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kottke.org posts about Richard Nixon

Impeachment and its misconceptions explained

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 05, 2017

At the recent Aspen Ideas Festival, legal scholar and former Obama advisor Cass Sunstein shared some views on his understanding of and some misconceptions about impeachment, namely that it doesn’t need to involve an actual crime and “is primarily about gross neglect or abuse of power”. Or as he put it more formally in a 1998 essay in the University of Pennsylvania Law Review:

The simplest is that, with respect to the President, the principal goal of the Impeachment Clause is to allow impeachment for a narrow category of egregious or large-scale abuses of authority that comes from the exercise of distinctly presidential powers. On this view, a criminal violation is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for impeaching the President. What is generally necessary is an egregious abuse of power that the President has by virtue of being President. Outside of this category of cases, impeachment is generally foreign to our traditions and is prohibited by the Constitution.

The “distinctly presidential powers” bit is a high bar to clear. Examining the case for Nixon on that basis, and only some of the reasons for wanting to impeach him hold up.

Richard Nixon nearly faced four counts. One failed count, for tax evasion, was completely inappropriate, Sunstein argued: Though an obvious violation of law, it had no bearing on Nixon’s conduct of the presidency. A second charge, for resisting subpoena, is possibly but not necessarily valid, since a president could have good reasons to resisting a subpoena. A third is more debatable: Nixon was charged with covering up the Watergate break-in. Nixon might have been more fairly prosecuted for overseeing the burglary, Sunstein argued, but nabbing him for trying to use the federal government to commit the cover-up was “probably good enough.” Only the fourth charge, of using the federal government’s muscle to prosecute political enemies, is a clear slam-dunk under the Founders’ principles.

Clinton’s impeachment, argued Sunstein in that same Penn Law Review essay, was less well-supported:

I suggest that the impeachment of President Clinton was unconstitutional, because the two articles of impeachment identified no legitimate ground for impeaching the President.

Sunstein explained the intent of the members of the Constitutional Convention in a Bloomberg article back in February. It’s interesting in the light of the Russian collusion investigation that the debate about impeachment at the convention centered around treason.

James Madison concurred, pointing to cases in which a president “might betray his trust to foreign powers.” Gouverneur Morris added that the president “may be bribed by a greater interest to betray his trust; and no one would say that we ought to expose ourselves to the danger of seeing the first Magistrate in foreign pay without being able to guard against it by displacing him.”

So what about Trump? Sunstein doesn’t offer much (no apparent mention of collusion with Russia):

Sunstein, having scolded legal colleagues for playing pundit, was reluctant to address the question directly. Setting aside the impossibility of impeaching Trump under the present circumstances of GOP control of Congress, Sunstein said he was wary of trying to remove the president simply for being bad at his job. Nonetheless, he said Trump’s prolific dishonesty might form a basis for trying to remove him.

“If a president lies on some occasions or is fairly accused of lying, it’s not impeachable — but if you have a systematic liar who is lying all the time, then we’re in the ballpark of misdemeanor, meaning bad action,” he said.

If I were a betting person, I would wager that Donald Trump has a better chance of getting reelected in 2020 than he does of being impeached (and a much better chance than actually being removed from office through impeachment) if the Republicans retain their majority in Congress. Although their healthcare bill has hit a hiccup due to public outcry (and it’s only a hiccup…it will almost surely pass), Congressional Republicans have shown absolutely no willingness to do anything not in the interest of their agenda…so why would they impeach a Republican President who is ticking all of the far right’s action items thus far?

Jump!

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 13, 2017

Jump Portraits

Jump Portraits

Jump Portraits

Jump Portraits

Philippe Halsman was a renowned portrait photographer who was particularly active in the 40s, 50s, and 60s and most famous for his iconic photos of Salvador Dali and Albert Einstein. For a period in the 1950s, Halsman ended his portrait shoots by asking his famous subjects to jump. The results were disarming.

When you ask a person to jump, his attention is mostly directed toward the act of jumping and the mask falls so that the real person appears.

