An interesting intra-party debate has unfolded in Republican circles recently over whether or not to pursue impeachment against President Obama. At a distance, GOP officials appear to be divided into three separate groups.
The first is shouting, "Impeach!" without much regard for consequences or merit. The second is responding, "Sue him instead!" as an apparent attempt at placating Republican extremists. The third contingent agrees with the first group, and would love to impeach for reasons that no one seems able to explain, but fears political blowback and realizes the Senate wouldn't remove the president from office. For this faction, the crusade just isn't worth the effort.
But yesterday, one Texas congressman put a new spin on this third group's message, saying Obama "definitely deserves" to be impeached -- again, no one knows why -- but House Republicans can't pursue this because they don't have time.
Rep. Randy Weber (R-TX) was somewhat more sympathetic to the idea but even he opposed initiating impeachment proceedings "right now," arguing that the House is too busy to get to it.
"The president deserves to be impeached. Plain and simple," he said. "But ... we have so much on our plate that it's not practical."
This isn't a good argument. It is, however, an unintentionally hilarious argument.
Almost immediately after President Obama unveiled his plan to resolve the border crisis, congressional Republicans balked. There were, House Speaker John Boehner complained, no provisions in the plan about sending National Guard troops to the border.
A week later, the president was in Texas, where he met with a variety of state officials, including Gov. Rick Perry (R). The Republican governor emphasized one point above all others: he wants Obama to deploy National Guard troops to the border.
GOP policymakers may not have thought this one through. In fact, Greg Sargent talked to the head of the National Guard under the Bush/Cheney administration, who offered a valuable perspective.
[I]n an interview today, the head of the National Guard under George W. Bush said he had not yet heard a clear rationale for sending in the Guard and suggested it might not be the appropriate response to the problems at the core of the current crisis, though he did say he could envision the Guard playing some sort of part in a broader solution.
"Until mission requirements are clearly defined, it can't be determined whether this is an appropriate use of the Guard in this particular case," H. Steven Blum, who was the Chief of the National Guard Bureau from 2003 to 2009 and has been a career military man for decades, told me. "There may be many other organizations that might more appropriately be called upon. If you're talking about search and rescue, maintaining the rule of law or restoring conditions back to normal after a natural disaster or a catastrophe, the Guard is superbly suited to that. I'm not so sure that what we're dealing with in scope and causation right now would make it the ideal choice."
That seems to be an exceedingly polite way of saying, "Republican demands don't seem to make any sense."
Some of this seems to be the result of GOP confusion about the nature of the story itself. Many Republicans seem to believe this is a border-security crisis, which the National Guard can help address directly.
But that's not consistent with the facts on the ground.
Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.) found herself in an awkward spot yesterday when a report surfaced quoting the congresswoman making some very controversial comments about women. At a forum on Republican "messaging," Ellmers reportedly said that men "talk about things on a much higher level," so GOP officials should "bring it down to a woman's level."
Soon after, the North Carolinian's office complained that Ellmers' comments had been "taken completely out of context" by "a liberal woman reporter."
The latter point was plainly untrue. The original report was published by the Washington Examiner, a conservative outlet, and written by Ashe Schow, a Republican and former Heritage Foundation staffer. Ellmers' office may not have liked Schow's report, but to dismiss her as "a liberal woman reporter" was wrong.
But what about the former? It seems like a knowable thing -- either Ellmers was "taken completely out of context" or she wasn't. With this in mind, Schow published a second report late yesterday with an audio clip and a lengthy transcript.
"Especially moms, you know we balance so many different things, you know. Or school. Think about what many of you are doing, you know, you're trying to maintain that job, you know, you've got to be moving up in your career. All these different things are coming in at the same time.
"Men do tend to talk about things on a much higher level. You know, one of the things that has always been one of my frustrations and I speak about this all the time -- many of my male colleagues, when they go to the House floor, you know, they've got some pie chart or graph behind them and they're talking about trillions of dollars and, you know, how the debt is awful and, you know, we all agree with that.
"But by starting off that discussion that way, we've already turned people away. Because it's like 'that doesn't affect my life, I don't understand how that affects my life.'"
From there, Ellmers said Republicans need to be "engaging individuals on their level," adding that GOP men should "bring it down to a woman's level."
Does this context make the quote less offensive? Well, it depends.
