Notable & Quotable: Impeachment After Nixon

May 20, 2022 6:18 p.m. ET

President Richard Nixon waves goodbye from the steps of his helicopter outside the White House, August 9, 1974.


Chick Harrity / Associated Press

Christopher Caldwell writes in First Things magazine:

Republicans have impeached Bill Clinton to try. Democrats have impeached Donald Trump twice, once for a sleazy phone call and once for a rally by his supporters that turned into a riot.

We tend to ignore the fact that [Richard] Nixon – for all the mistrust, resentment, and obscenities captured on the tape – finally co-opted his novel demands in Watergate. He did not destroy the tapes and he did not fight the Supreme Court. Administrations have since learned not to be too compliant. Both presidents recently impeached have, in one way or another, first and foremost lost political control over the levers of justice. Bill Clinton, after withdrawing two controversial attorney general nominations, was reassured with Janet Reno, who, though not hostile, was not in his political circles. Donald Trump, as his Attorney General Jeff Sessions bowed to Democratic pressure and refused to direct any investigation that might involve Russia, has seen his White House come under fire. The hostile investigator infiltrated the way effectively ending his administration in the first few weeks. In a well-functioning post-Nixon White House, the attorney general not only defends justice, but ensures that prosecutors and legal activists who will judicially disable the president will not have get any position. That is the function Eric Holder performed for Barack Obama when the president was accused, believably or not, of using the IRS to test his political enemies.

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Appears on May 21, 2022, print. Notable & Quotable: Impeachment After Nixon

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