PBS 'Expert' Says GOP Speakers Are Letting 'Hardliners' Ruin the Impeachment Power

January 15th, 2024 11:56 AM

On Saturday's PBS News Weekend, anchor John Yang and his appointed expert Sarah Binder of George Washington University discussed how Republican "hardliners" are weaponizing impeachment. The online headline was "Expert analyzes the rise of impeachment as a weapon of partisan politics," but there was no discussion of Democrats cheapening impeachment as Pelosi's House impeached Trump twice. 

Binder, who began her career as an aide to Democrat Congressman Lee Hamilton, wasn't as blatantly partisan as Michael Gerhardt on the NewsHour last month. Yang noted that then-Congressman Gerald Ford said in the 1970s that impeachment is whatever a majority of the House says it is. Binder agreed with that in a political sense. 

"We live in an inherently and intensely partisan time," she said, "Of course, you know, we have very tight majorities, very slim majorities, and you can't impeach somebody with a simple majority. You can't convict them, that is. And so it festers -- right? -- partisanship as it spreads. So soon, we get more and more of these threats, to impeach someone over policy differences."


Yang asked: "Does that devalue the impact, or the import of impeachment?" Binder said that if impeachments are doomed because of slim majorities, "The risk then is that impeachment, which might have been used and perceived as a way to constrain presidents in their exercise of power, that that's not going to work to constrain those presidents anymore in that I think the Framers might not be surprised. But I think they'd be a little quite a bit worried about."

Yang asked her to elaborate on the "dangers," and then it became about Trump. 

BINDER: Well, first of all, there's the sense and we can look to recent, former President Trump, right? There's the risk here that presidents feel unconstrained. That is they only feel beholden to their party base. They might only feel beholden to the set of voters who can get them reelected.

Now, that's not unique to one party or the other. But the danger here is, if you don't fear any constraint from the Senate, or from the United States conduct [?], you can violate the public trust, you can abuse your power, knowing that there's very little that stands in your way.

And that can be harmful. It can be harmful for national security. It can be harmful for social welfare. There's all sorts of ways in which the American public and that's sort of the strength of a democratic system, relies on holding politicians accountable for how they wield power.

Yang wondered "Is this a product of this particular moment in American politics? Or do you think the use and the attitude toward impeachment has really shifted forever?" Again, there's no sense that Democrats shifted this, in any way.

BINDER: There is something different I think, going on here. Certainly, it seems in this Congress, with a Republican majority in the House, which is in the past, leaders seem to be able to kind of constrain their members, constrain the hardliners who really want to go after the other party's president or his cabinet.

These, we've had two speakers of this Congress, neither has really been willing or able to rein in their hardliners. And in fact, it seems speakers are trying to get out ahead of the parade, that maybe impeachment is the one thing that will unite their party. And that's seems quite a bit new to me historically.

What about very recent history? There's zero sense that Nancy Pelosi failed to "constrain the hardliners" on impeaching Trump twice, or that she led a parade. You're left with the false impression that only one party has "hardliners" who use impeachment as a political football. 

This partisan tilt on the PBS NewsHour is brought to you by the American taxpayers, and by the leftist Ford Foundation.