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High crimes and revisionism

Posted By David Limbaugh On 12/16/1998 @ 1:00 am In Commentary | Comments Disabled

Had the 1974 Republicans behaved with as little integrity and as much partisanship as the Clinton Democrats (herein “Clintoncrats” for short), Mr. Nixon would very likely have remained in office. Despite revisionist history, Democrats intent on dispossessing Nixon faced a formidable obstacle: He may have committed no provable crimes. How were they going to make a credible case that his non-criminal conduct nevertheless rose to the level of impeachable offenses?

The 1974 Democrats didn’t just launch into the impeachment process without addressing this absence of criminality. Instead, the Rodino Committee undertook a meticulous research effort to ascertain, among other things, whether non-criminal misconduct, such as that engaged in by Nixon, was impeachable.

A review of the records of that period reveals that everyone regarded serious felonies as constituting high crimes and misdemeanors. No one would have been foolishly audacious enough to suggest that perjury and obstruction of justice fall short of impeachable conduct. Otherwise, Article 1, Section 3, Clause 6, which provides that the party convicted of impeachment shall still be liable to prosecution under the criminal law, would be rendered meaningless.

The celebrated Rodino Report, an entire section of which is dedicated to “The Criminality Issue,” implicitly concedes that serious criminal conduct is impeachable, but concludes that so is conduct that is “subversive of constitutional government” regardless of whether it is criminal. According to the Rodino Committee, this phrase did not narrow, but expanded the scope of impeachable conduct.

A perusal of the Articles of Impeachment against Richard Nixon proves that the Rodino Committee indeed attached a very broad meaning to the phrase and included all of Nixon’s alleged misconduct in that category. Article One, for example, included an allegation that Mr. Nixon had lied to the American people by telling them that he had conducted an internal investigation and found that there had been no misconduct by the White House with respect to the scandal. But was this lie “subversive” in the sense that phrase is now being conveniently redefined by Clintoncrats?

While 1974 Democrats understood the phrase to include non-criminal conduct that undermines the integrity of government, Clinton has cleverly tried to use it to argue in favor of a restrictive definition of impeachable offenses that excludes criminal conduct, no matter how heinous or felonious, unless it is also subversive of constitutional government. But what does “subversive of constitutional government” mean to Clintoncrats? They maintain that it involves the president taking direct action against the people through agencies under his control, such as the FBI or CIA. When asked to further clarify, they degenerate into meaningless gibberish, interspersing affectionate references to the Watergate cover-up and its demonic architect.

Clintoncrats point to the fact that the original draft of the Constitution stated, “high crimes and misdemeanors against the state,” (with “against the state” being deleted as superfluous by the committee on style) in support of their twisted definition of “constitutionally subversive acts” and of their argument that only such acts are impeachable. This demonstrates that they have been well-trained by their master at linguistic deception. Students of the law from 1787 to the present have understood that all crimes are against the state. In criminal law, as opposed to civil law, the state is the victim and thus, the state through its prosecutors, brings the action against the wrongdoer. Thus, the inclusion and then deletion of the original language, “against the state” does not support the Clintoncrats’ position, but merely recognizes that all crimes — including “high crimes” — are inherently against the state. In fact, according to Coulter, the precise reason purely personal scandals were deemed “high crimes and misdemeanors” was that a statesman being caught in a private scandal would bring the government into disrepute.

Keep in mind that impeachment in the Constitution applies not only to the president, but to the vice president and all other civil officers. Clintoncrats never bother to explain how subordinate government officers or judges could ever subvert the constitution under such a definition. Nor do they explain how “bribery,” which is expressly listed as an impeachable offense, is impeachable even if the bribe involves private conduct that in no way subverts the constitution, according to their definition. Nor do they explain how their distorted definition can be reconciled with other descriptions of impeachable conduct by the framers (cited by Ms. Coulter in “High Crimes and Misdemeanors”): “those who behave amiss” — Charles Cotesworth Pickney; “if he misbehaves” — Edmund Randolph.

Perjury and obstruction of justice have always been considered extremely serious felonies and impeachable. A 1644 document by Deputy Governor of Massachusetts, John Winthrop (posted on the Free Republic website), describes perjury as a “great offense and misdemeanor.” Moreover, all seven of the federal impeachment convictions in American history have involved federal judges. Of these seven, three were removed for kickbacks and tax evasion, tax evasion, and false statements to a grand jury, respectively — hardly actions that would be considered subversive by Clintoncrats.

Conduct to be impeachable does not have to be subversive of constitutional government, especially as ludicrously defined by Clintoncrats. But let’s be clear. As has been emphasized before, nothing could be more subversive of constitutional government, as that phrase was understood by the Rodino Committee (notwithstanding present political gyrations by the 1998 Peter Rodino), than manifold perjuries and obstructions of justice committed by the chief executive officer of the United States.

Under all commonly accepted definitions save that of the Clinton apologists, Clinton’s conduct is impeachable and the Clintoncrats’ misrepresentation to the contrary is incontrovertible proof of their abject dishonor, disgraceful partisanship and unstatesmanlike conduct. It is perfectly acceptable for the Clintoncrats to poison the soul of their party. It is not acceptable that they also corrupt America.


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