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Here comes impeachment

By Jonathan Bernstein

What's at stake in the elections this fall? Energy/climate? Tax cuts? Management of the economy?

Well, sure, all those things. It's worth pointing out, however, that what's also at stake is the impeachment of Barack Obama. I continue to believe that if Obama sits in the White House for six years with a GOP majority in the House of Representatives that the odds are very good -- better than 50 percent -- that he'll be impeached. Not convicted, of course, but impeached, forcing a Senate trial.

I've been asking for guesses about when the first impeachment resolution will be filed in the House (leave your prediction here). To be fair, I've already been wrong about one thing -- I predicted that Michele Bachmann would have introduced a resolution by now (actually, I predicted April 15). So perhaps I'm just as much of an alarmist as those Republicans who believed that a Pelosi-led House would impeach George W. Bush in 2007. Perhaps! But I don't think so. In fact, impeachment talk moved yesterday from Tea Party rallies to at least one Republican Member of the House, Darrell Issa. And Issa's not an obscure backbencher; he's the ranking Republican on Oversight and Government Reform, and he also sits on the Judiciary Committee.

The incentives all run to impeachment, as far as I can tell. The leaders of such an effort would find it easy to cash in (literally, I mean) with books and appearances on the conservative lecture circuit. It's hard to believe that Rush, Beck and the rest of the gang wouldn't be tripping over each other to wear the crown of the Host Who Brought Down the socialist gangster president. And we've seen the ability, or I should say the lack thereof, of rank-and-file GOP pols to stand up to the talk show yakkers. Besides, it's not as if a new Republican majority would have a full agenda of legislative items to pass, and what they did have would face an Obama veto (and most likely death in the Senate at any rate). Against all that is the collective preference of the Republican Party not to have a reputation as a pack of loons, but that doesn't seem to be much of a constraint in practice. Of course, also against impeachment is the lack of a serious offense by the president, but I don't see that as a major impediment -- if offering a job to a potential Senate candidate is an impeachable offense (and see Jonathan Chait if you think it really is), then they'll have no trouble at all coming up with something.

So, if you want to impeach Barack Obama, I'd very much recommend voting GOP this fall, at least for your local House candidate. I think you'll get what you want.

-- Jonathan Bernstein blogs about American politics, political institutions and democracy at A Plain Blog About Politics, and you can follow him on Twitter here.


By Washington Post Editors  |  May 27, 2010; 10:45 AM ET
 
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Comments

" that what's also at stake is the impeachment of Barack Obama."

I sure hope not. Constans characterization of me as a nihilist aside, I'm a policy conservative. I was thrilled when Republicans swept in in 1994. When they impeached Clinton, I was deeply disappointed. "What? Seriously? A chance to really craft policy, to twist Clinton's arm, and *this* is what you're doing?"

"So perhaps I'm just as much of an alarmist as those Republicans who believed that a Pelosi-led House would impeach George W. Bush in 2007."

I really hope so. I can chalk up the obstructionism, vs. twisting arms to produce progressively more and more conservative legislation to short-sightedness or poor decision making.

Sweeping to power and impeaching the sitting president--again!--would be crazy. And a wonderful way to completely squander election victories.

"So, if you want to impeach Barack Obama, I'd very much recommend voting GOP this fall, at least for your local House candidate."

I'm going to hope you are wrong (I have been advised that I should be hopeful, and that change is good) and that when I vote for my Republican house candidate, and if there is a change in the makeup of Washington power, it doesn't immediately turn into a non-policy-advancing impeachment proceeding. Which there are plenty of lessons to draw upon from the Clinton era. The impeachment didn't kick the president out of office, and presaged the first serious house and senate losses for Republicans. Like or loathe the Ginrich era policies, that's what voters were voting for, not sex scandals, special prosecutors, blue dresses and impeachments over perjury. Not to mention the absurdity of being able to prosecute a sitting president over a 20 year old land deal.

Even the impeachment talk is very disappointing. Really, guys? Of all the stuff you can be talking about? Impeachment?

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | May 27, 2010 11:09 AM | Report abuse

" In fact, impeachment talk moved yesterday from Tea Party rallies to at least one Republican Member of the House, Darrell Issa. And Issa's not an obscure backbencher; he's the ranking Republican on Oversight and Government Reform, and he also sits on the Judiciary Committee,"

the news cycle, over these past weeks, is like being in a house of horrors.


