Everyone Is Jumping Off the Brooklyn Bridge

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Words to Your Mother: Impeachment

Before we actually define this word, it's trivia time. (Follow this link to skip to the definition.) Select from the following all of the elected United States Presidents to be impeached:

1. Andrew Jackson
2. Andrew Johnson
3. Richard Nixon
4. Bill Clinton

Give yourself a moment. I'll wait.

Rather than give a flat out answer, lets consider these one-by-one. If you're impatient, skip to the answer.

Andrew Jackson -- "Old Hickory" -- appears on the $20 bill. In fact, some newscasters have used this as a point to minimize impeachement, saying that "Andrew Jackson appears on the $20 bill and he was impeached". Although his popularity has waned since his presidency for various reasons, Jackson was never impeached.

Andrew Johnson, on the other hand, was impeached by the House of Representatives for his violation of the Tenure of Office Act. Johnson had attempted to override the Act, declaring it unconstitutional. (Nearly 40 years later, the Supreme Court would agree). A majority of officials voted for his impeachment in the House of Representatives and for his conviction in the Senate. However, a two-thirds majority is required for conviction, so this did not happen. Johnson was impeached but served out his term in office. However, Johnson was not elected as president: He became president when Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. (The same conspiracy that assassinated Lincoln was supposed to kill Johnson as well, but this obviously never ended up happening.) So, if you guessed Johnson, close, but no cigar.

Richard Nixon is another president who was unpopular in retrospect, but very popular at the time. He was elected in 1968, and in 1972 he was re-elected in one of the biggest landslide elections in U.S. presidential history. However, he kind of messed things up after that. Nixon was never impeached; he instead resigned from office. He does still hold the legacy of having said "Sock it to me?" on Laugh-In, as well as being the only one who could go to China.

Bill Clinton was impeached by the House of Representatives on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice. Like Johnson, he was not convicted by the Senate.

So, having taken the long way, here's the answer:

4. Bill Clinton

Only Clinton qualifies. Johnson was impeached but not elected. Neither Jackson nor Nixon were elected, but not impeached.

Impeachment as used in the United States is the ability of Congress to bring charges before an elected official. It is handled by the House of Representatives. Conviction is a separate process handled by the Senate, requiring a 2/3 majority. This conviction would implicitly remove the president from office. Although two U.S. presidents have been impeached, none have been convicted on the related charges or removed from office.

technorati tags:, , , , , , ,

Blogged with Flock


Post a Comment

<< Home