Failing Hamilton, Failing us all

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These crazy and terrifying political times have caused me to dust off my old copy–or more accurately, my father’s old copy–of The Federalist Papers. The paperback edition I have was published several years before I was born, but the issues described within its covers are timeless.

Tonight I pondered, as I have on many occasions over the past month, the subject of impeachment. A president has never before been successfully impeached and removed from office. It’s a rare and, quite honestly, a desperation tactic. It’s the “In case of fire, break glass” tool that should never need to be used. But these are not normal times, and we should be grateful that Hamilton and the other founders gave us this tool.

The tail end of Federalist #77, written by Alexander Hamilton, puts a very fine point on the reason for having a check on the authority of the president:

“The election of the President once in four years by persons immediately chosen by the people for that purpose, and his being at all times liable to impeachment, trial, dismission from office, incapacity to serve in any other, and to the forfeiture of life and estate by subsequent prosecution in the common course of law. The precautions, great as they are, are not the only ones which the plan of the convention has provided in favor of the public security. In the only instances in which the abuse of the executive authority was materially to be feared, the Chief Magistrate of the United States, would, by that plan, be subjected to the control of a branch of the legislative body. What more can an enlightened and reasonable people desire?”

Speaking strictly for myself–a fairly enlightened and reasonable citizen of the United States–here’s one thing that I want in America, 2017: a Congress that isn’t afraid to exercise their right to “control” the president and remove him from office. It’s not a question of whether he’s disqualified himself from office: The refusal to release tax returns, the backchannel discussions with Putin while President Obama was still in office, and the attacks on the legitimacy of the judiciary are all enough, taken by themselves, to establish that the current president has crossed a line and must leave office immediately.

The process for impeaching the president relies on the House of Representatives approving articles of impeachment against a sitting president, and then a vote in the Senate, after a public trial, to convict and remove the president from office. But Paul Ryan and his republicans in the house, and Mitch McConnell and his republicans in the senate, will not lift a finger to remove Trump. At least a few of them probably believe that they are sufficiently “safe” from any meaningful opposition in the 2018 elections. So instead they leave Trump alone and let him do whatever damage he wants to do. It’s a complete and utter abdication of the responsibilities entrusted to them by the Constitution.

Here’s what I’m asking for, Mr. Hamilton: A congress with integrity and courage. The congress we have now will not act, since they are clearly unwilling to give Trump his walking papers. Hamilton couldn’t see this situation coming back in 1787, so now it’s time to hunker down and hope we can survive until the 2018 midterm elections. Once those elections get here, we better damn well make sure that all politicians with an R next to their names get voted out of office. They have failed Hamilton and, by extension, they have failed us all.

Sweet irony

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I don’t get into politics that much here, but it’s not off-limits for me, either. I’m a proud member of what Paul Ryan refers to as “the Left” and I can’t resist the urge to take a whack at him for his recent speech in front of the CPAC gathering.

“The Left” offers an full stomach and an empty soul, in Ryan’s words. He made this point by telling a story of a young child who wanted his lunch in a brown paper bag, because this meant that someone cared about him. A hot, government lunch didn’t do that for him, apparently. Pity the poor child who has to suffer through a hot meal provided by an uncaring government agency. Or something like that.

But the story never happened. It was based on a scene from a book called An Invisible Thread, meaning that a story designed to provoke outrage from the well-heeled audience he was addressing actually provoked outrage from anyone who values intellectual honesty, instead. And also from anyone who is paying attention, which probably isn’t that many people. But that’s a post for another time.

By suggesting that feeding hungry children is the mark of an “empty soul,” Ryan revealed himself as someone who’s lacking in the soul department, himself. And by using a story that he cribbed from someone, who cribbed it from a book herself, he revealed himself as a fraud, too. And some people will support this man’s ambition to become president, if not in 2016 then at some other point down the road. It’s no wonder that this nation is so incredibly screwed up.