Posted by: jkaren | May 27, 2010 11:11 AM | Report abuse

That seems to be the GOP modus operandi.

Lose presidential election. Pass articles of impeachment to revoke election result.

I guess it's an even more ideal way of avoiding policy debates than the filibuster or legislative holds.

Posted by: JPRS | May 27, 2010 11:33 AM | Report abuse

"I guess it's an even more ideal way of avoiding policy debates than the filibuster or legislative holds."

No, it's really not. Maybe there's something in the water cooler the Republican's drink from?

"Hey, you know what would be a really good idea?" >>Shlurp>Shlurpsip>Shllluuuurrrppp>Slurp<<

"Oh, right. That sounds a lot better than advancing policy."

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | May 27, 2010 11:41 AM | Report abuse

BTW, the post above is not quite what I meant to post. Should have known better than to use the greater-than and less-than to "emulate" the sound of schlurping. There was a whole bit about comparing the advancement of conservative policies--private social security accounts, a strong military, cutting taxes to spur economic growth--versus the non-stop party of impeachment. So much face time. So many hookers! So much blow! Impeachment would be way better. Even though, you know, they started losing seats after impeachment. And Clinton stayed in office. Etc.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | May 27, 2010 11:56 AM | Report abuse

Since 23-Apr, I've thought that Obama will decide to resign before his term is completed. The issues are mounting and, frankly, resignation may wind up being the wisest choice: if an impeachment begins, the flurry of evidence would be damaging to the entire Progressive faction, exposing all of its leaders and participants to additional public ridicule.

It seems like it would be game-over if the House committee even allows presentation of evidence, regardless of committee outcome. So far, all Democrats elected in special elections have been opponents of the PPACA... so I'm not sure it would be a purely GOP movement.

Posted by: rmgregory | May 27, 2010 12:05 PM | Report abuse

Kevin_Willis,

The GOP has a policy agenda?

Posted by: JPRS | May 27, 2010 12:07 PM | Report abuse

"The issues are mounting and, frankly, resignation may wind up being the wisest choice: if an impeachment begins, the flurry of evidence would be damaging to the entire Progressive faction, exposing all of its leaders and participants to additional public ridicule."

Hilarious. Scenes from a parallel universe.

Posted by: slag | May 27, 2010 12:09 PM | Report abuse

I may regret this, but rmgregory: What "issues" and "flurry of evidence" are you talking about? As far as I know, supporting a different agenda than that of the most conservative 30% of the country is neither a high crime nor a misdemeanor and I'm at a complete loss to imagine what else you're referring to here.

Posted by: zimbar | May 27, 2010 12:15 PM | Report abuse

GOP policy: starve the beast

Posted by: Lomillialor | May 27, 2010 12:15 PM | Report abuse

How many frivolous impeachments and boneheaded invasions and trillions in debt and millions of jobs lost and oil shocks must we suffer before clueless independents learn we maybe should not vote for Republicans or conservative Democrats?

Posted by: Lomillialor | May 27, 2010 12:18 PM | Report abuse

@slag,

That's the point. There doesn't need to be an impeachable offense for them to pursue it.

Posted by: etdean1 | May 27, 2010 12:26 PM | Report abuse

All I can say is that I like you but I desperately hope you're wrong.

Posted by: HerooftheBeach | May 27, 2010 12:29 PM | Report abuse

JPRS:

"The GOP has a policy agenda?"

Not that I know of. It would just be nice if they did. As a conservative, I would like to see conservatism advanced. As a pragmatist, I'm not opposed to compromise bills, and sometimes I think they give us the best of both worlds, even if neither side sees it that way.

However, impeachment does not advance the agenda. In distracts and destroys it (as happened during the Clinton impeachment).

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | May 27, 2010 1:00 PM | Report abuse

sadly I wouldn't be surprised. Again doesn't mean that it'll stick at all but I could definitely see it happening.

Posted by: visionbrkr | May 27, 2010 1:05 PM | Report abuse

Really? This is what you're allowing to be floated on your blog? I enjoy getting a liberal perspective on policy and politics, but a tangent that a vote for a Republican is a vote for the impeachment of the President? Are you serious that this is the dialogue you want to promote in your own blog? And without any backing of it (one congressman's quote does not a Republican strategy make)...even when I'm on the other side of an issue on something I read here, I do respect that the point is well considered with some basis behind it. This is almost embarrasing...either as a poorly thought out position or worse someone trying desperately to attach the President's fate to the elections to carry water for the Democrats in trying to bridge the enthusiasm gap for the upcoming election.

