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High Crimes and Misdemeanors – Updated 5/18/09

24 March 2009

The standard for impeachment, says the Constitution, is an amalgamation of amorphous legal concepts that ought to chill any executive who gives thought to engaging in anything remotely resembling them…that is, if the executive in question has a constitutional conscience.  Our president does not.


“High” crimes:  these are not “high” in the sense of “unusually serious as a consequence of their immediate effect.”  They are, rather, crimes committed by a high official who, because of his official status, is rightly ascribed special obligations in the form of public trust and stewardship.  They are at root crimes that undermine the credibility, trustworthiness, and constitutional integrity of the office in question.

“Misdemeanors:”  a rather expansive idea extending from speech characterized as treasonous to incompetence in the exercise of one’s official responsibilities.  In effect, this standard is the jurisprudential equivalent of stir-fried tofu:  it takes on whatever flavor is in the sauce.  We can ignore “misdemeanors” for present purposes.


George Will’s piece today, whether he intended it or no, lays out a comprehensive case that, less than three months into his term, would appear to justify the impeachment and removal of President Barack Hussein Obama and/or the committee chairpersons and the majority’s duly elected leaders in the House and Senate.


qb would add to Will’s list of offenses:  extortion, by which a perpetrator uses the threat of violence or legal action to obtain a result that is illegal.  (Blackmail, by contrast, uses similar means to effect a LEGAL result.)  In this case, we have Congress’ leadership using the threat of punitive, confiscatory taxation – as well as the tacit and financial encouragement of intimidating behaviors sponsored by a group that has apparently received a significant sum from the latest so-called “stimulus” package, ACORN – to force certain AIG executives to return most or all of the money they had received as a consequence of a legally binding, fully disclosed contract.  (That is known as “depriving someone of liberty and property without due process” because, according to Article 1, Section 9, “due process” may not include bills of attainder and ex post facto legislation.)

Thus, our current leadership in Washington is using political extortion, the fomenting of what amounts to racist and classist resentment (is this also a hate crime?), and the threatened immolation of bedrock constitutional restrictions on federal power – in the form of a bill of attainder comprising ex post facto legislation – to achieve a politically desirable but fiscally negligible result.

At very least, these are “high crimes” in that they cannot be committed by the ordinary citizen; they can only be committed by individuals in seats of constitutionally defined, federal power.  The criminal dimension, extortion, is likewise clear, which makes the act punishable after impeachment and removal from office.  Is anybody of consequence willing to admit these things?


An interesting question now arises:  given that this Congress will never agree to impeach its Messiah, what is Justice Kennedy likely to think about the narrower question centering on Article 1, Section 9?  If these matters reach the SCOTUS, he will in all likelihood be the swing vote…


P. S.  UPDATE 5/18/09:  Will has upped the ante with a precisely aimed expose of the Obama machine’s – qb cannot bring himself to say, “administration’s” – self-revealing corruption.  The “tincture of lawlessness” that Will ascribes to Obama’s machine is a ham-fisted, coercive, anticompetitive transfer of wealth from the investor class to Obama’s political patrons in the UAW.  Without a doubt, it is a down payment on other unions’ pay-to-play expectations.  (And Ben, yes, the delightful word “ukase” makes another cameo appearance.)

9 Comments leave one →
  1. Ben permalink
    24 March 2009 2:36 pm

    Outstanding observations, qb. Hey, Coop – our unabashed Obama fan – what say you?

  2. 24 March 2009 3:35 pm

    Ben, qb,

    I’ll have you both to know that I am a bashed Obama fan. George Will is a pompous gasbag much of the time (except when talking baseball and opposing abortion). Calling for impeachment is downright eccentric and, coming on the heels of St. Patrick’s day, pure blarney. Re the AIG skunks and their contracts, such contractors are no better than Bernie and the rest of the Wall Street high-rolling bookies. Revoking their bonuses ain’t enough. Heat up the tar and gather the feathers. They’ll be well attired for sorting out the plunder at the next corporate gathering in Monaco.


