The Impeachment of President Clinton

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James Madison, in writing the US Constitution in 1787, intended that the system of checks and balances would separate the powers of the government branches and counter a “tyranny of the majority”. He carefully sought to distribute powers in a way that prevents any one faction from dominating. Under this system, the President can appoint federal judges, grant pardons, veto bills, propose laws, reject part of bills, etc. Equally, the Congress can override presidential veto, impeach the President, ratify treaties, etc., and the Courts can declare laws and executive orders unconstitutional. The contemporary system of checks and balances isn’t working as Madison intended as illustrated by the impeachment of President Clinton, the government shutdown in 1995, and the Iran-Contra. The Clinton-era of politics presented the danger of presidentialism to the system of checks and balances. The possession of authority and executive power is used by presidents to advance their agendas. When their power is challenged, a President may assert authority without a constitutional basis. This sets precedent for the next President to resist contraction and creates a vicious cycle. An undemocratic attack on checks and balances is seen in the impeachment and trial of President Clinton. The House vote for impeachment was grounded on the charges of perjury and obstruction of justice. President Clinton was wrongfully impeached by the House of Representatives and was properly acquitted by the Senate. Madison and the framers of the constitution established the process and standard for impeachment as, “The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Brib... ... middle of paper ... ...egitimacy. During this period, the administration broke the law by soliciting private funding for the war. It sold military equipment to the government of Iran, which sponsored terrorism and kidnapped American citizens abroad. This was done in service to a foreign policy, lacking a system of checks and balances. The Iran-Contra proves to be a moment where all the checks and balances failed. The system of checks and balanced in the American form of government has been progressively challenged by the disputes between the President and Congress. The increase in concentration of power in the hands of the federal executive comes into conflict with the campaign for party dominance in Congress. This has produced a time of aggressive presidentialism and risked the basis of democracy by infringing constitutional practices organized by the Madisonian checks and balances.

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