Posted by: chackney | May 27, 2010 1:10 PM | Report abuse

Zero chance of impeachment barring some unforseen factual development. Right now it's not happening, no matter what some fool Congressman may say.

I mean seriously -- just try to imagine, for one second, what it would look like to America (and to the world) for the Republican Congressional leadership to put President Obama on trial on trumped up charges. It's not happening. It has no more basis in reality than somebody's speculation about Obama resigning before his term ends.

Posted by: simpleton1 | May 27, 2010 1:37 PM | Report abuse

Per Sam Stein:

"President Reagan offered California Sen. S.I. Hayakawa a job in his administration if he dropped out of the Senate primary race in California -- an offer that Hayakawa, like Sestak, rejected."

"When the president offered Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) the post of Commerce Secretary it was under an "agreement" (Gregg's word) that the governor of New Hampshire would appoint a replacement who caucuses with Republicans. Issa's office actually admitted that this deal was as bad as the Sestak exchange to Salon.com on Wednesday night. But no calls for an investigation have transpired."

George Edwards, a Distinguished Professor of Political Science and Jordan Chair in Presidential Studies at Texas A&M University, says: "There is no question whatsoever that presidents have often offered people positions to encourage them not to do something or make it awkward for them to do it. Presidents have also offered people back-ups if they ran for an office and lost. All this is old news historically."

"It is completely unexceptional," said Dr. Russell Riley, associate professor and chair of the Miller Center's Presidential Oral History Program at the University of Virginia. "... it just doesn't seem to me to particularly rise to the level of being newsworthy in the first place and the fact that it's spun out into a scandal has been surprising."

Posted by: Patrick_M | May 27, 2010 1:43 PM | Report abuse

The impeachment is inevitable, and essential to the Restoration.

The purpose of impeaching Clinton wasn't to get him removed from office, it was to make presidential impeachment itself permanently not-serious -- and that's why the Senate GOP showed no follow-through -- it was supposed to fail. If they had gotten Clinton to resign, that would have been lagniappe.

Recall that since Reconstruction that sword had only been drawn against Nixon (Republican), threatened and withdrawn against Reagan (Republican) and probably also warranted in the case of his VP, (Bush I, Republican). Impeachment represented a clear danger to just about any Republican president, because of how the GOP feels about the office. And Bush II went right out and proved it.

But after Clinton, the impeachment process itself either a) had become vaguely silly, or b.) considered transparently partisan, so that when it was needed against Bush II, on grave and merited grounds, it was a non-starter.

Impeachment needs to be again turned into a laughing-stock now -- Bush II got us thinking about it seriously again -- so that the next GOP president who deserves it won't get within pissing distance of it.

Posted by: davis_x_machina | May 27, 2010 2:56 PM | Report abuse

Granted, Issa isn't an obscure backbencher. But he was also the guy who made the Gray Davis recall possible when he donated $3 million to the signature-gathering campaign. So let's just say he's a bit more prone than the typical GOPer to unsheathe the impeachment weapon.

Posted by: Smotus | May 27, 2010 3:09 PM | Report abuse

Patrick,

really? Good find. They oughta lock that Reagan guy up and throw away the key ;-) Darn crook!


My question to you is if its no big deal (and I don't think it is) then why is Gibbs falling all over himself to defer this? Doesn't he know this will only stir the pot more? BP and Rand Paul are just praying that this keeps up and takes them off the front pages.

Posted by: visionbrkr | May 27, 2010 3:59 PM | Report abuse

The GOP have only 2 reactions to losing an election.

1. Have the Supreme Court install your guy.

2. Impeach the other guy by whatever means.

Posted by: Rokker | May 27, 2010 4:58 PM | Report abuse

visionbrkr,

I actually completely agree with you.

I have wondered whether Sestak's February mention of a job offer exaggerated whatever discussion took place, in which case the White House is worried about how to disclose the facts without damaging Sestak's campaign. It is interesting that Sestak blurted out the tale of the offer last February, but has refused to provide any further details ever since.

Anyway, that's one possibility, but who knows?