  3. 24 March 2009 4:02 pm

    Coop, *chuckle* I thought you were above the ad hominems! Why not just deal with the merits of GW’s observations…and qb’s, for that matter? qb’s already on record here as having called the AIG bonuses “obscene” insofar as they were underwritten by public funds!

    The proper remedy was not to avoid paying them (breaking contracts, and all that inconvenient little stuff), but rather to avoid the use of public funds to “rescue” an enterprise that was already going to be severely regulated by the market forces under which it operates. Bush and Obama simply distorted the market in a terribly consequential and unfortunate way that gives new meaning to the term “moral hazard.”



  4. 25 March 2009 10:18 am


    The problem is that the market, like a hormonially driven adolescent with little sense of restraint behind the wheel, isn’t economically self-regulating. Such is the fantasy of free marketeers. Bubbles, churning, oceanfront property in Arizona, and corporate board and management entitlement syndrome (not to mention ethical fudging and sheer stupidity) brought about the Enronization of our economy.

    It seems to me that Obama’s efforts are toward trying to prevent AIG from going into a black hole and dragging others (and us) along. Our current situation doesn’t call for economic tough love.


  5. 25 March 2009 11:07 am

    WADR, it’s nonsense. AIG goes down, the market scavengers pick up the pieces, and we move on without having distorted the market. That’s true regulation, and the prospect of avoiding it by hitching my wagon to government debt is Obama’s seductive lie. It’s not a black hole at all; it is a very well known and well understood concept, at least to those who pay attention…to wit, anyone who has tried to sell something that nobody wants.

    If my whole life’s savings is invested in AIG, shame on me! Our current approach is predicated on avoiding pain…and transferring the cost of doing so to our posterity. Shame on us.


  6. 25 March 2009 11:29 am


    Scavengers indeed. AIG was packaging and selling toxic market buzzard meat. Part of the old shell game. But far more sophisticated and sometimes unintentional. See this url:


    P.S. Ain’t this fun?

  7. 25 March 2009 11:38 am

    Plus, when Obama’s bill comes due in the form of hyperinflation, currency devaluation, and interest rates, it will be those on fixed incomes and in low-paying jobs who will be hurt the most. qb

  8. 25 March 2009 1:37 pm


    Ahh, but the “bill” for the broken economy was already on Obama’s desk when he entered the oval office. And more bills are coming because we have a problem which cannot be fixed by letting the avalanche of chips fall where they may. Free marketeers have resisted in the name of the market banking, financial services and food and drug regulation. Child labor would still exist, and public health as well as workplace safety would be universally ignored. And if free marketeers had their way, even the military would be monetized and privatized, destroying notions of duty, honor, and country.


  9. 25 March 2009 3:05 pm

    qb has repeatedly lashed President Bush for his drift into, and affinity for, liberal-style, cynical, economic pandering. And your last sentence, Coop, is patently absurd! Conservative, constitutional philosophy delegates to the government only those functions that it does well. Whereas waging war on poverty is not one of them, waging war on military aggressors most certainly is.

    The larger piont that qb hoped to address with this post, however, has to do with the (un-)constitutional premises that the Obama administration is adopting, placing the burden of proof on those who object. That stands constitutionalism on its head. Originally, the Constitution was to function as a limit on the federal government, and federal actions were to be conceived within the confines of those restrictions. Now, Obama and his congressional partners in crime conceive of whatever they think is practically achievable without regard to its inconvenient, constitutional constraints, and only if those who object can muster the will, the resources, and the resolve to see their objections through will the unconstitutional ideas be averted. In short, they are trying to get away with anything they think they can get away with.

    In this case, as George Will has pithily outlined for us, the leftist leadership has taken this anticonstitutional outlook to the level of an art form.

    Cheers, qb

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