In the illusive perfect world, there would be a law against electing nitwits to public office, especially to the Congress.
I grant you that determining who fails to qualify for office under the nitwit statute would almost always be subjective, but then it might not be as hard as one thinks. In fact, just the opening of one’s mouth might be enough.
There are numerous examples to use. In fact, the nation’s history is replete with them. Take, for instance, the lawmaker (and I use that word advisedly) who answered the accusation in a two-bit, little-circulated magazine that he was the dumbest man in the Senate by calling a press conference to deny it, thereby proving the accuracy of the indictment.
The last few years have been particularly noticeable when it comes to elevating nitwits to the rarefied atmosphere of Capitol Hill, where the lack of oxygen seems to have aggravated the malady. Adoption of an anti-nitwit law might have relieved some of the mindless partisanship that has the country on the brink of financial suicide and economic chaos at least twice a year.
Certainly, it would have prevented voters in Michigan from inflicting on worried citizens a first-time Republican congressman named Kerry Bentivolio, whose only stated purpose politically it seems is to impeach President Barack Obama. He’s been telling his constituents, according to press reports, that it is his one dream to put into motion that action -- never mind that he personally hasn’t a clue how to do that. There’s is a small matter of how to accomplish it without any grounds for doing so.
I’m certain that a poll of those voters in his economically distressed state would reveal they sent him to Washington because of a variety of issues they wanted solved and not because they wanted to overturn election of the president. If I’m wrong, perhaps there ought to be a law preventing nitwits from voting.
Others on the Hill in Bentivolio’s party hold the same view, just not quite as openly and without his eagerness. According to The New York Times, one of the leading White House antagonists, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, doesn’t think bringing impeachment proceedings against Obama is the best approach to solving the country’s problems. You think, Ted? Never afraid of raising ideas outside the mainstream of rationality, Cruz does seem smart enough to understand that his party’s electoral future might require a more sane approach to political policy.
Not counting Richard Nixon, whose 1974 resignation was stimulated by the prospect of official removal, two presidents have faced impeachment trials: Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1999. Both proceedings were the result of ill-advised political maneuvering. Johnson completed his partial term after a tenacious trial, and Clinton only grew in popularity after Republican “moralists” managed to embarrass themselves and the nation during a similar Senate exercise.
Americans have maintained governmental steadiness by eschewing interruptions in the presidential electoral process. They really don’t believe that U.S.-style democracy benefits from the constant threat of upheaval from those who don’t like the outcome of Election Day. They are willing in most cases to wait until the next polling opportunity to change things.
Obviously, Republicans don’t like the health care reforms. That’s tough. Then find the votes to overturn it and elect a president who will not veto that effort. The Internal Revenue Service scandal, such as it is, fails the impeachment test, too, just as the prolonged Iran-contra investigation failed to penetrate the Oval Office during Ronald Reagan’s reign.
There is no evidence of any complicity by the current president in any activity that would qualify even for a preliminary examination of impeachment, and it does no good to the political process to even suggest it.
Clearly there will be no anti-nitwit law, no matter how fervently wished at times. The good voters of Michigan, however, might want to re-examine their election of Bentivolio. Actually, there is a process available for doing this. It’s called a recall and it doesn’t require a congressional vote in the House or an ultimate conviction in the Senate.
Dan K. Thomasson is former editor of the Scripps Howard News Service.
The Opinion section is produced by the Editorial Department to foster discussion about key issues. The Editorial Board represents the institutional voice of the Star Tribune and operates independently of the newsroom.