Civil Discourse Now

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"He said, 'The sheriff is getting near!'": President Obama as similar to Cleavon Little's character in "Blazing Saddles."

   In late 1973, Newsweek magazine—back then it was in print form and came out each week, after “news” was at best only a few days in the past—ran an issue with a special focus on impeachment. Richard Nixon was on the ropes in the second round, bloodied after only a relatively few months of disclosures from what now is known as Watergate.”
   One unfortunate outcome of Watergate was the addition of the suffix “-gate” to any purported scandal.
   Little was known, by the general public, of the procedures for the impeachment and trial of a President. Articles of impeachment must be brought by the House of Representatives, the body that impeaches. So there goes a common misconception. The United States Senate does not impeach the President of the United States—the House of Representatives impeaches.  
   Trial is held in the United States Senate. There must be a two-thirds vote of the Senate to convict on at least one article of impeachment.
   The only American experience with presidential impeachment the time of Watergate had occurred with President Andrew Johnson. President Johnson, a native of Tennessee, had not been as bloodthirsty as Republican members of Congress in regard to Reconstruction after the Civil War. He also liked to imbibe, and reported by some to have been intoxicated when sworn into office as Vice President. The impeachment and trial have been seen by many, in retrospect, as political payback for refusal to carry out Congressional bloodlust. The vote for conviction fell one short of the necessary two-thirds.
   Bill Clinton was impeached late in his second term as President. The votes in the House for impeachment and in the Senate to remove from office nearly were entirely on party lines. The spectacle slowed government processes and made some people more cynical about our political system. The latter occurred possibly because impeachment was used as political payback.
   When a person is elected to the office of President, that person will be unpopular with a lot of people, simply because the person is President. The person also probably will issue orders to have people killed.
   If we want to look at people who have deserved impeachment, we can look at relatively recent history. Richard Nixon resigned from office rather than be impeached—the House Judiciary Committee had voted several articles of impeachment out of committee for vote by the full House. The full membership on February 4, 1974, had voted 410-4 to authorize the Committee to investigate for the purpose of exercise of the power of impeachment alleged violations by President Nixon. The effort was bipartisan. President Gerald Ford—the only occupant of the Oval Office not to have been elected to that office or the office of Vice-President, for you trivia fans—pardoned Nixon. Ford then lost re-election.
   Ronald Reagan negotiated with “terrorists”—leaders of Iran—before he took office. He gave comfort to the enemy, or at least frustrated President Jimmy Carter’s negotiations to release hostages taken from the United States embassy in Teheran. Reagan later authorized trades for arms and intelligence—not Reagan’s intelligence, as he had little, but the intelligence gathered by our spies and satellites—with terrorists in Central America, Iraq, and, again Iran. Some of these trades were carried out in violation of specific provisions of American law.
   George W. Bush takes the cake. He faked us into a war that, by some estimates, will have cost the United States six trillion—that’s TRILLION—dollars. He made light of his search for weapons of mass destruction in a video during which he checked under his desk, under the cushions of a sofa, etc.
   These men walked away from office. No one brought articles of impeachment against them.
   Some Republican members of Congress almost foam at the mouth when the “I” word is mentioned in regard to President Obama.
   Benghazi? It has been investigated how many times? Four people died there. That was tragic. So, too, was the Republican blockage of funds for increased security at our overseas missions. The IRS so-called scandal? There was no meat to it. If there had been, I am certain Rep. Issa would have publicly displayed someone’s head on a pike.
   Now we have the trade for Sergeant Bergdahl. Republicans are outraged for various reasons, including they were not consulted about a possible trade. One can read about discussions between members of the Obama Administration and members of Congress—including Senator John McCain—in the June 21, 2012—as in almost two years ago—issue of Rolling Stone. I stated my view two days ago. We have negotiated trades in the past. Also, if Sergeant Bergdahl—who is innocent until proven guilty—deserted or committed treason, we have procedures for such investigations and prosecutions.
   The reality is: anything President Obama would have done would have been attacked by Republican members of Congress. It is interesting that many of them have removed from the internet comments favorable to the trade.
   As the Mayor of the fictional town of Rock Ridge said in “Blazing Saddles,” when the lookout’s warning was garbled, “He said the sheriff is getting near.” As anyone knows who has seen the unexpurgated of Mel Brooks’s classic movie, “Black Bart,” the sheriff played by Cleavon Little, was black. The word the lookout used was the despicable racial epithet.
   “Blazing Saddles” was a satire about racism as much as it was a spoof of Westerns. Sadly, the outright hatred expressed for President Obama has little to do with his policies. I do not agree with a lot of his policies. Use of drones—also used by President Bush II—to carry out remote-controlled assassinations is usually wrong. It especially is wrong to kill United States citizens with drones, or by any other means, without due process and trial. As Tallyrand said of assassination, it not only is wrong, but stupid. So, too, is the use of drones. At best, the accuracy of the machines is such that eighty percent (80%) of the people killed in an attack are innocent.  That does little either to advance the cause of freedom and democracy or to endear us to those of other lands. I do not believe “Obamacare” went far enoug. We should have national health care.
   That said, President Obama has not committed acts, of which I am aware, that rise to the level of impeachable offenses. If he has, then certainly former President George W. Bush should be hauled out of bed in the middle of the night, handcuffed, and arraigned for the deaths of tens of thousands of people in a war that only was fought for oil, and the other profits large corporations make when human beings fight in combat.
   The Republicans have nothing “positive” on which to run. They are like Harvey Corman’s Headley Lamar, the bad guy in “Blazing Saddles.” At the end of the movie, he was reduced to trying to fake his way into the movie on a student ID. He ordered Raisinets. Then he died on the footprints of Douglas Fairbanks in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theater.
   Unfortunately, the present efforts of the Republican Party could leave our country with a crippled infrastructure, happy billionaires, a wrecked economy, and I don’t want to guess what idiot in the White House.
   The President is near. He has not committed an impeachable offense.
   So anytime someone says “Benghazi,” just say “Jobs.” Or say, “Excuse me while I whip this out.”

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