I got the chance to review a fascinating, ambitious new history of the first presidential impeachent in the Times Book Review. I learned a ton and it really helped clarify some of my thinking on the Present Situation, so some thoughts below: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/18/books/review/brenda-wineapple-impeachers.html
Despite how manifestly unfit for office Andrew Johnson was, despite his intemperance, drunkenness, bigotry and dereliction of duty, impeachment was not particularly popular at first, even w his congressional opposition.
There were concerns about going too far, the political risks in pushing impeachment, as well as a question about what exactly constituted a high crime or misdemeanor.
There was also this desire to find some hidden smoking gun of perfidy, like missing pages from Wilkes Booth's diary that implicated Johnson in Lincoln's assasination, or evidence of sex workers in the White House. (Neither panned out)
In fact, when the House Judiciary first considered impeachment, they ended up voting *against it* in committee. But Johnson's contempt for congress, intransigience, obstruction and increasingly erratic behavior pushed even conservative Republicans into the impeachment camp.
However, the big problem with the impeachment itself and the proceedings, was that it ended up being about Johnson violating the will of congress and the firing of his Secretary of Defense, rather than the deeper substantive case that the man was generally lawless and unfit.
Nevertheless, even though he survived removal by a single vote, the effort helped destroy him politically and he didn't even receive his own party's nomination for president that year.
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