How to Make Impeachment Great Again

Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden meet with Supreme Court Justices

“Biden family members and business associates created a web of over 20 companies,” according to a May 10 memorandum from the US House Committee on Oversight and Accountability. Most of those companies, which “received over $10 million
from foreign nationals’ companies,” were “formed during Joe Biden’s vice presidency.”

The Biden family, according to the memo,  engaged in “complicated financial transactions,” apparently “to conceal the source of the funds and reduce the conspicuousness of the total amounts made into the Biden bank accounts.”

If all of that sounds pretty bad, it’s supposed to.

If any of it surprises you, welcome back to civilization after your hopefully refreshing 15-year nap. You can start catching up by punching the terms “Hunter Biden,” “laptop,” and “Burisma” into your search engine of choice.

Follow that with “Donald Trump” (you may remember him as a notoriously inept businessman and B-list celebrity) and “impeachments” (yes, plural).

We’ve been up to quite a bit of weirdness since you crawled into that cave for your long hibernation, haven’t we?

Over the last 25 years (going back to Bill Clinton in 1998), impeachment has become the go-to threat, and looking for grounds to impeach has become Congress’s constant obsession.

If Republicans maintain control of the House, we can look forward to impeachment proceedings against Joe Biden even if the allegations in that committee memorandum are false. If Democrats maintain control of more than 1/3 of the Senate, we can look forward to acquittal even if the allegations are true.

The last time presidential impeachment “worked” in America was 1974, when Richard Nixon resigned — because he knew that Republicans were about to join Democrats  in voting to impeach, and to convict, him for his role in the Watergate burglary cover-up.

While “bipartisanship” is usually a terrible thing, just horse-trading between both sides to give each other the worst of what each side wants, it’s really the only way to both give teeth to, and require real weight to invoke, impeachment proceedings.

If we want future presidential impeachments to manifest as anything more than political entertainment, it makes sense to start with something that gives Republicans a chance to burnish their “bipartisan” credentials and preempt Democratic whataboutism.

I refer, of course, to associate Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

Thomas is righteously caught. He’s been established, pretty much beyond reasonable doubt, to have accepted and willfully concealed hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes — some directly and some via family members and their employers — from a billionaire who also funds organizations with business before the court.

The GOP flack brigade has jumped in to whine that all this is all just a paperwork fuss, that poor Clarence is smart enough to serve on the Supreme Court but too dumb to fill out standard disclosure forms, but they know he’s bent, and they know he’s busted.

Why not move quickly to his impeachment and removal, as a “bipartisan” palate cleanser? He has to go in any case, and it might set the proper tone for whatever happens with Biden down the line.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter:@thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.


Terrible Ideas + Evil Actions /= “Mental Illness”

Graphic by Paget Michael Creelman. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.
Graphic by Paget Michael Creelman. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

“One problem I have with the whole ‘mental illness’ frame for talking about mass shooters,” Paul Campos writes at Lawyers, Guns & Money, “is that the ‘mental illness’ often appears to be garden variety authoritarian ethno-nationalist misogyny, with the misogyny being the really critical ideological lynchpin [sic].”

Campos is riffing on reports that Mauricio Garcia, who killed eight people at a Texas mall on May 6, was discharged from the US Army (before completing recruit training) over mental health concerns, and posted to social media — in between racist and misogynistic rants and applause for mass shootings, including one in 2014 in which “involuntary celibate” Elliot Rodger killed six — about his mental health problems.

Campos’s response raises interesting questions. Is it ever reasonable to blame “mental illness” for terrible ideas and violent behavior? If so, what are the metrics for distinguishing between individual responsibility and helpless derangement?

“The concept of disease is fast replacing the concept of responsibility,” psychiatrist Thomas Szasz wrote in 1990’s  The Untamed Tongue: A Dissenting Dictionary. “With increasing zeal Americans use and interpret the assertion ‘I am sick’ as equivalent to the assertion ‘I am not responsible.'”

To be fair, Szasz wasn’t coming at this subject from out of the blue or from a previously neutral position.  He’s best known for a book he wrote three decades before The Untamed Young, the title of which gets right to his most well-known holding: The Myth of Mental Illness.

While Szasz is generally treated as a heretic for questioning the foundational principles of modern psychology/psychiatry, most US legal systems seem more Szaszian than establishmentarian on the subject.

About half of US states (including Texas) adhere to the “M’Naghten rule,” which only allows a “not guilty by reason of insanity” verdict in cases where the defendant literally did not understand what he or she was doing, and/or that what he or she was doing was morally wrong.

Depression is not enough. A chip on your shoulder over supposed social mistreatment won’t get over the bar. “My father beat me daily with a belt when I was a kid so now I’m always angry” doesn’t cut it.

To use “mental illness” as an absolving trump card, one must have e.g. heard the supposed voice of a god giving orders to do the thing, or hallucinated that the victim was an alien assassin sent to abduct the children of Earth.

That seems like a reasonable standard to me. It’s not that I don’t sympathize with those who suffer from chemical imbalances in the brain, or who were abused as children, or who’ve become convinced that all their problems are someone else’s (or some other race’s or religion’s) fault.

But those people are, generally, living entirely or almost entirely in the real world. Whatever their problems or grievances, they retain agency in how they respond and react. They know that walking into a mall and gunning people down is wrong. If they choose to do that, it’s on them, not on their problems or their victims.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter:@thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.


There’s Nothing “Clean” About a “Clean” Debt Ceiling Increase

US national debt“House Democrats,” CBS News reports, “have taken their first procedural steps to try to force a House vote on a clean debt ceiling increase.” Absent such an increase, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen predicts the government will reach the end of its ability to borrow money as early as June 1.

What does a “clean” increase mean? It means no politician has to give up anything. Nobody on Capitol Hill or at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue has to make any sacrifices. Congress just votes to increase the limit on a very special credit card, spent by it but billed to taxpayers (including future unborn generations).

It seems like magic. But, of course, magic isn’t real. And there’s nothing “clean” about the proposed debt ceiling increase. It’s a filthy scam played on Americans by politicians who believe — or at least hope — they’ll be retired or dead before the winds of reality blow down the house of cards they’re building.

And the silliest part is that it isn’t even remotely necessary — not even if the standard is “spend enough to continue having insanely large, burdensome, and intrusive government.”

“Clean debt ceiling raise” advocates insist that opposition to a rubber stamp on the government continuing to grow its spending faster than its revenues every year, forever, and continuing to borrow larger amounts of money every year than the year before, forever, is some kind of Dickensian scheme to steal grandma’s gruel, chain little Jimmy to a machine in a factory, and reduce the size and equipment of the US armed forces to that of a local Cub Scout troop.

But let’s look at some numbers.

According to the Office of Management and Budget, the US government took in revenues of about $2.5 trillion and spent about $3.5 trillion in 2019.

Also according to OMB, the US government will take in revenues of about $3.5 trillion and will spend about $4.6 trillion this year.

Why am I leaving out the years in between? Because the COVID-19 pandemic provided at least a fig leaf of “emergency” justification for running large deficits and borrowing lots of money. Now that the pandemic is officially over, it’s time to stop playing “emergency” games.

If the US government limited itself to spending THIS year what it spent in 2019, its budget would be balanced.

Not what it spent in 1819.

Not what it spent in 1919.

What it spent four short years ago, when it was still bogged down in the 20-year Afghanistan war and blowing money like a drunken sailor on frippery like Donald Trump’s “border wall.”

Not that Republicans propose anything as draconian as, you know, spending less than they take in. They just want slight decreases in the acceleration of fiscal stupidity. But that might be a start.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter:@thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.