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The politics of impeachment

The politics of impeachment

On a recent Hot Air thread about whether it’s desirable to impeach Obama I saw this comment:

Impeachment would be like a child throwing a temper tantrum — lots of sound and fury signifying extreme frustration. But in the end Obama would still be there.

Impeachment is not an absolute impossibility before Obama’s second term is through. But impeachment would be a very bad idea at this point, even though the GOP controls the House, and even though there’s plenty of fodder for impeachment.

Just for the sake of argument, let’s say that the Republicans in the House have not only the votes but the guts to do it. But the effort would go nowhere in the Senate; they would not get the requisite two-thirds for conviction. The failed process would only anger the public, the great majority of whom would find it to be vindictive overkill (as well as something that gets in the way of whatever it is that they think Congress is supposed to be doing instead). Such an action would increase Obama’s approval rating, and perhaps even lead to the Democrats holding the Senate in 2014 or even making advances in both bodies of Congress.

However, if Obamacare goes forward and things continue to get worse, and the Republicans win the Senate in 2014 (even if they don’t get over 2/3 of the seats there, which they almost certainly won’t), and Obama’s approval ratings drop into the cellar, then there’s a chance. The public might then get behind impeachment/conviction, and it’s theoretically possible (although exceedingly unlikely) that a Democrat or two might even come along.

That’s the only way it could happen, and I give it an infinitesimally small chance of coming about. But one thing is certain: now is most definitely not the time for impeachment. Ralph Waldo Emerson is reputed to have said, “When you strike at a king, you must kill him.” He was supposed to have been responding to a student “who told Emerson that he was writing an essay about, and presumably critical of, Plato.” Emerson wasn’t talking about literally killing Plato, who had been dead for quite some time. He was talking about knowing how to choose the right time and way to undermine a person regarded as a powerful man.

The same is true of impeaching Obama: don’t start unless you have the votes in the Senate to convict, and the support of the American people, or you will end up hurting yourself. Impeachment has legal trappings, but its essence is political. So whether Obama has committed an impeachable offense—and I submit that he has committed several—is not the final determination of whether impeachment would be a good idea.


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On the heels of the most sweeping midterm victory in 60 years, the House GOP “majority” couldn’t even defund Planned Parenthood. Impeachment? These people need to wear diapers every time they talk to the media. Can you imagine them trying to defend impeachment? Don’t make me laugh.

    betty in reply to raven. | January 19, 2014 at 11:36 am

    You sound as if you believe that the GOP are just your average cowards, I could forgive them if they were. No, think of the Chicago Combine when you think of the Washington DC politicians who you think are cowards, they are just acting out their roles at home while selling us out in Congress, democrats as much as republicans.

    It used to be easier for them to get away with it, but word spreads a lot faster for now. I bet they would give their right Obamaphone if they could smother the internet.

For impeachment to mean anything, and I don’t necessarily mean the removal of Mr. Obama, the House would have to avoid trivial charges and go straight to the legacy of the relationship between the POTUS and the Congress.

This means going after the “Imperial Presidency.”

The Republicans have to go after those facets of the current relationship that Democrats would hate when there is a Republican POTUS.

For a Senate of Democrats to institutionalize those facets of the relationship would be set a precedent that courts would cite for decades to come.

It would be just too distasteful to vote on a party line.

One of the best fictional commentaries on corrupt government, politics, and crime is the “the Wire.” In that series there was a folk-hero type, a Robin Hood-like figure named Omar. Omar stole from drug dealers with only the help of a couple close friends. He was smarter than the other criminals, and he didn’t fit their mold. He was gay. He respected certain rules, though not all rules. He only hurt those who were themselves preying on society. In any case, he said the same thing better than Emerson:

    platypus in reply to WTell. | January 19, 2014 at 2:48 pm

    Somebody needs to explain to me how the protagonist’s misuse of anal orifices is relevant to the storyline. Because I sure don’t see it (and don’t want to see it in the visual sense).

    It is this penchant of announcing sexual preferences which makes good deeds done by this little subgroup a little less shiny. Actually, a lot less shiny.