José Díaz-Balart, news anchor for Telemundo and MSNBC host, talks with Steve Kornacki about why the influx of immigrants from Central America should be treated as a humanitarian emergency ill served by political grandstanding. watch
Sen. Tammy Baldwin, co-author of the Women's Health Protection Act, talks with Steve Kornacki about why Republican claims that restrictive legislation targeting women's health options do more harm than good for women they claim to help. watch
Dave Helling, columnist for the Kansas City Star, talks with Steve Kornacki about the Republican mutiny against Kansas governor Sam Brownback over the fiscal disaster his tax cut policies have caused to the state. watch
Steve Kornacki establishes and cuts the opening ribbon on The Canned Response Repetition Hall of Fame, inducting Florida governor Rick Scott as the latest member for his deer-in-the-headlights repetition of an answer to a question he didn't seem to... watch
* Crisis in Israel: "Egypt's proposal for a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas collapsed Tuesday only a few hours after the Israelis had accepted it, as Palestinian militants in Gaza launched a barrage of rockets and Israel resumed its airstrikes. The Israeli authorities said a Palestinian attack caused the first Israeli fatality in the eight-day-old military confrontation, in which Israeli bombings have killed nearly 200 Palestinians."
* Ukraine: "Accusations of cross-border hostilities between Ukraine and Russia intensified on Tuesday, deepening a shadowy war of real or imagined attacks and sabotage that threatens to draw the two countries into direct conflict."
* Related news: "The United States is considering imposing unilateral sanctions on Russia over its threatening moves in Ukraine, a shift in strategy that reflects the Obama administration's frustration with Europe's reluctance to take tougher action against Moscow, according to U.S. and European officials."
* Afghanistan: "A suicide bomber blew up a car packed with explosives near a busy market and a mosque in eastern Afghanistan on Tuesday, killing 89 people and wounding more than 40 in one of the deadliest attacks since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion."
* Vargas in custody: "Undocumented immigrant and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas could soon face deportation, according to an immigrants' rights group. Border Patrol allegedly arrested the activist in Texas on Tuesday during his attempt to pass through security at McAllen-Miller International Airport, United We Dream said in a statement."
* Iran: "After three days of intensive talks with his Iranian counterpart, Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday that 'tangible progress' had been made in negotiations on Iran's nuclear program, and that he would return to Washington to consult with President Obama over whether to extend a Sunday deadline for a final agreement."
* Fed: "Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen on Tuesday joined a chorus of economists downplaying a Commerce Department report that found a 2.9 percent reduction in first quarter GDP growth."
* Russia: "A subway train derailed Tuesday deep below Moscow's streets, twisting and mangling crowded rail cars at the height of the morning rush hour. At least 21 people were killed, Russian officials said, and 136 were hospitalized, many with serious injuries."
* Net neutrality: "The Federal Communications Commission is giving companies, public interest groups and concerned citizens more time to voice their concerns about the agency's plans to rewrite its net neutrality rules."
About a week ago, Senate Democrats announced their legislative response to the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby ruling, which empowered employers to limit contraception access to women employees. The Dems' bill, called the "Protect Women's Health From Corporate Interference Act," would require insurance plans to cover birth control, just as the ACA intended, though houses of worship would be exempt and religious non-profits would be accommodated.
The good news is, for all the kvetching I do about Republicans refusing to govern, there is an actual GOP alternate proposal. The bad news is, the Republican bill is so meaningless, it's rather amazing the Senate minority was even willing to unveil it (thanks to my colleague Kate Osborn for the heads-up).
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Republicans plan to put forward a bill that would ensure employers cannot prevent their employees from obtaining contraception.
"We plan to introduce legislation this week that says no employer can block any employee from legal access to her FDA-approved contraceptives," McConnell said. "There's no disagreement on that fundamental point."
Perhaps realizing that the entirety of the Senate Republican leadership team is made up exclusively of white Christian men, McConnell recruited Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), a loyal party soldier, to help make the case for the GOP plan.
"I've been deeply disturbed by the misrepresentations that are being made about what the Hobby Lobby decision means," she said. "There is nothing in the Hobby Lobby ruling that allows a company to stop a woman from getting or filling a prescription for contraception."
But it's worth pausing to appreciate exactly what this proposal intends to do. In a word, the goal is to do nothing.