The very idea that President Obama is guilty of impeachable offenses is obviously silly. And yet, the “I” word sure does get thrown around a lot.
Two weeks ago, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) – ostensibly one of the more responsible Republican senators, capable of working with Democrats – said he’d support impeaching the president if Obama continued to transfer detainees from Guantanamo Bay. This morning, another Republican lawmaker said that if impeachment came to an up-or-down vote, it’d “probably” pass.
A Republican congressman thinks a vote to impeachment President Obama would pass the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. Speaking with the Gary Sutton radio program on Monday, Rep. Lou Barletta of Pennsylvania said a vote to impeach Obama would “probably pass” the House.“He’s just absolutely ignoring the Constitution, and ignoring the laws, and ignoring the checks and balances,” Barletta said. “The problem is, you know, what do you do? For those that say impeach him for breaking the laws or bypassing the laws. Could that pass in the House? It probably, it probably could. Is the majority the American people in favor of impeaching the president? I’m not sure.”
As a matter of policy, it’s simply impossible to take such nonsense seriously. If Republicans could back up such rhetoric with substance, they would. If they had actual evidence of the president flouting the law, they’d present it, rather than whining about it in the abstract. That they do little more than talk bolsters the assumptions that this is little more than palaver.
But they sure do talk a lot. Even before this month, the list of far-right lawmakers talking up this ridiculous idea in public has steadily grown. The group now includes a handful of U.S. Senators – Sens. Tom Coburn, Ted Cruz (R-Texas), and James Inhofe (R-Okla.) – and plenty of U.S. House members – Reps. Kerry Bentivolio, Blake Farenthold (R-Texas), and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) – among others. House Republicans even held a hearing on the subject back in December.
Paul Waldman recently explored the possibility of House Republicans using their latest Benghazi select committee to make a serious impeachment push.
All of which leads to a straightforward question: maybe it’s time to ask the party leadership?
In advance of the 2006 midterms – the midterm cycle in George W. Bush’s second term – Republicans routinely argued that if Democrats won back the congressional majority, they’d launch an impeachment crusade. Naturally, this led reporters to press Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders, all of whom effectively ruled out the possibility.
Is it really that outrageous to at least pose the question to GOP leaders in 2014? If Pelosi & Co. were asked eight years ago, why not raise the topic with Boehner, Cantor, and others? If it’s a topic being casually thrown around by Fox News, National Review, and a variety of federal lawmaker, why not at least get Republican officials on the record?
Ordinarily, lawmakers eyeing the possibility of impeachment come up with some kind of specific rationale beyond “he’s just absolutely ignoring the Constitution,” though as we’ve noted before, the current crop of GOP impeachment advocates don’t seem to bother. Maybe the party believes the grounds for impeachment are so obvious that they don’t need to elaborate; maybe the party no longer cares whether they have a coherent rationale or not.
Just so we’re clear, I don’t really expect Republicans to pursue this in a serious way, and my coverage on the issue is intended more as a “look how silly this is” than a “look at this threat to our constitutional system of government.” If for no other reason, GOP lawmakers wouldn’t try impeaching the president because they’d risk motivating the Democratic base to show up in the 2014 midterms – which is exactly what happened in the sixth-year midterms for the last two-term Democratic president.
That said, the talk is common enough that it seems reasonable to ask party leaders to signal their intentions, especially given the likelihood of a Republican House and Republican Senate next year: do they consider impeachment on the table or off?