Wake up, Wexler!

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.

5 thoughts on “Wake up, Wexler!

  1. Pingback: Fruits and Votes

    • I suspect that the Trump presidency would not survive under Section 44 of the Australian constitution (which has analogues in most Commonwealth constitutions) because of the conflict of interest provisions on profiting from office-holding. The US does have the Emoluments Clause, but it is antiquated and there are serious questions whether anyone actually has standing to approach the courts under the clause.

      There is very solid evidence for the Berlusconi premium, the increase in value of Berlusconi’s private businesses because he directed government contracts to them. I suspect in time we will have equally solid evidence of the Trump premium.

      Canada has a rather impressive series of conflict of interest provisions. Section 21 of the federal Conflict of Interest Act is typical:

      21 A public office holder shall recuse himself or herself from any discussion, decision, debate or vote on any matter in respect of which he or she would be in a conflict of interest.

      Recusal by executive officials in the US is purely voluntary and completely unenforceable.

      I will not be astounded if we see a spectacular conflict of interest in the use of the pardoning power in the not too distant future. A pardon does not preclude impeachment but it does preclude prosecution after impeachment.

      The US would also benefit from royal commissions (obviously the designation would have to change). In 1983 there were serious allegations that Premier of New South Wales Neville Wran had attempted to pervert the course of justice. Wran stood down from the premiership while he faced a royal commission headed by the state chief justice. Wran was ultimately exonerated and resumed the premiership, but his minister of corrective services went to jail.

      PS the link to Madison’s speech is dead.

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