The bar stays put
Nicholas Beaudrot writes:
Like Hilzoy, I think that the Clinton impeachment has raised the bar for what ought to be an impeachable offense. Politically, if the opposition party calls for every President's head, we will have turned what ought to have been a very solemn process into nothing more than a political tool. From a policy perspective, the impeachment process will stall all other legislative and policy work for at least two years of each Presidency, which might be a good while reactionaries are in office, but bad when the reactionaries hold Congress and decide to investigate a reality-based President.
The Clinton impeachment raised the bar for impeachable offenses? How is this even possible?
Either the Republicans were within their rights to impeach Clinton, or they abused the impeachment process. Either way, Clinton's impeachment shouldn't affect what constitutes an impeachable offense for Bush.
Fairness requires that standards be upheld over time. What was impeachable for Clinton should be impeachable for Bush and all who come after, unless Clinton's impeachment was an aberration.
If anything, the Clinton impeachment drastically lowered the bar relative to historical standards. Clinton's offenses were a far cry from high crimes and misdemeanors as Americans previously understood them.
However, those of us who considered Clinton's impeachment to be an abuse of power shouldn't demand impeachment for equally trivial offenses. To do that would be to concede the legitimacy of the standard set by the Republicans in impeaching Clinton.
Perhaps by reverting to historical standards for impeachment, the Democrats would be raising the bar relative to the the artificially low standard set by the Clinton fiasco. However, some Democrats seem to be arguing that Clinton's impeachment raised the bar relative to some other standard. For example, it has been argued that the recency of Clinton's impeachment raises the severity standard, i.e., that we should think more carefully about subjecting the country to two impeachments so close together. Personally, I don't think that's relevant. Presidents deserve to be rebuked for high crimes, regardless of the fate of their predecessors.
Nicholas is arguing that we should raise the standard for impeachment to prevent the process from being hijacked by political partisans. He thinks the Democrats should set a good example. It's absurd to think that Democrats can set any kind of example for Republicans at this point. The Republicans invented the nuisance impeachment, and they aren't going to be shamed into refraining when it's their turn again.