Is it possible to impeach a president in a full employment economy?

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The answer to that question is—probably not, absent truly egregious conduct, such as the president shooting someone at midday on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. With regard to anything short of that, such as muddled and contradictory accusations about presidential phone calls to a leader of a foreign country few Americans know about (Where is Ukraine, anyway?), voted through on a narrowly partisan basis—well, the majority of voters cannot be blamed if they tune out on the entire show, which they appear to have done.

That makes a lot of sense from their point of view. After all, they have jobs, they are getting raises and bonuses (it’s that time of year), their sons and daughters, nieces and nephews are working too, and so are their neighbors. Their 401(k)s are growing nicely. Business is good, the mood is upbeat, which is important moving into the Christmas (buying) season. Why rock the boat? Besides, there’s an election coming up. If we want to get rid of the president, then we will have an opportunity to do it next November.

Such common sense reasoning is lost on Democrats in Washington, along with their enablers in the deep state and the mainstream media—all of whom are still outraged after three years that Donald Trump was elected president and is still sitting comfortably in the White House. It is easy to advise them to “get over it.” They are not going to get over it, and will spend the rest of their working lives trying to exact revenge for that outrageous assault on their presumed status as powerbrokers and arbiters of political morality in Washington. That is one reason why they must impeach the President: they are determined to put him in his place.

They are unlikely to succeed, and the reasons are easy to summarize: peace and prosperity. Wise heads among the Democrats sense this is the case, but they find it difficult to resist the drumbeat for impeachment coming from their base, along with the news outlets, who see impeachment as beneficial for their circulation, ratings, and advertising fees. Their problem is that they are too far into it to turn back now. As a result, Democrats are in danger of walking into a trap that President Trump will spring on them next November.

Democrats of a certain age look back fondly on a semi-magical period summarized by the word “Watergate,” when (in their minds) they stood up for the Constitution and drove Richard Nixon from office. They forget that a major factor in Nixon’s demise was a collapsing economy in 1973 and 1974, set off by the first Arab oil embargo, which drove his popularity down into the 20 to 30 percent range by the time he resigned in August of 1974. Nixon made plenty of mistakes on top of that—hiring a liberal operative as White House counsel (John Dean), appointing a Kennedy ally as his Attorney General (Elliot Richardson), and taping his private White House conversations—the latter on the advice of his predecessor, Lyndon Johnson. But these mistakes alone would not have brought him down without the economic troubles that eroded his standing with the voters, and forced Republican leaders in the Senate to advise him to resign.

The Clinton impeachment took place in a completely different environment. The House of Representatives voted to impeach President Clinton in December of 1998 for committing perjury before a grand jury in a civil case, after months of investigations and hearings. The Senate acquitted him on those charges in February (1999), on a party line vote. During that period, in 1998 and 1999, the U.S. economy was on a roll, fueled by favorable interest rates, a balanced federal budget, divided government in Washington, and peaceful conditions abroad. During 1998 and 1999 the U.S. economy grew by 4.5 and 4.8 percent in real (inflation adjusted) terms. The stock market advanced by 20 percent between September of 1998 and February of 1999—the five or six months during which impeachment and trial took place. Clinton’s popularity in the Gallup survey was well over 50 percent when the process began, and it improved steadily as impeachment went forward. The public, assaying the conditions at home and abroad, did not want to destabilize the situation by getting rid of the President on the basis of something that may have been a crime, but a “low” crime not important enough to justify removal. Besides, the voters saw Al Gore waiting in the wings, and decided (perhaps wisely) that they were better off with the Clinton they knew than with the Gore they did not.


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