be a world without the Senate Watergate Committee.

It was not an impeachment committee. That would come much later, much closer to the end. It was simply an investigation set up by the United States Senate to find out all it could about what had led to the break-in at Democratic headquarters in 1972.

The investigation was public. It was on television sets in our living rooms, in corner bars, even in offices, every day with recaps each evening. Witness after witness explained what had happened, why it had happened, and why it was wrong.

Before those televised hearings, impeachment had been talked about. Congressman Father Robert Drinan had introduced a resolution that went nowhere. But Richard Nixon had been re-elected in 1972 with 49 states going for him. His opponent, George McGovern carried Massachusetts and the District of Columbia.

Television was the natural heir to the political cartoons of Thomas Nast in the 1800s, cartoons making fun of the corruption of Robert Tweed. Boss Tweed didn’t worry about articles blasting the corruption of Tammany Hall. Most of his constituents couldn’t read. He is said to have complained about “them damn pictures”.

President Nixon complained about the television preoccupation with the Watergate break in.

Let others wallow in Watergate. We’re going to do our jobs.

I watched late one night as a country singer was asked by Johnny Carson what he had been doing lately. He answered, “I been wailerin’ in Watergate.” The audience laughed. Everyone was wallowing at that point.

Nixon was not the only politician caught in scandal and impeachment. Demagogic Huey Long, the political figure who dominated Louisiana politics until he was killed in 1935, was known for corruption, but ordinary voters felt that he was fighting for them. His scandals had been publicized, but there had been no televised hearings with daily testimony. In fact, when he spoke to Senate staffers at the Washington Press Club in late 1934, he was able to joke about efforts to get him out of office.

I was elected rail road commissioner of Louisiana in 1918…
And they tried to impeach me in 1920.

The audience laughed.

When they failed to impeach me in 1920…
they indicted me in 1921.

More Laughter.

When I wiggled through that, I managed to become governor in 1928…
And they impeached me in 1929.

The audience enjoyed it, and Huey did too.

Louisiana legislators had done their duty. And Huey prospered. Louisiana voters were not behind the effort.

And there’s the danger. The lawlessness of my president has already hurt the innocent and damaged the Republic. If he wins a second term, the America of tomorrow will be very different from the nation we were raised to respect.

Today, we have a growing chorus of political officeholders, candidates, and activists voicing support for impeachment. I understand there are bumper stickers, although I have not seen even one here in Missouri.

The public is ambivalent, with a plurality opposed. That could change.

Those who follow politics closely enough are impressed with the Mueller report. If only citizens would read the details, they would want my President removed. He is a clear and present danger.

The Mueller report truly is a start.

Elizabeth Warren read the report and became the first major Presidential candidate to come out for impeachment. Others followed. Michigan Republican Justin Amash read the report, changed his mind, and is now the only Republican member of Congress to agree:

I’m confident that, if you read volume two, you will be appalled at much of the conduct. And I was appalled by it.

I am impressed by the lonely courage. But Volume Two? We expect Americans to read multiple volumes? Even Tolstoy wrote in single volumes.

I am reminded of an episode, years ago, of the then popular sit-com Cheers. Bar owner Sam Malone is desperate to impress his loved one, Diane. She likes Tolstoy and so a friend suggests he read War and Peace. He devotes five torturous days and nights to accomplishing just that. The novel is mammoth, larger than he could have imagined. But love is a strong motivator and, haggard and unshaven, he finally finishes it.

Diane is impressed that he would accomplish something so difficult, especially when he did it just for her. In a romantic moment, he is about to read a few passages aloud, when she has a better idea.

Let’s go see the movie.

Sam shouts in shock.

THERE’S A MOVIE??!!

The movie, in this case, is television. Nancy Pelosi has been holding back on any proceeding the title of which contains the word Impeachment. But she is pressing for hearings with testimony.

Impeachment of the executive of government requires proving the case, not to the House of Representatives where impeachment will occur, not to the Senate which must overwhelmingly vote to remove, but to the overwhelming majority of the public.

Otherwise, the target becomes a reincarnated Huey Long, laughing with supporters at the charge.

I’ll be okay with seeing bumper stickers in Missouri with the word Impeach. But, for now, I’d rather see Hold Hearings or even Trust Pelosi.

Let’s not beg Americans to read the book. Let’s all go see the movie.

Many thanks to our longtime friend and partner, Burr Deming, at FairandUnbalanced.com


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Posted by on June 9, 2019. Filed under COMMENTARY/OPINION. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry
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One Response to Impeachment—I Like the Book So Let’s See the Movie

  1. Glenn Geist Reply

    June 10, 2019 at 12:05 pm

    In all these years, I’ve never been able to understand any part of that Nixon support or why anyone believes he was treated unfairly. Of course that goes tenfold for Trump. It’s not about political difference, but rather about alternate delusions from the depths of which, nothing emerges.

    I am convinced however of the widespread nature – perhaps the prevalence of defective reasoning, neurotically motivated logic and other things the layman calls insanity.

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