Deja-Vu: Avoiding impeachment to enhance electoral prospects

There are very, very few people now who would doubt the constitutional importance of impeaching President Richard M. Nixon. This eventuality was averted only by Nixon’s resignation, as it became clear that even Republicans in Congress, disgusted by revelations of cover-up in the Watergate scandal, had withdrawn their support.

Those Republicans were more honorable than today’s Democrats who cringe at the prospect of impeaching President George W. Bush. But what if one of today’s mainstream Democratic candidates for President, who as senator has been complicit in war crimes and crimes against the Constitution, had had her way in 1974? Jerry Zeifman writes that 27-year old Hillary Rodham (not yet married to future president Bill Clinton) sought to avoid impeaching Nixon. He attributes an apology from John Labovitz, with whom Rodham shared an office, when they all worked on the House Judiciary Committee’s Impeachment Inquiry staff, for “erroneous legal opinions and efforts to deny Nixon representation by counsel — as well as an unwillingness to investigate Nixon.” All this was “to enhance the prospect of Senator Kennedy or another liberal Democrat being elected president in 1976 they hoped to keep Nixon in office ‘twisting in the wind’- for as long as possible. This would prevent then-Vice President Jerry Ford from becoming President and restoring moral authority to the Republican Party.”

But Nixon resigned, Ford was inaugurated, and a rather conservative Democrat–Jimmy Carter–bested Ford in the 1976 election, only to lose to Ronald Reagan in 1980.

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