Revisiting David E. Kyvig’s “The Age of Impeachment”

Some books seem to live forever, others live multiple lives.

In the summer of 2017, as President Trump was making news with pardons, Jeffrey Crouch’s 2009 book The Presidential Pardon Power began to garner a lot (like, a lot!) of attention.

No, thanks again to President Trump, David E. Kyvig’s 2008 book The Age of Impeachment; American Constitutional Culture since 1960 is roaring back to life.

In this magisterial work, Bancroft Prize-winning historian David Kyvig chronicles the rise of a culture of impeachment since 1960—one that extends far beyond the infamous scandals surrounding Presidents Richard Nixon (Watergate) and Bill Clinton (Monica Lewinsky) and has dramatically altered the face of American politics.

A buzz word in today’s public life, “impeachment” was anything but that before 1960. Since then it has been transformed from a historically little-known and little-used tool of last resort into a political weapon of choice. By examining the details and consequences of impeachment episodes involving three Supreme Court justices, a vice president, five federal judges, and four presidents, Kyvig explores this seismic shift in our constitutional culture and gauges its ongoing implications for American political life.

Beginning with the John Birch Society’s campaign against Chief Justice Earl Warren, impeachment efforts became far more frequent after 1960, with eight actually ending in resignation or removal. In describing these efforts, Kyvig recounts stories and subplots about key political actors and the controversies they inspired. He argues that judicial cases are as important as the better-known presidential ones and shows why those cases that did not proceed—against not only Warren, but also Abe Fortas, William O. Douglas, Spiro Agnew, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush—are as illuminating as those that did.

Kyvig demonstrates that impeachment has been the bellwether of a changing—and increasingly toxic—political climate. Perhaps most important and ominous, the increasing threat of impeachment has encouraged presidents to hide potentially impeachable actions behind a thick veil of executive secrecy, while dramatically expanding executive power beyond the reach of either Congress or the courts

Combining political and legal history at their best, Kyvig also explores the cultural impact of journalist David Frost, editorial cartoonist Herblock, and filmmakers Alan Pakula, Robert Altman, and Oliver Stone. A gifted storyteller, he presents a cautionary tale that should be read by all who care about our national government and its ability to survive and thrive in perilous times.

Will First Spouse Bill Clinton take the place of a Vice President?

9780700622023Will a Hillary Clinton administration reverse the forty year advance in influence of the vice presidency? A new article in History News Network by Saint Louis University Professor of Law Joel K. Goldstein, author of The White House Vice Presidency: The Path to Significance, Mondale to Biden, discusses the book’s case for the importance of the modern vice presidency and whether a former president as First Spouse might challenge its role in a new administration.

Bill Clinton’s Back

9780700621941Of the original Gilded Age, historian Richard Hofstadter wrote: “There is no other period in the nation’s history when politics seems so completely dwarfed by economic changes, none in which the life of the country rests so completely in the hands of the industrial entrepreneur.” The era of William Jefferson Clinton’s ascent to the presidency was strikingly similar—nothing less, Clinton himself said, than “a paradigm shift . . . from the industrial age to an information-technology age, from the Cold War to a global society.” How Bill Clinton met the challenges of this new Gilded Age is the subject of Patrick J. Maney’s book, “Bill Clinton: New Gilded Age President,” an in-depth perspective on the 42nd president of the United States and the transformative era over which he presided.

Maney’s in-depth study of Clinton goes beyond personality and politics to examine the critical issues of the day: economic and fiscal policy, business and financial deregulation, healthcare and welfare reform, and foreign affairs in a postCold War world. But at its heart is Clinton in all his guises: the first baby boomer to reach the White House; the “natural”—the most gifted politician of his generation, but one with an inexplicably careless and self-destructive streak; the “Comeback Kid,” repeatedly overcoming long odds; the survivor, frequently down but never out; and, with current Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton, part of the most controversial First Couple since Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt.  Maney’s book is, in sum, the most succinct and up-to-date study of the Clinton presidency, invaluable not merely for understanding a transformative era in American history, but presidential, national, and global politics today.

#TBT

images#TBT: On this day in 1999, President Bill Clinton signed a sweeping measure knocking down Depression-era barriers and allowing banks, investment firms and insurance companies to sell each other’s product.  Learn more about Clinton’s presidency inside UPK’s upcoming “Bill Clinton: New Gilded Age President.”  Author Patrick Maney goes beyond personality and politics to examine the critical issues of the day: economic and fiscal policy, business and financial deregulation, healthcare and welfare reform, and foreign affairs in a post–Cold War world. But at its heart is Bill Clinton in all his guises: the first baby boomer to reach the White House; the “natural”—the most gifted politician of his generation, but one with an inexplicably careless and self-destructive streak; the “Comeback Kid,” repeatedly overcoming long odds; the survivor, frequently down but never out; and, with Hillary Rodham Clinton, part of the most controversial First Couple since Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt.  Maney’s book is, in sum, the most succinct and up-to-date study of the Clinton presidency, invaluable not merely for understanding a transformative era in American history, but presidential, national, and global politics today.

The Presidency of George H. W. Bush Revised By Historian John Robert Greene

9780700620791In a recent Library Journal review of a biography of President George H. W. Bush the reviewer points readers  “seeking a more scholarly analysis” to “The Presidency of George H. W. Bush” by John Robert Greene.  Just released by the University Press of Kansas it offers a thorough reappraisal of the Bush presidency and ample attention to Bush’s post-presidency, including his relationship with his son, President George W. Bush, as well as the development of his close friendship with Bill Clinton. The elder Bush emerges from this reappraisal as a considerably more activist president, with a more activist administration, than was previously assumed. Greene’s concise and readable account drawing on the contents of the bush Library, the papers of James A. Baker III, and personal interviews, shows us the 41st president–and thus an important  chapter in American history–in a new and more revealing light.