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Jack is a graduate of Rutgers University where he majored in history. His career in the life and health insurance industry involved medical risk selection and brokerage management. Retired in Florida for over two decades after many years in NJ and NY, he occasionally writes, paints, plays poker, participates in play readings and is catching up on Shakespeare, Melville and Joyce, etc.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Andrew Johnson's Impeachment, Trump and the Military, a Philadelphia Story and a Krugman Column

The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson

Andrew Johnson, assuming the Presidency after Lincoln’s assassination, had rather liberal ideas about dealing with the defeated Confederate states which had seceded.  Now that they were back, unhappily, but nevertheless back in the Union, he was ready to ignore the reasons for which the war was fought.

Lincoln’s Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton, had different ideas and with the Army occupying the South, he was no so willing as was President Johnson to forgive and forget for the sake of the Union.  His Republican supporters in Congress passed, over Johnson’s veto, the Tenure of Office Act, protecting those appointees whom the Congress had approved from being fired without Senatorial agreement.  Specifically, this act was intended to protect Stanton from the President’s vengeance.  Nevertheless, Johnson fired Stanton and replaced him with General Ulysses S. Grant temporarily.  Congress didn’t like this and liked it even less when Grant, seeing he was being used, quit in short order and Johnson appointed General Lorenzo Thomas to the post.  Thomas was no more than a mouthpiece for Johnson who would do as he was told.

Meanwhile, knowing Congress was backing him, Stanton locked himself in his office and refused to depart.  The Republican Congress supported him, and because the President was intentionally violating the Tenure of Office Act (among other things), passed Articles of Impeachment against him in the House of Representatives. In the Senate, however, the Articles fell one vote short of conviction, a “bought” Senator from Kansas siding with the President after a week of bargaining. Thus, Andrew Johnson survived his impeachment and went on to wreck the reconstruction of the South for which Abraham Lincoln had worked so hard and died.  It took almost a century to undo the harm Andrew Johnson initiated in the South after the Civil War.  Actually, we are still working on it.  (That is why, at least up to now, many historians rank Andrew Johnson as our worst President.)

The Tenure of Office Act was in effect only until 1877.  Nevertheless, any President who fires a Cabinet member who had been confirmed by the Senate had better watch himself, especially if he appoints someone to the job, even temporarily, whom Congress would never confirm.  Andrew Johnson narrowly escaped Congress’ wrath. 

That succeeding Presidents can get away with it is doubtful.  And that includes the present occupant of the White House who is unhappy with the way the Department of Justice goes about the business of administering justice.   There is a limit beyond which even Republicans will not go in continuing to support the thief who stole their Party.

It Happened in Philadelphia

“Let’s not give too much power to the people, guys,” one of the Founding Fathers suggested.  “We were thirteen separate British colonies and now, we’re thirteen separate states, united into one country.  But let’s not get carried away.”

“Yeah,” another one of the Founders added, “Thirteen united ‘states.’  We can call ourselves the united ‘states’ of America.  But are we really united … or just separate states?”

“Sounds better when you capitalize it: The United States of America. Okay?”  Everyone seemed to like that. 

The first Founding Father continued, “But although nominally united, we still are separate states. Flip a couple of letters and ‘united” becomes “untied.”  We never ever intended to tear down the boundaries between the thirteen of us completely and share our wealth equally. Let’s not forget that.”

“You’re right,” another chimed in.  “We might have a common currency, a common navy to protect us, a common army if we need one, and deal with other nations as one country, not as thirteen separate states.  But still we remain thirteen separate and distinct states. The problem is how do we keep it that way with one government running the show. Those Articles of Confederation certainly didn’t work.”

James Madison was probably the speaker
The first speaker, a Founding Father from Virginia, spoke up.  “Guys, we can have it both ways!  When we set up a legislature, we should divide up its powers. Actually, we could have two separate legislatures, like they have in England, with a House of Lords and a House of Commons, dividing legislative powers between them.  One might represent all of the people of the United States as one country, and the other can represent the states, as individual states, united, but still separate, regardless of their population.  We could call that the Senate, like the Romans did.”

“Yeah,” injected someone probably from  either Rhode Island or Delaware, “Then those big states with all those people like Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and New York, won’t be able to step all over us little guys.  Every state should have the same number of representatives in the Senate and be the equal of any other state, regardless of size or population.  In the other legislature, we can let the number of representatives be determined by the populations of the states, making it a real "people's" body.  We can do a census every ten years to keep that  number up to date."

A few of the Founding Fathers stood up and appaluded.  One spoke up, "Now let's figure out exactly what powers the the Senate would have and what powers this House of *(the People's) Representatives, which is what we should call it, will have.  And what we leave out, can be left to the individual states to handle."

“Yeah,” a voice from the gallery shouted.  “They can handle the license plates for our wagons.”

That is more or less the way it probably happened.  And up to now, it has worked. 

Paul Krugman’s 11-8 New York Times column dealt with this.  It must be read.  Visit it by CLICKING HERE .  If that doesn’t work, just copy and paste this on your browser line:

* (The stenographer who was writing all this down back in 1789 left out these two words, "the People's," so we now just call it the House of Representatives.)

Donald Trump Loves our Troops .... Sure!

If you want to know how much the President loves the military, be sure to read this Washington Post column.    Just Click Right Here to read what the Washington Post's Karen Tumulty had to say on Nov. 12. 

He respects our armed forces in the same way that a tin-horn third world dictator boasts about "his" army.  Of course the armed forces of the United States are "our" army and not those of our own tin-horn President.

His latest attack on retired Admiral McRaven, whose special forces got to Bin Ladin after the CIA found him, because he disagrees with the President politically, shows the shallowness of Trump's love affair with the military.  If they can be used, fine.  Otherwise, they warrant no respect from him.  That's our phony baloney President.  But the Republicans who continue to support him are no better than he is, although almost all of them know better.  The votes of the gullible Trump base are all that keep them from having to look for new jobs.

I can well understand how his gullible and often bigoted base of support swallows his malarky ... but it becomes increasingly difficult to understand why otherwise intelligent Republicans in Congress, whose Party he has destroyed, continue to put up with him.  When the impeachment votes come, and they eventually will, I wonder where they will stand.

The Founding Fathers, led by James Madison (pictured above) demanded that the military be under civilian control.  This is why our civilian President is Commander in Chief.  But by putting military people, used to taking orders from above, in White House civilian positions, Trump defeats this.  Perhaps the pageantry of uniforms and medals makes him feel less insecure.  Mattis, Kelly, Masterson, etc. all were great generals, but that doesn't turn them into great civilians automatically, as was the case with George Marshall at the end of World War Two.  But Trump likes the military because they profess loyalty and take orders.  His vision has no broader horizon than that.  Trump is un-American.  Republicans must learn that.


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