cover image Impeachment: An American History

Impeachment: An American History

Jon Meacham, Timothy Naftali, Peter Baker, and Jeffrey A. Engel. Modern Library, $26 (288p) ISBN 978-1-984-85378-3

Four scholars plumb the meaning and mechanics of presidential impeachments past—and, possibly, future—in this illuminating historical study. Pulitzer-winning biographer Meacham (American Lion) analyzes Andrew Johnson’s impeachment as a political act by House Republicans exasperated with Johnson’s opposition to their Reconstruction and civil rights policies. It failed in the Senate because Johnson hadn’t committed the “high crimes and misdemeanors” envisioned in the Constitution. Historian Naftali (George H.W. Bush) contributes a gripping recreation of impeachment proceedings against Richard Nixon, focusing on House Judiciary Committee chairman Peter Rodino’s efforts to build an airtight case that Nixon had criminally undermined the Constitution and to win bipartisan support. Journalist Baker (Obama) probes Bill Clinton’s campaign to convince Congress and voters that impeachment charges against him were a partisan witch hunt over purely private misdeeds. Historian Engel (When the World Seemed New) adds two shrewd essays exploring the framers’ attitudes toward impeachment—collusion with foreign powers was their biggest concern—and assessing the still unlikely prospect that impeachment proceedings against President Trump would meet standards of serious constitutional import, clear guilt, and public acceptance. Well researched, thoughtful, and engagingly written, this is one of the best of the current books mulling this suddenly fraught question. (Oct.)