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Opening Arguments

Too late, too drastic

Someone who isn't a crazed conservative wingnut wants to impeach President Obama:

WASHINGTON — Worse than Richard Nixon. An unprecedented abuse of powers. The most un-American president in the nation’s history.

Nat Hentoff does not think much of President Obama.

And now, the famous journalist says it is time to begin looking into impeachment.

Hentoff sees the biggest problem as Obama’s penchant to rule by executive order when he can’t convince Congress to do things his way.

The issue jumped back into the headlines last week when, just before his first Cabinet meeting of 2014, Obama said, “I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone … and I can use that pen to sign executive orders and take executive actions.”

“Apparently he doesn’t give one damn about the separation of powers,” Hentoff told WND. “Never before in our history has a president done these things.”

And just to make sure everyone knows how extremely serious he regards the situation, the journalist added, “This is the worst state, I think, the country has ever been in.”

With Obama more than a year into his second term, it's a little late in the day for this, don't you think? And I doubt if the Supreme Court justices, the only ones whose opinion matters, would think he's committed an impeachable offense. Sure, I'm certain there is some sentiment among House Republicans for impeachment, but even if the GOP takes over the Senate, I don't think it would have the stomach for a trial.

Impeachment is like war, I think -- only to be undertaken when all other options have been exhausted. At the Philadelphia convention, George Mason wanted "maladministration" on the list of impeachable offenses, but James Madison argued that the term was too vague and open to interpretation, so they stuck with bribery, treason and "high crimes and misdemeanors." It was clear from the discussion -- and from the discussion in the states as they considered the Constitution -- that "high crimes" was meant to be a broad category, too -- not as broad as "maladministratiion," for sure, but certainly big enough to cover the type of usurpation Hentoff is talking about.

But it has not been interpreted that way in actual use from the very beginning. We've had only two impeachments, and both ended in acquittal, so it's not something our politicians want to routinely use. Impeachment is a good substitute for assassination (that was Benjamin Franklin's argument, I believe), but it's a poort substitute for and election.

And how is a conservative to view a constitutional provision where the intent was one thing but the actual practice quite another? It's one thing when the Supreme Court taking a wrong turn on abortion in 1973; 40 years of court history shouldn't stop us from studying constitutional language and the Founders' intent.  But it's another thing when actual practice strayed from intent immediately and stayed that way for all of our history.