As Deval Patrick throws his hat into the ring and Michael Bloomberg takes steps to join the presidential race, their prospects are questionable. According to an historical analysis by Jeff Greenfield, late entries fare poorly. Even more evidence that our nominating process is seriously faulty. It’s not good for candidates or the public if people come too late to the campaign a year before Election Day.
The media’s reaction to Senator Elizabeth Warren’s health care plan reflects a troubling approach to the way it thinks we should evaluate candidates for the presidency. After the Senator released her very smart proposal, the media might have asked a number of important questions about the plan’s impact on health care access. Instead, much of the commentary has been about the tax implications of the plan.
In general, one cannot be confident about the intent of the Framers, and that is true about impeachment. For example, while some observers have claimed that President Trump’s dealings with the Ukraine lie at the heart of the Framers’ reasons for impeachment, the issue is far from clear.
President Trump’s decision not to host the G7 Summit at his Doral golf resort was not only prudent, it also reflects an important lesson for his supporters in Congress and elsewhere. They can stand with him by opposing impeachment charges in the House and blocking a conviction in the Senate, or they can resist his problematic behavior in the first place and prevent him from creating grounds for impeachment.
Though the criticisms of President Trump’s withdrawal from Syria have been exaggerated (see here and here), the bipartisan condemnation reflects the fact that Trump does his greatest damage to the national interest on matters that are not grounds for impeachment. When he abandons our allies, emboldens our enemies, or engages in damaging trade wars, he may be guilty of bad policy choices, but those choices are not high crimes and misdemeanors. They are matters to be judged by the voters on Election Day.
While President Trump clearly has given good reason to consider impeachment, the question remains whether impeachment is the appropriate way to address his misconduct. In one view, we should hold Presidents to high standards and impeach them if they fall short. In another view, impeachment should be reserved as a last resort when other responses to presidential wrongdoing are inadequate.
As the Framers of the Constitution observed, accountability to the public is our chief restraint on Presidents (and other elected officials). If Presidents violate their duties, they can be voted out of the Oval Office. In addition, Congress and the courts can check and balance a wayward President. Impeachment is an important tool, but as we have seen with other presidents, it can be misused for political purposes, including being used to undo an election.
When Special Counsel Robert Mueller declined to recommend an indictment of President Trump earlier this year, an important factor was the long-standing view that presidents are immune from criminal prosecution while in office. So how come a federal judge in New York rejected the President’s efforts to block a criminal probe of his hush money payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal?
There clearly are good reasons for members of Congress to contemplate impeachment of President Trump. He tried to secure assistance from Ukrainian President Zelensky to promote his reelection campaign, he has used his office to promote his personal financial interests, and he has tried to obstruct justice. Whether he has abused his position to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors can be determined through further investigation and proceedings.
But some members of Congress, as well as some political observers, have invoked arguments that go too far. As the House moves forward with its impeachment inquiry, it is important that it does so on solid ground—otherwise, it risks making the process look like it’s more about partisan disagreements than about high crimes and misdemeanors. Here are some misguided arguments that have been made.
The recent revelation about President Trump’s dealings with Ukrainian President Zelensky have rightly provoked serious concern, especially the possibility that Trump blocked nearly $400 million in military aid to secure help for his re-election campaign .
This has intensified support for impeachment. But taking action against President Trump would only be a partial solution to the problem.
These reversals provoke considerable concern about the implications for climate change. They also reflect a serious defect in our winner-take-all system of government. When one party seizes control of the executive power, it can drive policies in one direction. And when the other party regains power, it can reverse course and take policy in the other direction. This high volatility in policy serves the country and the world poorly.