on January 13, 1999
'The process of presidential impeachment and trial thereon, culminates in a judgement of the Senate, either that the president is not guilty, or that he is guilty on one or more of the Articles of Impeachment voted by the House, and is to be removed from office. Is this judgement of conviction final, or is it in some manner appealable, to the United States Supreme Court or elsewhere'?
Good question, huh? And so begins Chapter 4 of Charles L. Black's marvelous essay on the subject of impeachment. Black wrote this book when President Richard M. Nixon occupied the White House, yet the clarity of his writing, the reasonableness of his arguments and the vigor of his analysis, still hold true today nearly a quarter of a century later. This edition, republished in 1998, includes an impressive new forward by Prof Akhil Reed Amar of Yale University. If you're looking somewhat bewildered by the goings on Capitol Hill, and by implication, the lead stories on the news, rest assured you're not alone. One moment you hear the House of Representatives' Judiciary Committee recommending four Articles of Impeachment and the next moment you see the House vote to send the President to be tried by the Senate. What gives? You ask.
Black's book takes the reader on a journey in search of the facts relating to impeachment: what it means, where it originated and how we apply tests to determine the case for or against an impeachable offence. Black also examines the role of lawyers and of the Courts.
The author's objective throughout is not so much as to provide the reader with solutions, rather it is to illuminate why certain answers are incorrect. He does this by laying the evidence before the reader, so that the reader has every chance to examine both the evidence and his conscience, prior to arriving at a determination. As in other aspects of life, the book highlights that not all issues are clearly defined, and there is indeed room for some interpretation Irrespective of whether you're keen to turn the first sod in the political grave of the President William Jefferson Clinton, or whether you'd prefer to stand at his side as the United States Senate charges him; Black's essay is lucid, elegant and entertaining. As a contribution to the debate it is invaluable.
on June 7, 2003
Black's "Impeachment" is the ideal guide for the average citizen who hasn't studied constitutional law. Black gives a thumbnail sketch of the impeachment process' mechanics and explains what we know about the framers' intentions. He discusses the most often debated impeachment issues, and he offers his own interpretation of the process in general and comments on Nixon's impeachment.
The main points I took from this book are that impeachment gravely frays the fabric of American society, and that partisan politics has no place in the process; the linchpin of impeachment is the solemn statesmanship of our congressmen. If another impeachment comes about in my lifetime, I'll let my congressmen know early in the proceedings that I'm counting on them to act without partisan bias.
on January 20, 1999
Black's book is remarkably relevent to the current impeachment situation, even after 25 years. Though his examples are comtemporary to the Nixon near-impeachment (and prior to his resignation), it is refreshing to read a treatise on impeachment that does not constantly refer to Starr, Lewinsky, Tripp, et al. It is not written for the lawyer, so it has a popular flavor that made it a quick read while still imparting a great deal of information.
on August 23, 1998
Black's book is now a bit dated, and his treatment is certainly more broad-brush than that of, say, Michael Gerhardt's "The Federal Impeachment Process" but this is still a wonderful book. It ought to be brought back into print and -- given political events at the moment -- maybe it will be. A classic and, like all Black's works, beautifully written.
on December 3, 1998
Black's book is now a bit dated, and his treatment is certainly more broad-brush than that of, say, Michael Gerhardt's "The Federal Impeachment Process" but this is still a wonderful book. A classic and, like all Black's works, beautifully written. If you're interested in impeachment (and who isn't these days?) this ought to be the first book you read.