Frustrated that they haven’t been able to beat Pres. Obama fairly and squarely, the Republican Party’s base is signalling it is ready to initiate its gambit-of-last-resort and commence impeachment proceedings against Obama.
They can’t say yet what high crimes and misdemeanors the president has committed, but they are sure that if Chairman Issa will just keep looking, he’ll find something. The other obstacle is that they need to both keep the House and take the Senate next year, a prospect that appears likely.
Impeachment has come up in a few Republican congressional town halls during the summer recess. Texas Tea Party Sen. Ted Cruz is on board, of course, as are a couple of hard-core nobodies in the House. The new wrinkle is that now Oklahoma GOP Sen. Tom Coburn — who the DC punditocracy insists is a reasonable fellow — jumped on the bandwagon. He told a room full of constituents that Pres. Obama is “getting perilously close” to having committed an impeachable offense:
“I think those are serious things, but we’re in serious times,” said [Coburn]. “And I don’t have the legal background to know if that rises to ‘high crimes and misdemeanors,’ but I think you’re getting perilously close.”
The remark came after an attendee called the Obama administration “lawless” and asked, “who is responsible for enforcing [Obama’s] constitutional responsibilities?”
“What you have to do is you have to establish the criteria that would qualify for proceedings against the president. And that’s called impeachment,” he said as some in the audience applauded.
He added that the House of Representatives is responsible for bringing charges against the president.
“I think there’s some intended violation of the law in this administration but I also think there’s a ton of incompetence,” he added.
Coburn said that he does not know if the constitutional standard for impeachment has been met, and he said that that such proceedings should not be “something you take lightly.”
“I’m documenting all this stuff as it goes along, but I don’t know where that level is,” he added.
It was unclear what specific instance Coburn was referencing as possible grounds for impeachment, although he mentioned that he believes Department of Homeland Security officials have told career USCIS employees to “ignore” background checks for immigrants. The questioner also mentioned the Internal Revenue Service at one point.
Of course, like all Republicans and too many Democrats, Coburn sat on his hands and did nothing after it was revealed the top officials of the Bush administration — including Vice Pres. Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice — wrote a torture manual for the CIA that was signed off by Pres. Bush himself. Nor did Coburn and his party mind at all when Cheney’s henchmen revealed the secret identity of a CIA specialist in tracking weapons of mass destruction as a way of exacting revenge against her husband who’d had the temerity to call Cheney a liar after Cheney claimed Saddam Hussein was buying uranium from Niger.
There is an aspect to this that Democrats and independents fail to take into account. The impeachment of Pres. Clinton failed only in that Clinton was not removed from office. It succeeded because it put the next Democratic presidential candidate, Vice Pres. Al Gore, on defense throughout his campaign. Gore’s resistance to taking credit for the successes of the Clinton-Gore administration — and his refusal to defend Clinton — were major factors in the loss Tennessee and Arkansas, his and Clinton’s home states, respectively. That put Florida in play, which eventually led to Republicans on the U.S. Supreme Court awarding the presidency to George W. Bush.
The takeaway is that from the Republicans’ perspective, impeaching Clinton in 1999 worked, and so impeaching Obama in 2015 would similarly weaken the next Democratic nominee, whoever she might be.