House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy prepares to speak to the media after unexpectedly dropping out of consideration to be the next Speaker of the House on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 8, 2015.
Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA

GOP’s McCarthy argues against first-term presidential impeachments

Generous political observers might be tempted to give House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) credit for trying. The top House Republican hasn’t exactly succeeded in presenting a compelling defense of Donald Trump’s alleged abuses, but McCarthy is certainly giving it his best shot.

It just isn’t going well for anyone. In September, McCarthy appeared on CBS’s 60 Minutes and got lost when confronted with basic details he hadn’t bothered to learn. In October, McCarthy told a national television audience that the president never urged China to investigate the Bidens, despite Trump having stood on the White House South Lawn and literally saying, “China should start an investigation into the Bidens.”

In November, the House GOP leader endorsed the Kremlin’s discredited conspiracy theory about Ukraine interfering in U.S. elections, and last week, he misquoted Alexander Hamilton. All of which helped pave the way for today’s latest gem.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) doesn’t quite have his impeachment facts straight.

“In modern history, we’ve never gone after impeaching a president in the first term,” McCarthy said in a Monday appearance on Fox News ahead of the House Judiciary Committee’s second public impeachment hearing.

I guess the motivation behind rhetoric like this is that if the Democratic impeachment effort can be characterized as unprecedented, then it would be … bad. The trouble is, there’s an important difference between historical curiosities and actual arguments.

Before Trump, there have been three impeachment efforts: Andrew Johnson in 1868, Richard Nixon in 1974, and Bill Clinton in 1998. Johnson was impeached in his first (and only) term; Nixon resigned before being impeached; and Clinton was impeached in his second term.

For Kevin McCarthy, this is significant because, well, I actually haven’t the foggiest idea why. What matters to the process is the seriousness of presidential misdeeds, not what year in a president’s tenure they occurred.

There’s never been an impeachment process involving a president with a one-syllable name, either, but that’s not exactly a point that advances the conversation in a constructive way.

Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) joked in response to McCarthy’s comments, “Foiled. How did we forget about the ‘Presidential Right to First-Term Crime Spree’ clause of the Constitution?”