Impeach me, I was there

Originally published in the Daily Hampshire Gazette   November 19, 2019 

                 Gump-like Writer Witnesses Three Impeachments

         Time was that a citizen alive for the impeachment of Andrew Johnson would be long dead in the 106 years between he and Nixon. Americans live in a speeded up world. Committed voters of a certain age are almost certain to observe three presidential impeachments in one lifetime.

         Let’s begin with a list of charged presidents: Andrew Johnson (1868), Richard Nixon (1974), Bill Clinton, (1998). Donald Trump (2019).

         In its wisdom the United States Senate voted no on Johnson, was in process of impeaching Nixon before he resigned and, following a Senate trial, refused to convict Clinton. ‘Tricky Dick’ and ‘Slick Willie’ lived up to their nicknames—retiring to live well and write books.

         Now comes Donald J. Trump: Madame Defarge is knitting away on the Capitol Steps. The audience hears a sharp knell offstage.

         Don’t look now but one year from today the voters of the United States of America will have picked a new president. Sixty years ago our voters’ choice was a good-looking inspiring speaker from Massachusetts, John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

          “Jack” Kennedy was a naval hero. During World War II he was a PT Boat captain that courageously rescued the remainder of his crew when their boat was cut in half by a Japanese destroyer. His brother Joe was killed on a secret mission over Europe, leaving their father Joe to put all his political ambitions upon, Jack, the younger brother.

         Jack was elected to the U.S. House in 1946, on to the Senate in 1952 in a classic race against Boston Brahmin Henry Cabot Lodge. In 1958, Jack came to Northampton to campaign for reelection to the Senate. I recall the day, because my father dragged me away from work to meet his political friend, Jack Kennedy

         Mayor Jim did the honors, introducing Kennedy. As a delegate he’d voted for Jack as V.P. on a ticket with Adlai Stevenson. The 1956 Chicago Democratic Convention nominated Stevenson and Estes Kefauver. President Eisenhower won reelection with his Vice President, Richard Nixon.

         Massachusetts’ pundits agreed that Jack sought a record senate victory margin in 1958 to boost his candidacy for the 1960 Democratic nomination for president. He was our state’s Irish lad!

         A dozen local Democratic leaders met Jack at Judge Welch’s house on Prospect Street. In what became a classic election contest, Jack narrowly defeated President’s Eisenhower’s Vice President Richard Milhous Nixon.

 In November 1963, as the world knows, JFK was murdered by an assassin’s mail order rifle in Dallas, Texas.

         V.P. Lyndon Baines Johnson succeeded Kennedy before winning the presidency over Republican Barry Goldwater in a 1964 landslide.

         LBJ did not run in 1968. His support faded with the Vietnam War’s bad news on TV every night. Nixon, ‘tanned and rested,’ arrived back on the scene to be elected president on his promise of a ‘secret’ plan to end the war. Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey lost to Nixon in a horserace election by a shell-shocked electorate following the assasinations of Martin Luther King and Senator Bobby Kennedy.

         Okay, Mr. C, your opening promises inside news on impeachments you have known—three out of four—in one lifetime. Get on with it.

         Well, I was in Washington DC the day of the Watergate break-in, June 17th, 1972. On that evening a shadow gang later nicknamed, “The Plumbers” broke into Democratic National Headquarter in the Watergate. The plumbers worked for The Committee to Reelect the President, with a perfect acronym, CREEP. Their mission was to get dirt on his election opponent from the DNC files, Senator George McGovern, whom Nixon would defeat in 49 out of 50 states. Massachusetts, take a bow.

         We were visiting the Capitol with our five children ranging in age from nine to sixteen. It was a memorable “take the kids on a family road trip before they grow up and leave us” vacation. We stopped in Pennsylvania Dutch Country and slept in a motel on Gettysburg’s battlefield.

         In D.C. we met up with a widow friend and her four children of like ages, Madeline Kelly of Omaha. Amazingly, I found an affordable suite of rooms to accommodate both families at D.C.’s Pick-Lee Hotel.

         Touring, we all laughed at the African-American guide’s eye-roll as he counted off nine kids and, maybe, two wives in line at the Washington Monument. Our visit to Washington became memorable.

         Two painful years later, in his second term, President Nixon was due to be impeached for covering up the Watergate break-in. He resigned. Vice President Gerald Ford proclaimed, “Our long national nightmare is over.”

         I supported Democrat Bill Clinton for president. He took office in January 1993. My first official column in the Gazette showered Bill and Hillary with hopeful praise, yet, added a caveat. Presidents had disappointed us before. Clinton made me look wise when, in his second term, he was impeached for lying under oath and obstruction of justice. The Senate refused to convict him, but not before I wrote this September 1998 column headline: “Advice to Clinton: Let Gore Step Up”.

         If only, that may have saved us from George W. Bush and his wars.

         In the year 2000 election George W. Bush, a former Texas governor and son of President George H. W. Bush, (try to stay with me) became Bill Clinton’s successor by a whisker. By a whisker I mean the Supreme Court stopped a close Florida recount declaring W. the winner. The governor of Florida was Bush’s brother Jeb who lost to Trump in the 2016 GOP primary.

         Finally, bringing us to the horror of Today’s White House occupant. Donald J. Trump, a real estate magnate who upset history’s 2016 apple cart to defeat Hillary Clinton. Hillary won all the polls and the popular vote by millions, but not the Electoral College.

         This year’s Mueller report outlines how Trump received illegal aid from Russia via Wikileaks using emails stolen from Hillary’s campaign and The Democratic National Committee, shades of Nixon. Charged with abuse of the Constitution, Trump is under an impeachment inquiry by Congress. The smart money says that he will be impeached by the House and acquitted by a Republican controlled Senate. So, that’s it, three impeachments in the nutshell of this one American’s life.

         1. To summarize: I admired Kennedy who defeated Nixon in 1960. In 1968 Nixon came back to be twice elected president, resigning under threat of impeachment for covering up the break-in of Democratic H.Q.

         2. I backed Bill Clinton in my first column, only to call for him to resign when he was impeached. He didn’t and was acquitted by the Senate. In 2006 Bill Clinton wrote to thank me for a book I sent him about my dad and Jack Kennedy.

         3. You are here, November 2019: Democrats have enough House votes to impeach Trump, which is expected. He’s likely to be acquitted by a GOP Senate of sycophants.

         Philadelphia, 1787: A lady asks: “Dr. Franklin, what have we got a republic or a monarchy? Ben, “A Republic, if you can keep it.”

         Today: Ben Franklin’s dare will be met if we hew to the facts!


(This is my penultimate Gazette Opinion column. I appreciate my loyal readers’ encouragement for nearly three decades. My first column ran in January 1993, leading to 181 bylines and 6 books. A heartfelt Thank You to my family, friends, Florence Poets Society and fellow columnists. Jim Cahillane lives in Williamsburg). Note: I was back by April, 2020.

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