Though I had read and hugely admired former prosecutor Andrew C. McCarthy’s previous work, when I opened the galleys of his latest book — Faithless Execution: Building the Political Case for Obama’s Impeachment — I assumed I was just embarking on what was more or less an intellectual exercise from one of America’s great legal minds.
After all, we were rounding the bend into the last quarter of the eight-year Obama presidency and such a national distraction seemed scarcely worth the effort. As McCarthy’s own subtitle indicated, building a political case for impeachment with the public, a literal groundswell, would be necessary and that seemed, well, a bridge too far or a mountain too high (pick your cliché).
When I finished the book — which I devoured in one breathless gulp, a rarity for me in these days of multiple distractions — it was a wholly other matter. If it weren’t eleven o’clock at night, I would have run out to buy a pitchfork and headed for the barricades, or at least the Washington Mall, myself.
With measured, almost inexorable clarity, this book is an extraordinary call to legal — or, more precisely, Constitutional — arms.
McCarthy begins with a basic history of impeachment, showing the provenance of the deliberately general “high crimes and misdemeanors” from English law via Edmund Burke and how our Framers saw this as a way to preserve the separation of powers we all (I hope) learned about in school and prevent the emergence of a despotic presidency.
He examines the three impeachments in our history — Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton. Neither Johnson nor Clinton would reach the two-thirds vote needed in the Senate to remove a president and Nixon, as we all know, resigned to avoid such an embarrassment.
The Clinton episode, because it is so recent and familiar to so many of us, is particularly instructive. Clinton clearly broke the law (perjury and obstruction of justice), but in the eyes of the public these did not constitute “high crimes and misdemeanors” sufficient for removal from office. Clinton’s lies had been about personal matters (adulterous affairs) and, significantly, his presidency was relatively normative otherwise.
This contrasts directly with Obama for whom the rule of law seems mythological and whose stewardship of our country in both domestic and foreign affairs has been an utter disaster. As McCarthy puts it succinctly, Obama has given us “a web of administration scandals that would make Richard Nixon and John Mitchell blush.”
The case McCarthy makes for Obama’s impeachment is as airtight as it gets. By the time you arrive at the end when the author indeed writes out his version of “The Articles of Impeachment,” you are prepared to read every word of the legalistic prose, stomping your fist on the nearest table as you move from paragraph to paragraph.
They begin with perhaps the most frightening of all: “Article I — The President’s Willful Refusal to Execute the Laws Faithfully and Usurpation of the Legislative Authority of Congress.” They continue through “Article III — Dereliction of Duty as President and Commander in Chief of the United States Armed Forces” (oh, Benghazi!) and “Article IV — Fraud on the American People” (“You can keep your plan,” etc.).
It goes on, obviously. Suffice it to say, almost all of the scandals and malfeasances are there. If you have been following Andy McCarthy’s career, you know he has been minding the store as well an anybody.
This book has already put impeachment at the forefront of at least one person’s mind where it hadn’t been before (mine). Where it goes from here, I know not. Certainly the media, with its hive mind, would react to an impeachment possibility as if its queen were under attack. And then there is the matter of race, Obama’s built in fail-safe mechanism.
It’s not simple. But the least we can all do is buy McCarthy’s book and read it now.
The Left has the late Saul Alinsky as a model. We have a rejoinder — Andrew McCarthy. The former seeks to subvert the rule of law, the latter fights every day to preserve it.