A legal analysis on the faux scandal from an American Bar Association blog:

"The allegation that the job offer was somehow a “bribe” in return for Sestak not running in the primary is difficult to support. Sestak, if he had taken a job in the Administration, would not have been permitted to run in the Pennsylvania primary. The Hatch Act prohibits a federal employee from being a candidate for nomination or election to a partisan political office. 5 U.S.C. § 7323(a)(3). He had to choose one or the other, but he could not choose both.

The job offer may have been a way of getting Sestak out of Specter’s way, but this also is nothing new. Many candidates for top Administration appointments are politically active in the President’s political party. Many are candidates or are considering candidacy in primaries. White House political operatives don’t like contentious fights in their own party primaries and sometimes suggest jobs in the Administration for persons who otherwise would be contenders. For the White House, this is usually a “win-win” situation, giving the Administration politically savvy appointees in the Executive Branch and fewer contentious primaries for the Legislative Branch. This may not be best for voters who have less choice as a result, and Sestak thus should be commended for saying “no”. The job offer, however, is hardly a “bribe” when it is one of two alternatives that are mutually exclusive."

Posted by: Patrick_M | May 27, 2010 5:04 PM | Report abuse

What's wrong with impeaching Obama? He's normalized everything Bush ever did, and Bush ought to have been impeached.

Posted by: lambert_strether | May 27, 2010 5:10 PM | Report abuse

If it was up to the Republicans I have no doubt he would be impeached. But it isn't. Are you all aware that impeachment requires a 2/3s vote in the House?

So you would need one-in-three Democrats to go along with it. Seems very unlikely to me.

Republicans and Dems voted to impeach Clinton because he had actually done something wrong. (Even if it didn't justify removing him from office).

Posted by: Modicum | May 27, 2010 9:46 PM | Report abuse

This article by Bernstein is nothing more than a Conservative Republican "wet dream".
There are countless numbers of rightwingnut
GOP major and lessor players that have had this "wet dream"....pity it will not come to
pass.
There are also legions of "dream state" morons that have a like amount of "violations"
committed by the President...all of which are bogus. These same folks have odd ideas about "birth certificates", marxism, communism, and the like.

Posted by: iheardthisbefore | May 27, 2010 10:37 PM | Report abuse

Impeachment is not enough, for that to have been effective medicine it would have to been done 8 mos. ago!

Now for all the damage he has done to this country and the danger of parasite globalist dictatorship and bankruptcy and theft Barry Soetoro aka; Barak Obama has caused and the damage he's done to America by being a puppet to the Globalists treason, he needs to be incarcerated for life! He is more of a criminal than Bernie Madoff and therefore should be sentenced to life inprisonment at minimum!
We ask this in Jesus name Amen

Posted by: PaulRevere4 | May 28, 2010 12:28 AM | Report abuse

Good Lord, does no one recognize simple irony anymore?

I saw the headline, "Here Comes Impeachment", in one of my many pass-throughs of memeorandum.com. And it came with Ezra Klein's by-line. Huh?

I'd been intrigued all day and finally clicked in and read it. What delicious baloney! Fun piece.

Posted by: dmsc | May 28, 2010 1:45 AM | Report abuse

The NYT is reporting today that the "job" Sestak was offered was in fact just an unpaid position serving on an advisory board, while Sestak would keep his seat in the House.

Posted by: Patrick_M | May 28, 2010 11:32 AM | Report abuse

*Now for all the damage he has done to this country and the danger of parasite globalist dictatorship and bankruptcy and theft Barry Soetoro *

I love you guys. Never change!

Posted by: constans | May 28, 2010 11:53 AM | Report abuse

Also worthy of note from today's news: Sestak declared his candidacy in the month of August, and the discussions about the unpaid position occurred in June and July, before Sestak had decided to enter the race.

The hissing sound you hear in the distance is the air escaping from the short-lived Republican impeachment balloon.

Posted by: Patrick_M | May 28, 2010 12:15 PM | Report abuse

I really hope the republicans impeach Obama. Maybe then the cowardly dems will learn something by not impeaching war criminals bush and cheney. Oh, no, "that's off the table". Stupid dem cowards.

Posted by: lip111 | May 28, 2010 1:36 PM | Report abuse

What makes you think their legislative agenda would face a veto? Obama's idea of bipartisanship is to pass Republican legislation,just look at the 'health care' debacle. Pelosi was bragging that they were Republican ideas.

Posted by: par4 | May 28, 2010 3:45 PM | Report abuse

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