Impeachment: A Citizen’s Guide by Cass R Sunstein
US president Richard Nixon’s farewell speech to White House staff on August 9th, 1974. Photograph: Reuters
Impeachment: A Citizen’s Guide
Cass R Sunstein
Harvard University Press
Not for a moment should a book-browser be deflected by the title. Writing in a straightforward, succinct style, the author takes us through the reasons, causes and occasions that a US president may be impeached.
Though obviously written about past presidents (and other highly placed politicians and judges), there is the haunting suspicion throughout that Cass R Sunstein may also be keeping an eye on the future.
The book lists 19 names of those impeached, starting in 1797. We learn how some impeachments are easy, others hard, but perhaps surprisingly, we are also told of the important role the ordinary citizen can play in bringing about possible charges.
We learn, for example, the president can be impeached for abuses of power that do not in fact violate the law. Of course, not all charges of impeachment are successful: why, for example, did Richard Nixon’s succeed and Bill Clinton’s fail?
Sunstein approaches his numerous cases principally from a legal point of view as opposed to (say) a political one but whichever his angle, this slim book is thoroughly researched, easy to read and for some perhaps a real eye-opener.