I first became interested in high-profile federal impeachments in the early 1990s. I had my reasons. They eventually became a central component of my one of my first books on the significance over the course of American history of elected officials shaping the effective constitutional understandings, practices and norms that governed much of American politics. Impeachments were one way that politicians struggled to remake constitutional meaning. Impeachments were tools of constitutional construction.
That seemed like an admittedly arcane thing to study at the time, but soon enough Bill Clinton got himself impeached and suddenly esoteric knowledge seemed relevant—even as the Republican Congress did not seem to be doing a very good job of explaining why an impeachment was either necessary or useful. The question is what lessons we would learn from that experience. But as I noted in Reason at the time,
In the end, Congress seems to have stumbled to the right conclusion, and the American people appear to be making an appropriate assessment of last year’s events.
Maybe we’ll do better this time, but I wouldn’t bet on it. In any case, I’ve been writing a lot about impeachment issues over the past couple of years. They are collected here. For a deep dive into the impeachment process and the standards for assessing potentially impeachable offenses, I have posted a longer review essay here.
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