Commentary: Burgess should know impeachment isn't a political tool

The Fort Worth Star-TelegramAugust 12, 2011 

U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess should have said, "No."

Speaking to about 100 people at a NE Tarrant Tea Party meeting Monday night in Keller, the Lewisville Republican heard a suggestion from one attendee that the House push impeachment proceedings against President Barack Obama to impede his political agenda.

Burgess had no problem answering "no" when he was asked whether he would vote for another increase in the national debt limit. It could not have been hard for him to tell that "no" was what the crowd wanted to hear on that issue.

But he couldn't seem to get his lips around the word "no" when asked about using impeachment of the president as the ultimate political tool.

"We need to tie things up," Burgess said later when Star-Telegram reporter Aman Batheja asked him about his impeachment stance. "The longer we allow the damage to continue unchecked, the worse things are going to be for us."

Impeachment by the House and a trial in the Senate is the Constitution's mechanism for removing a president, vice president or other civil officer who is found guilty of "Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors."

Impeachment must never be allowed to become a political tool.

No U.S. president has ever been removed from office after impeachment. Only four -- Andrew Johnson, John Tyler, Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton -- even faced that possibility. The one who came closest was Johnson, who became president when Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in 1865.

Johnson quickly fell out of grace with the more radical elements of his own Republican party, the same people who had continually second-guessed Lincoln on major issues of the Civil War. For Johnson, the clash was on the terms and pace of Reconstruction.

Congress passed laws to impede Johnson's policy initiatives. When he was accused of violating the Tenure of Office Act by replacing his secretary of war, the House approved 11 articles of impeachment against him.

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