Trump’s im­peach­ment and the prob­a­bil­i­ties

The Punch - - EDITORIAL -

PRES­I­DENT Don­ald Trump of the United States of Amer­ica is no doubt in the midst of the storm hav­ing been im­peached by the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives. Trump was ac­cused of abuse of power and ob­struc­tion of Congress which tan­ta­mount to gross mis­con­duct.

How­ever, the Se­nate has yet to make its ver­dict. Mak­ing the mat­ter worse, the lat­est opin­ion poll re­port­edly con­ducted in the US re­vealed that a ma­jor­ity favoured Trump’s im­peach­ment.

Per­ad­ven­ture the Se­nate, the up­per cham­ber of the US Congress pur­suant to Ar­ti­cle 1, Sec­tion 3 (6) and (7) of the US Con­sti­tu­tion, af­firms the ver­dict, Trump’s po­lit­i­cal ca­reer is ru­ined. And if a vote for his re­moval even­tu­ally scales through, Trump will pack his lug­gage to join the league of fired pres­i­dents in the world. This is no good time for the em­bat­tled Trump at all. The ‘im­peach­ment’ tag on his neck al­ready is not a pos­i­tive score­card let alone re­moval from of­fice.

In the US his­tory, An­drew Johnson on Fe­bru­ary 24, 1868 was im­peached by the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives for vi­o­lat­ing the Ten­ure of Of­fice Act but not re­moved from of­fice by the Se­nate. Bill Clin­ton was sim­i­larly im­peached by the lower Congress on De­cem­ber 19, 1998 over per­jury and ob­struc­tion of jus­tice but par­doned by the Se­nate. Clin­ton’s an­tecedents and com­port­ment com­pellingly ap­peased the Se­nate’s ‘red card’.

In­struc­tively, Clin­ton’s ma­tu­rity and charisma dis­tinc­tively worked in his favour after his in­dict­ment; pos­si­bly, his un­der­stand­ing that sovereignt­y be­longs to the peo­ple. In the heat of his saga, Clin­ton evoked emo­tions and ac­tu­ally wept be­fore the Congress un­like Trump’s bossy dis­plays and counter-at­tacks. In a democ­racy, the leg­is­la­ture and ju­di­ciary call the shots.

Other im­peach­ment at­tempts in the US in­clude John Tyler on Jan­uary 10, 1843 who en­coun­tered an im­peach­ment mo­tion but a res­o­lu­tion failed to scale through. James Buchanan on June 16, 1860 faced his own heat, but the com­mit­tee found noth­ing sub­stan­tial to war­rant his im­peach­ment.

How­ever, it is wor­thy of note that im­peach­ment under the US le­gal sys­tem is merely a for­mal in­dict­ment and not ab­so­lute re­moval from of­fice as it ap­plies in other coun­tries in­clud­ing Nige­ria where im­peach­ment con­notes dis­missal from of­fice.

Fur­ther­more, Richard Nixon in his own case on Au­gust 9, 1974 re­signed be­fore a for­mal vote, whilst Ge­orge W. Bush on June 11, 2008 also sur­vived as though a res­o­lu­tion was re­ferred to a com­mit­tee but no fur­ther ac­tion taken. These records sig­nif­i­cantly at­test that democ­racy is at work in the US and above all, sovereignt­y in­deed be­longs to the peo­ple.

Back to the Trump saga, apart from party in­flu­ence, his chances are quite slim. His move to re­verse same-sex mar­riage which his pre­de­ces­sor, Barack Obama, signed into law amidst con­tro­versy be­liev­ably boosted his le­git­i­macy after his con­tro­ver­sial win against Demo­crat’s can­di­date, Hi­lary Clin­ton, a for­mer Sec­re­tary of State. In fact, the at­tempts to achieve it through an executive bill were per­ceived as a blun­der which made po­lit­i­cal an­a­lysts re­duce it to mere pro­pa­ganda.

Ar­guably, Trump’s lead­er­ship style may be said to be sham­bolic vis-à-vis the po­si­tion of the US in the world space. Most of his speeches lack diplo­macy, and uned­i­fy­ing which leave much to be de­sired from an oc­cu­pant of the White House. For in­stance, Trump had some time ago con­temp­tu­ously dock­eted the African con­ti­nent as “shit­holes”.

In an­other oc­ca­sion, he re­port­edly re­ferred to his Nige­rian coun­ter­part as ‘life­less’ on ac­count of health chal­lenges at that time. And many oth­ers. His de­light in seg­re­ga­tion is ap­par­ent and mon­u­men­tal. Un­like him, Clin­ton dur­ing his his­toric visit to Nige­ria in 2000 pas­sion­ately de­manded to have a taste of ru­ral life with the down­trod­den class which led to his pres­ence at Ushafa Vil­lage on Au­gust 27, 2000 where he re­mark­ably, and cheer­fully shook the hands of hun­dreds of poor vil­lagers who were des­per­ate to touch him. That’s ex­em­plary lead­er­ship.

In fact, the man­ner Trump speaks may make one to pon­der if the White House truly has me­dia aides at­tached to the Pres­i­dent. Ar­guably, Trump lacks ex­pe­ri­ence for ad­min­is­tra­tive gov­er­nance. I must add that the man­ner he dis­par­ages or be­lit­tles non-amer­i­cans is irk­some. With­out doubt, Amer­ica is ad­vanced than many coun­tries but deco­rum is req­ui­site.

An­other spite­ful fea­ture of Trump’s lead­er­ship style is dou­ble­standard or di­vide-and-rule. His ad­min­is­tra­tion had in re­cent times spared a big­wig with pres­i­den­tial am­bi­tion al­legedly linked to the Hal­libur­ton case in­volv­ing then Louisiana Rep­re­sen­ta­tive, Wil­liam J. Jef­fer­son. Not long ago, it in­dicted an­other cit­i­zen of the same coun­try, Allen Onyema, chair­man of Air Peace, over sim­i­lar crimes and called for his ex­tra­di­tion for pros­e­cu­tion. This is quite un­like the US where equal­ity be­fore the law has long been en­trenched.

Trump in par­tic­u­lar has a lot of work to do in this re­gard, and must nec­es­sar­ily learn from his er­rors as well as pre­de­ces­sors. Lead­er­ship po­si­tions may be pro­cured or for­tu­itously ac­quired but at­tributes of lead­er­ship may not, as they come by in­ten­sive train­ing.

Amer­ica must ex­pe­di­tiously re­po­si­tion its gov­er­nance for promi­nence in the global sphere as devel­op­ing coun­tries look up to it for pos­i­tive and pro­gres­sive di­rec­tion. By its long prac­tice of democ­racy, roughly three cen­turies, cer­tain stan­dards are nec­es­sar­ily in­dis­pens­able.

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