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Reading: History and social studies — How-to Part 1

Video transcript

- Okay we have a passage here. It says, "This passage is adapted from a speech "delivered by Congresswoman Barbara Jordan of Texas "on July 25, 1974, as a member of the Judiciary Committee "of the United States House of Representatives. "In the passage, Jordan discusses how and when "a United States president may be impeached, "or charged with serious offenses, while in office. "Jordan's speech was delivered in the context "of impeachment hearings against "then president Richard M. Nixon." So this is, this is fascinating. Alright, let's start reading it. "Today, I am an inquisitor. "An hyperbole would not be fictional "and would not overstate the solemnness "that I feel right now." That's a fascinating statement. She's saying a hyperbole, even an exaggeration, really isn't an exaggeration. It would not be fictional. It would not overstate how solemn she is feeling. So she is feeling quite solemn. She's taking this very seriously. "My faith in the Constitution is whole; "it is complete; it is total. "And I am not going to sit here "and be an idle spectator to the diminution, "the subversion, the destruction, of the Constitution." These are some serious words here. Let's keep going. "Who can so properly be the inquisitors for the nation "as the representatives of the nation themselves? "The subjects of its jurisdiction are those offenses "which proceed from the misconduct of public men." And they have this little asterisk here. So it looks like if we go to the bottom of it, they're saying "Jordan quotes "from Federalist" number 65, "an essay by Alexander Hamilton "published in 1788, on the powers "of the United States Senate, including "the power to decide cases of impeachment "against a President of the United States." So once again, if we go back to where we said, this is a quote from The Federalist Papers. "Who can so properly be the inquisitors for the nation "as the representatives of the nation themselves?" So Hamilton's saying, hey look. These are the people, you know, these representatives. These are the people who can be the inquisitors especially when the offenses proceed from the misconduct of public men. And that's what we're talking about. Now this is her talking again. "In other words, the jurisdiction comes "from the abuse or violation of some public trust." So she's making an argument. Look Congress has a voice here. There's some violation of the public trust, so they are the appropriate inquisitors. "It is wrong, I suggest, it is a misreading "of the Constitution for any member here "to assert that for a member to vote "for an article of impeachment means that that member "must be convinced that the President "should be removed from office." The Constitution does not say that, or it "doesn't say that. "The powers relating to impeachment "are an essential check in the hands "of the body of the legislature against "and upon the encroachments of the executive. "The division between the two branches of the legislature, "the House and the Senate, assigning to the one "the right to accuse..." That's the House. "and to the other the right to judge - the framers "of this Constitution were very astute. "They did not make the accusers "and the judges...the same person." Fascinating. "We know the nature of impeachment. "We have been talking about it a while now. "It is chiefly designed for the President "and his high ministers to somehow be called into account. "It is designed to 'bridle' the executive "if he engages in excesses. "It is designed as a method of national inquest "into the conduct of public men. "The framers--" She's quoting again from the Federalist papers. They have the asterisk there. "The framers confided in the Congress "the power, if need be, to remove the President "in order to strike a delicate balance "between a President swollen with power "and grown tyrannical, and preservation "of the independence of the executive." So there's a balance, that the president is swollen with power and grown tyrannical. Hey, maybe that's an appropriate time for impeachment or even removal of the president. But then you also have to preserve the independence of the executive. That's what the balance of power is. "The nature of impeachment: a narrowly channeled exception "to the separation of powers maxim." So once again, it's an exception that typically the president and the Congress should be separate, but the Congress starts to have jurisdiction when the president does something really over-the-top. "The Federal Convention of 1787 said that. "It limited impeachment to high crimes, "to high crimes and misdemeanors, "and discounted and opposed the term 'maladministration.'" So they're saying, hey look. Impeachment isn't just 'cause you don't think the president is doing a great job or, you know, does something slightly bad. It's for high crimes and misdemeanors. High crimes and misdemeanors. "'It is to be used only for great misdemeanors,' "so it was said in the North Carolina "ratification convention. "And in the Virginia ratification convention: "'We do not trust our liberty to a particular branch. "'We need one branch to check the other.' "The North Carolina ratification convention--" So this is what they said: "'No one need be afraid that officers who commit oppression "'will pass with immunity.' "'Prosecutions of impeachments will seldom "'fail to agitate the passions of the whole community,' "said Hamilton in the Federalist Papers, number 65. "'We divide into parties more or less friendly "'or inimical--" Or inimical. Inimical. I always have trouble saying that. "'inimical to the accused.' "I do not mean political parties in that sense." So in the Federalist Papers, hey you know if there is a prosecution of impeachment, people are going to have opinions about it. It's going to agitate the passions of the whole community. People are going to "divide into parties" that are either for the impeachment or against the impeachment and hopefully not along party lines. Just people who are sympathetic to the impeachment or not. "The drawing of political lines goes to the motivation "behind impeachment; but impeachment "must proceed within the confines "of the constitutional term "'high crime[s] and misdemeanors.' "Of the impeachment process, it was Woodrow Wilson "who said that, 'Nothing short of the grossest offenses "'against the plain law of the land "'will suffice to give them speed and effectiveness. "'Indignation--'" So this is kind of disapproval. '"so great as to overgrow party interest "'may secure a conviction; but nothing else can.'" So once again, the drawing of political lines. You know, obviously one party, especially the opposing party of the president, they're gonna be the ones that are gonna motivate, be motivated to maybe start impeachment proceedings. But the indignation, the disapproval of what the president has done has to be great enough to overcome party lines in order to "secure a conviction." So it can't just be, or it shouldn't just be one party trying to do something political. "Common sense would be revolted "if we engaged upon this process for petty reasons. "Congress has a lot to do: appropriations, tax reform, "health insurance, campaign finance reform--" It's amazing. They were talking about a lot of this stuff in 1974, and they still are. "housing, environmental protection, "energy sufficiency, mass transportation. "Pettiness cannot be allowed to stand in the face "of such overwhelming problems. "So today we're not being petty. "We're trying to be big, because the task "we have before us is a big one." So she is taking this very, very, very seriously.