Institutions Are Us
➡Curated stories, or firsthand accounts, of building or reshaping institutions, societies and worlds
Impeachment: political or legal?
The impeachment shoe has dropped. After years of protests and calls from the left, and claims of bias and “sour grapes” from the right, US House Democrats feel there is now just cause to launch an impeachment inquiry into a sitting Republican President.
The House Speaker formally announced that inquiry this week, on the back of a whistleblower complaint alleging the President may have asked a foreign country to interfere in the 2020 election - something that could be seen, per Constitutional grounds for impeachment, a “high crime and misdemeanor.”
In a country that prides itself on three co-equal branches of power to serve as a check and balance on each other, the presidency has made large inroads to reshape its executive branch, and to tilt that balance in its favor. This consolidation of power didn’t begin with the current White House occupant, but commentators from business, liberal, and libertarian outlets have noted, with concern, the accelerated expansion of that power under the current administration.
When is it adequate to impeach a sitting President, and what rises to the level of an impeachable offense? When does an allegation threaten the very fabric of American democracy and/or run afoul of the Constitution? Despite these weighty questions, in our hyperpartisan climate, Americans will likely hew to their party lines or predisposed notions of the President, declaring him guilty or innocent before a single witness is called.
Also, no American President has been successfully convicted and removed from office, which has led some to question the very effectiveness of impeachment as a check.
And, you’re likely to hear that impeachment is at heart a political(ly charged) process, not a legal one, which makes an acquittal in a Republican-majority Senate highly probable. This sort of outcome was even foreseen in Federalist Paper No. 65, penned in 1788 by Alexander Hamilton, who mused:
A well constituted court for the trial of impeachments, is an object not more to be desired, than difficult to be obtained in a government wholly elective. The subjects of its jurisdiction are those offences which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust. They are of a nature which may with peculiar propriety be denominated political, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself. The prosecution of them, for this reason, will seldom fail to agitate the passions of the whole community, and to divide it into parties, more or less friendly, or inimical, to the accused. In many cases, it will connect itself with the pre-existing factions, and will enlist all their animosities, partialities, influence, and interest on one side, or on the other; and in such cases there will always be the greatest danger, that the decision will be regulated more by the comparative strength of parties, than by the real demonstrations of innocence or guilt.
That said, consider these two contrarian voices on the matter.
In this video, Harvard University political theorist Danielle Allen asserts that impeachment IS a legal matter, in the eyes of the framers of the US Constitution.
And Republican consultant Mike Murphy believes that the impeachment process will be a “test (that) would create an existential question for every Republican senator and representative: Why am I here? To serve my future or my country?”
Let’s see how this plays out.
Whistleblower safety, and national security
What is the broader context surrounding the core allegation leveled against the President?
For one, the allegations have set off alarm bells in the National Security community. This past week, more than 300 former national security professionals—many of whom have served administrations of both parties—issued a public statement commending the Congressional impeachment inquiry and encouraging vigorous efforts to ascertain additional facts and hold the President to account, as warranted.
And seven freshman Congressional Democrats, all of whom had previously served in America’s military, defense and intelligence agencies, declare that these allegations are a threat to all they have sworn to protect.
However, we are swimming in untested waters, where attacks on the free press and whistleblowers are forcing Americans to act more deliberatively. For instance, the House Speaker noted that the administration’s choice to block the whistleblower’s complaint from Congress is a violation of the law on whistleblower protections, and part of what prompted her to finally launch the impeachment inquiry.
And many were swift to criticize the New York Times for publishing details of the whistleblower’s identity and potentially compromising his/her safety, in its effort to lend more credibility to the whistleblower’s allegations.
BeCause We Can
➡Causes that are making the news, and/or profiles of those who work to champion them - some famous (and young), others working quietly and powerfully behind the scenes
East or West?
President Trump reiterated his case for nationalism and American sovereignty in his UN General Assembly address this past week, and used the moment to criticize China and its trade practices.
Many countries, who do business and have diplomatic relations with both US and China, are holding their breath to see where this escalating trade war can go.
The Southeast-Asian island nation of Singapore feels this tension intimately. It sits at the crossroads between East and West, and through the years has played a role in developing Sino-US relations. This week, Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong commented on the state of Sino-US relations, offering that:
“You have to find the right combination of pressure and negotiation, of action and talk, which will lead to a calibrated and constructive outcome. It cannot just be maximum pressure and hope for total collapse of the other party. It will not happen.”
And the clash of cultural identities continues to play out in Hong Kong, a former British colony. It’s grappling with Beijing’s campaign to cultivate a Chinese identity, which triggered a countervailing surge of Hongkonger nationalism that is dividing families across generations and ideologies.
The Pentagon released its annual suicide report for 2018, raising concern over why the suicide rate among the armed forces continues to rise despite efforts at prevention.
In response, the Pentagon is now looking to new initiatives, including “an interactive education program to teach foundational skills early in one’s career,” to build coping skills before enlisted troops become overwhelmed.
“We’ll be piloting an interactive education program to teach foundational skills early in one’s career,” Orvis said on new efforts on suicide prevention, to help build coping skills for junior enlisted troops before they become overwhelmed.
Climate kids (and one familiar adult)
Climate action ought not to be part of the culture wars…but thanks to so many things being culturally or politically charged these days, climate champions like Greta Thunberg have become fodder for climate deniers.
Yet, we don’t need to feel sorry, or to look out, for her/them.
According to this opinion piece, their youth and steely resolve are beating back the counter messages leveled against them.
The UN petition they filed (which I wrote about last week in the “Petitioning politicians” section) is part of a wave of climate liability lawsuits forcing major emitters to start beefing up their legal teams.
And they do wonderfully to either ignore, or strategically clap back at the haters.
All of this is bound to make former US Vice President Al Gore’s environmentalist heart sing. In this interview with Christiane Amanpour, he shares his reasons for climate action optimism.
Reclaiming her story…and name
Another salvo against sexual violence came into public view this week, as Chanel Miller begins sharing her new memoir "Know My Name." Chanel was sexually assaulted in 2015 while unconscious by Brock Turner at Stanford University and, for years afterward, was known to us as Emily Doe.
The details of her experience are a web search away, and I won't repeat them here.
What strikes me most - as Chanel chose to reveal her identity some months ago, and to write "Know My Name" for her (and our) healing - is her palpable defiance.
Her quiet fury holds undeniable power. It pulls you in, daring you to disbelieve her, or to question the painful conclusions she's reached through the ordeal of her experience, court trial, and subsequent self-growth.
Thoughts and Voices
➡New, or timeless, pieces from our Lead for the World Magazine and Executive Book Club podcast
How do we build strong tribes without over-indulging in tribalism?
The impeachment inquiry will stoke the us-vs-them flames in America, and could make it harder for the country to stay intact and peaceful.
In this past episode from my Executive Book Club podcast, I reviewed Sebastian Junger’s “Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging,” a book about, among other things, what US military veterans face when they return from foreign wars.
The Peaceful Leader newsletter is written and produced by Maya Mathias. Through her soulful coaching services, workshops and programs, Maya cultivates executives, civic youth, and writers for a more peaceful planet.
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