I could not resist the opportunity to tweak the New Yorker over an article by Adam Gopnik entitled, “Stop saying that impeachment is political.”
I was first drawn to the article because its headline mirrored a column I wrote for Real Clear Politics in September: “A Politically Motivated Impeachment Is No Laughing Matter.” I was curious to see if Gopnik had reached the same conclusion as me that impeachment should be based on a crime, not a political disagreement.
His first sentence suggested we were on the same page:
“One of the things often heard about impeachment is that it is essentially a political process. This seeming truth is said with a kind of sleepy sapience, as though only the naïve or the self-deluded would imagine anything otherwise.”
So far so good, but alas, Gopnik actually went the opposite direction from me. I was pointing out that no matter how much you don’t like a president, you can’t impeach him or her without a high crime. Based on everything I have seen, the Democrats are engaged in an entirely political process to weaken or destroy the president they hate.
Gopnik seems to be saying that the political consequences of impeachment should be irrelevant, but political motives are just fine. Honestly, he doesn’t ever make the case for why Trump should be impeached, so I am reading between the lines here, but it’s clear he thinks impeachment is entirely justified.
And this is where it gets interesting. Gopnik hinges his argument for impeaching Trump on the impeachment in the 18th century of Warren Hastings. Hastings, the first Governor-General of Bengal, was impeached by the British Parliament on charges relating to mismanagement and personal corruption while he was overseeing the crown colony in India.
As Gopnik relates:
“When the Founders were writing the Constitution, an impeachment that seems to have loomed large in their minds was that of Warren Hastings, the first British Governor General of India. In a trial that ran, intermittently, from 1788 to 1795, in the British Parliament, Hastings was charged with a series of high crimes and misdemeanors that included corruption and what we would now call war crimes.”
Notice anything weird there? I did. Gopnik claims that the impeachment of Hastings “loomed large” in the minds of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention when they were deciding on the process of impeachment, but there’s just one small problem. The trial of Hastings lasted from 1788 to 1795, yet the Constitutional Convention lasted a scant four months from May to September of the previous year — 1787. How large could Hastings have loomed before his trial even started?
It’s true that convention delegate George Mason used the Hastings case in his argument for a broader scope of offenses that would justify impeachment, but let’s remember that Mason did not have the benefit of prophecy. All he knew was that Hastings had been charged with mismanagement of the colony. He could not have seen the evidence of whether Hastings was guilty or not.
What we now know, in retrospect, is that Hastings was attacked by his political enemies starting in 1786 for how he carried out British policy in India. These attacks on Hastings lasted until the end of his trial in 1795 when he was acquitted of all charges. Would Mason have held up the impeachment of Warren Hastings as an example of what we want to see happen in our own government had he known of the disastrous persecution of Hastings after a lifetime of service to the crown? As even the liberal sources in Wikipedia note, “The attacks on Hastings were largely made by opposition Whigs hoping to embarrass the government of William Pitt.” Hastings was impoverished by the impeachment attacks, and his successor Lord Cornwallis testified that he knew of no cause to “impeach the character” of Hastings.
In other words, the impeachment was “political.” If we don’t want to repoat the mistakes of the past, we should pay heed to its lessons. Don’t impeach officials just because you don’t like them.
WHO WE ARE
Frank Miele has spent four decades in the news business and now offers conservative commentary to counter the left-wing bias in the national media. If you enjoy reading these daily essays, I hope you will consider purchasing one of my books. They are available at Amazon in paperback or Kindle editions. My new book — “The Media Matrix: What if everything you know is fake?” — shows that Fake News has been around for years. The “Why We Needed Trump” trilogy tackles the politics of the last two decades: Part 1 is subtitled “Bush’s Global Failure: Half Right.” Part 2 is “Obama’s Fundamental Transformation: Far Left.” Part 3 is “Trump’s American Vision: Just Right.” Also consider subscribing to Heartland Diary on YouTube by clicking here for News Every Conservative Can Use.