The power to impeach officers of the United State government is one of the gravest powers entrusted to Congress in the U.S. Constitution. The power is far-ranging and flexible, laying at the feet of Congress the ultimate responsibility to insure that the officers of the federal government are acting in the national interest and not abusing their authority. Congress has not had many occasions to use the power over the course of the nation’s history, and the most frequent targets have been low-level judges who had engaged in undoubtedly bad behavior. Impeachments of more high-profile targets like presidents raise more difficult political and constitutional issues about how the power should be used and what the role of the impeachment power might be within the American constitutional system.
During the 1990s, victory in the Cold War seemed more than just a triumph over the Soviet Union.
When Richard Nixon died in 1994, then-President Bill Clinton surprised many on the Right by giving a warm eulogy for a President he once protested against as an antiwar activist. Then Clinton’s campaign-finance and other scandals began piling up, followed by the out-of-court settlements and intimidation of sexual harassment victims to keep them silent, and the warmth of the eulogy became clear: Tricky Dicky and Slick Willie inhabited the same immoral universe.
In a blog dedicated to formulating and promoting classical liberalism, it is useful at year’s end to evaluate the state of these ideas in the politics and culture of our nation. And sad to report, classical liberalism is now weaker than it has been for decades.
What does it mean to turn politics into an exercise of compassion? That’s the question William Voegeli invites us to consider in his latest book The Pity Party. He bids us to the same conclusion, but in policy and political terms, that our parents once gave us: pity parties are a guilt trip. Of course, the particular politics Voegeli is discussing emerges from the sense of injustice and unfairness that modern liberals everywhere perceive. Their primary motivation, however, is to relieve their own inner discomfort. Their compassion, even more problematically, is disconnected from any real notion of virtue or individual…
Redistribution that is not actually felt by the losers at the time of its enactment is one of the most insidious features of the political order. Such legislation gives the illusion of a free lunch and disarms potential opponents who fail to recognize the costs that are coming. At least taxing Peter to pay Paul causes Paul immediate harm and prompts others to fear they may someday take Paul’s place. In contrast, silent redistributive legislation and regulation wreak havoc on democracy by undermining deliberation.
In this respect Bill Clinton was a much more dangerous politician than Barack Obama. To be sure, the current President never acknowledged that redistribution was one of the main purposes of Obamacare. Nor was he forthright about the policy’s redistributive effects. Misleading prospective losers, he promised, “If you like your plan, you can keep it.” But Obamacare’s costs have become clear relatively quickly, and the President’s party will pay a political price for them. Furthermore, Obamacare institutes new taxes to pay for some of its costs, even if these taxes were not transparent increases in the IRS tax rate schedules.
By contrast, one of Bill Clinton’s biggest redistributive scheme was almost completely hidden from the public eye.
What does Executive privilege protect?
Executive privilege is the constitutional principle that permits the president and high-level executive branch officers to withhold information from Congress, the courts, and ultimately the public. This presidential power is controversial because it is nowhere mentioned in the U.S. Constitution. That fact has led some scholars (Berger 1974; Prakash, 1999) to suggest that executive privilege does not exist and that the congressional power of inquiry is absolute. There is no doubt that presidents and their staffs have secrecy needs and that these decision makers must be able to deliberate in private without fear that every utterance may be made public. But many observers question whether presidents have the right to withhold documents and testimony in the face of congressional investigations or judicial proceedings.