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Publisher's Summary

Four experts on the American presidency review the only three impeachment cases from history - against Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Bill Clinton - and explore its power and meaning for today.

Impeachment is rare, and for good reason. Designed to check tyrants or defend the nation from a commander-in-chief who refuses to do so, the process of impeachment outlined in the Constitution is what Thomas Jefferson called "the most formidable weapon for the purpose of a dominant faction that was ever contrived." It nullifies the will of voters, the basic foundation of legitimacy for all representative democracies. Only three times has a president's conduct led to such political disarray as to warrant his potential removal from office, transforming a political crisis into a constitutional one. None has yet succeeded. Andrew Johnson was impeached in 1868 for failing to kowtow to congressional leaders - and in a large sense, for failing to be Abraham Lincoln - yet survived his Senate trial. Richard Nixon resigned in July of 1974 after the House Judiciary Committee approved three articles of impeachment for lying, obstructing justice, and employing his executive power for personal and political gain. Bill Clinton had an affair with a White House intern, but in 1999 faced trial in the Senate less for that prurient act than for lying under oath about it.

In the first book to consider these three presidents alone, and the one thing they have in common, Jeffrey Engel, Jon Meacham, Timothy Naftali, and Peter Baker explain that the basis and process of impeachment is more political than it is a legal verdict. The Constitution states that the president, "shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors," leaving room for historical precedent and the temperament of the time to weigh heavily on each case. These three cases highlight factors beyond the president's behavior that impact the likelihood and outcome of an impeachment: the president's relationship with Congress, the power and resilience of the office itself, and the polarization of the moment. This is a realist, rather than hypothetical, view of impeachment that looks to history for clues about its future - with one obvious candidate in mind.

©2018 Jeffrey A. Engel, Jon Meacham, Timothy Naftali, and Peter Baker (P)2018 Random House Audio

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May not scratch your personal itch, but read it anyway!

A deep dive into the history of presidential impeachment in the U.S. Very well researched and thoughtfully written. This country is almost certainly headed for another impeachment inquiry. We need to better understand what impeachment is and what it is not, and how to evaluate not only the circumstances where such actions are warranted, but also to evaluate when we are better off as a people to let the ballot box decide the ultimate fate of a president’s continued employment in the service of the people.

This book is not an easy one to read because it is history and requires the ability to follow the narrative very closely in order to fully understand the facts and outcomes of each case. But if you make the effort you will be rewarded with greater depth of insight into both the process and the pitfalls of presidential impeachment. I urge every citizen to read this book. Now.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Excellent, Comprehensive Study of Impeachment

If you see a scholarly, well researched, and entertaining piece on Impeachment, this is your book. I had preconceived notions on the appropriate triggers for impeachment . Some of these notions were reinforced after reading the book, others were proven unwise. This is a very interesting (and quick) read on a timely topic. It deserves your attention.

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Very Powerful

I thoroughly enjoyed this listen, as it gave me a completely new perspective on the process, but more profoundly the ramifications of impeachment. It also highlights the true foresight and intellectual brilliance our forefathers had.

The most powerful message, from my perspective, calls light on the fact that many representatives romanticize the idea of impeaching an unpopular president. Whether it be for their own political gain or the fact that they just flat out disagree with the agenda of their respective president, impeachment serves to undermine one of the greatest rights we as the people have, to democratically elect our own president. Because impeachment has this much power, it must only be enacted under the most dire of circumstances. Generally speaking, unpopular presidents typically do have the support of a substantial portion of the population, and it does not seem right to override their beliefs unless grounds for impeachment are clearly justified.