Halsman got all sorts of people to jump for his camera: Richard Nixon (above), Robert Oppenheimer, Marilyn Monroe (above), Aldous Huxley, Audrey Hepburn (above), Brigitte Bardot, and the Duke & Duchess of Windsor (above). He collected all his jump photos into the recently re-released Philippe Halsman’s Jump Book.

Nixon sabotaged Vietnam peace talks

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 16, 2013

In 1968, Richard Nixon, then a candidate for President, used backchannel negotiations to scuttle peace talks that may have ended the Vietnam War. Nixon was afraid an end to the war meant an end to his campaign.

By the time of the election in November 1968, LBJ had evidence Nixon had sabotaged the Vietnam war peace talks — or, as he put it, that Nixon was guilty of treason and had “blood on his hands”.

The war went on for seven more bloody years, most of them under Nixon’s watch. Shameful.

Oh, Nixon

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 18, 2009

Dopey Nixon

From the comments about this photo on If Charlie Parker Was a Gunslinger:

Fred: As amusing as that picture is, Tricky was many things, but not a Dope.

Greg: Fred, you’re right of course but unfortunately there wasn’t an eighth dwarf named “Shifty.”

Frost/Nixon

posted by Jason Kottke   May 01, 2009

Early in Frost/Nixon, we meet Irving Lazar, who negotiates on behalf of Richard Nixon with David Frost. He didn’t get that much screen time, but Lazar struck me as an interesting character1 so I looked him up on Wikipedia after the movie. Michael Korda, himself a publishing bigwig, wrote a profile of Lazar for the New Yorker in 1993. Korda was befriended by Lazar early on in his career and went on to do many deals with the legendary agent.

Early on, Lazar hit upon three rules that have stood him in good stead for over fifty years. The first was that he could always reach anyone, anywhere, any time. His secret weapon is the world’s largest address book, full of the private, unlisted numbers of people whom nobody else can reach. Who else can pick up the phone and call Mrs. Norton Simon, Jack Nicholson, Barry Diller, Larry McMurtry, Arthur Schlesinger, Richard Nixon, Cher, Gregory Peck, or Henry Kissinger, and get through immediately? The second rule was always to go directly to the top. Lazar doesn’t deal with underlings. The last rule was to insist on a quick answer. Even now, if I tell Irving that I want to think something over or discuss it with someone else he will snap, “Never mind, I can see you’re not interested, I’ll talk to Phyllis Grann.”

[1] My first impression was, this guy seems a bit like Truman Capote to me. Well, duh: the actor playing him, Toby Jones, also portrayed Capote in Infamous.

You’ve likely seen the famous photo of

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 16, 2008

You’ve likely seen the famous photo of Richard Nixon with Elvis Presley in the Oval Office. When Nixon Met Elvis is a site dedicated to that short meeting with materials from The National Archives, including the letter written on American Airlines stationery that Elvis personally delivered to a White House security guard, several more photos from the meeting, and the gift that Elvis brought for Nixon (a gun! to the White House!). It’s a really kooky little story. (via hysterical paroxysm)

William Safire, who now does the On

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 25, 2007

William Safire, who now does the On Language column for the NY Times, wrote a speech for President Nixon in 1969 in the event that something happened during the Apollo 11 mission to strand the astronauts on the moon.

Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace.

(via cyn-c)

Photographer Philippe Halsman took portraits of people

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 17, 2006

Photographer Philippe Halsman took portraits of people while jumping (the people, not Halsman), as a way to loosen up. Subjects include Marilyn Monroe, Richard Nixon, and the Dule and Duchess of Windsor. (viabb)

David Remnick on the Bush Administration’s sustained

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 13, 2006

David Remnick on the Bush Administration’s sustained assault on the press. “You begin to wonder if the Bush White House, in its urgent need to find scapegoats for the myriad disasters it has inflicted, is preparing to repeat a dismal and dismaying episode of the Nixon years.”

Identity of Deep Throat finally revealed

posted by Jason Kottke   May 31, 2005

Identity of Deep Throat finally revealed. Mark Felt, who was second in command at the FBI at the time, helped Woodward and Bernstein with their research into Watergate.