Perjury and Impeachment

September 22, 1998
During all of the talk about perjury and impeachment, one person it might be good to remember is Edmund Ross. Who is Edmund Ross, you might ask? Well, he is the Senator who cast the deciding vote in the impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson in 1868.

Johnson was brought before the Senate on 11 Articles of Impeachment (the same number of articles found in the Kenneth Starr report). At the time he was the most unpopular president in our country's history. A Southerner brought to office by Abraham Lincoln's assassination, Johnson opposed draconian anti-Southern measures. Therefore, the Republicans brought him to trial for impeachment.

As law professor Jonathan Turley says in a recent column, the vote swung on whether the Senate would impeach him (because he was politically unpopular) or exonerate him (because that was the right thing to do). Edmund Ross voted against impeachment and suffered scorn the rest of this life.

Professor Turley now turns the case around. He says, "The Johnson case answered the question of whether Congress had the integrity to acquit an unpopular but innocent president. The Clinton case may answer the question of whether the Congress has the integrity to convict a popular but guilty president."

It is the professor's contention that perjury provides enough grounds for impeachment. Congress should not consider the polls and should not consider how popular a president might be. Congress should consider the constitutional issues before them.

And I agree. A century from now historians will judge whether Congress was too harsh or too lenient. And they won't care what the polls said at the time. If anything they will have disdain for a Congress that took their cues from the polls rather than from the Constitution. Congress needs to do what is right.

I'm Kerby Anderson of Probe Ministries, and that's my opinion.

© 1998 Probe Ministries International