The impeachment investigation of President Donald Trump is now moving to the House Judiciary Committee. Soon, if the House votes to impeach Trump, the ball will be in the Senate’s court, where a conviction seems unlikely. America should thus consider Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler’s warning about going forward: Impeachment, he’s on record as saying, requires “a broad consensus of the American public, a broad agreement of almost everybody, that this fellow has got to go because he’s a clear and present danger to our liberty and to our Constitution.” The problem is that a broad consensus is nowhere to be found; on the issue of impeaching Trump, the American public is split roughly down the middle.
A bigger problem for Nadler, though, is that he said this in 1998, when he was denouncing the Republicans’ impeachment of President Bill Clinton. Today, when it comes to Trump, he sings a different tune. “Impeachment is imperative,” Nadler declared in an interview less than two months ago, “not because he’s going to be removed from office—the Senate won’t do that—but because we have to vindicate the Constitution.”
In reversing his position, Nadler has plenty of company on both sides of the aisle. Reversals like this aren’t surprising, of course, and they’re not new in American history. But politicians from both parties are using impeachment as a political weapon more often today than ever before, and as Democrats and Republicans change places with each other in the White House, members of Congress likewise change their spots regarding impeachment. In the Constitution’s first century and a half, one presidential impeachment took place, with occasional talk, a bit of it serious, about impeaching others. In the past half century, America has almost impeached one president, impeached another, is about to impeach yet another, and has talked a lot about impeaching almost all the rest. This means that an awful lot of flip-flopping is going on.