It seems like ancient history now, but when the House of Representatives impeached President Bill Clinton over the grave threat posed to the Constitution by his unwillingness to talk about how he relieved stress in the Oval Office, some of his own defenders countered with the idea of “censure.” In fact, the progressive organization, Move On, was originally formed to advance a petition to “Censure President Clinton and Move On to Pressing Issues Facing the Nation.”
One might wonder, then, why Rep. Robert Wexler, one of Clinton’s most vigorous defenders on the Judiciary Committee, would be the one to propose a constitutionally meaningless censure of President George W. Bush over his commutation of Scooter Libby’s sentence.
In his opening remarks as the Judiciary Committee began its impeachment hearings against Clinton, Rep. Wexler exhorted “Wake up, America” and he reminded listeners that:
When we started these proceedings, I expressed my fear that this impeachment, if successful, would forever lower the standard for impeachment for future presidents. In my worst nightmare, I did not foresee this.
No, evidently it has raised the bar, even for Rep. Wexler, who, one might guess, never in his worst nightmares could have imagined some of the things he has seen the current President and Vice President do.
Why not put impeachment on the table? In addition to the litany of other causes for impeachment, the protection of a convict whose crime was committed to protect the President and Vice President is precisely the sort of act for which impeachment was invented, as none other than James Madison himself noted at the Virginia ratification convention.
Let’s get this right, Rep. Wexler: Put impeachment on the table, and let the President’s defenders propose censure as a half measure.