      WTell in reply to platypus. | January 19, 2014 at 10:46 pm

      Because this is part of his character being different and out of place in his community. It is extremely relevant in explaining that he doesn’t fit with the other criminals in his community. He is odd. But in spite of his crimes and in spite all of his oddities, and because of some of these oddities, he is clearly one of the most likable characters in the story. The audience is supposed to have sympathy for him even when we can’t understand him or truly empathize with him.

Charles Curran | January 19, 2014 at 11:49 am

Just look at last time a Rep house tried this.

Impeachment has lost its teeth. There’s no point to it any more. Those in DC have been able to remove themselves from accountability by having to “goods” on each other. Rat out one and the rat will get taken down by their own stuff too. Our gov it too corrupt and run by people who won’t rock the boat because they need to save their own skin.

I’ll go out on a limb and make the claim that we will never see a successful impeachment again, at least in our lifetime. Our system of checks and balances has disintegrated and no longer functions. Impeachment would never be about justice, but about politics. We have a President who has flouted our nation’s laws for five years now, without a peep from the MSM or other Democrats. What more could the man do?

If he shot and killed a kid, nobody would question his motives or actions. Oh, wait, he already did that via his reckless use of drones. Impeachment remains relevant and effective in reigning in criminal elected officials, but only to the extent that the players respect and submit to the rules.

Any talk of impeachment is instantly dismissed as partisan rhetoric, and “proven” to be so by the conspiracy theory du jour. It was designed as an avenue of last resort, which it should be. Unfortunately, that street is now closed.

An impeachment effort right now is futile. It would never succeed with this Senate.
All efforts right now should be focused on November. Keep the House, win the Senate, then impeach. There’s plenty “of fodder for impeachment.”

But we need a majority is needed, one with the decency to follow through.

Obama has violated his oath of office numerous times, including such things as illegally changing deadlines codified into law. Congress has a duty to impeach him and remove him from office.

This is one of the things wrong with America today: Too many people (politicians) calculating the politics (almost always badly) and not enough people (politicians) doing their duty.

The congress doesn’t need to impeach Obama, they need to neuter him. His agenda should be forcefully opposed and he should be marginalized until he slinks out of office.

“When you strike at a king, you must kill him.”


Oddly enough, the full implementation of Obamacare might be a prerequisite to the national frenzy a successful impeachment would require. The administration doesn’t have the political will to enforce the law they guard zealously.

I thought about this quite a bit this week as the 30 hour cliff was the subject of much discussion at work. Preparations were being made to ensure compliance if the the mandate is enforced in 2015. Thoughts of every part time employee being cut well under 30 hours and all the people directly hurt by that was pretty staggering.

Moreover, what point would there be in arguing the minimum wage should be raised when nearly all who make minimum wage work in positions that would be devastated by this arbitrary 30 hour cliff? Dems might create a groundswell of popular support for that position in an election year only to have to turn around and pull the trigger that would effectively leave these same people in a far worse position. Let’s be real, that’s how they roll on a normal basis. But would they actually then enforce that provision or would they delay as they have done with so many other features of this grotesque law?

Megan McArdle made this point in her excellent summation in a recent health care debate:

We’ve got the individual mandate. People aren’t going to pay it this year. They pay it in 2015. As each of those things comes due, there will be an outcry from people who are affected. And the administration has so far shown no willingness to stand up. Yes, you may have to break an omelet to make eggs, but the administration is not going to tell the eggs that, and the Republicans certainly aren’t going to make the eggs crack itself. So, if we are not willing to impose the pain, and so far we haven’t, this law cannot survive. It is set up as a giant piece of interlocking machinery. You can’t just rip the carburetor out and hope that it’s still working. That is why Obamacare is beyond rescue, because we are not willing to face the hard choices the law made necessary.

We are not willing to face the hard choices the law made necessary because with the enforcement of each provision the administration effectively places a pitchfork in the hands of another peasant. Bad things tend to happen when the peasants are armed with pitchforks; they may just strike at the king.

    rantbot in reply to Mary Sue. | January 19, 2014 at 1:29 pm

    Obamacare was an act of Congress. Miserable policy though it may be, it doesn’t constitute a “high crime or misdemeanor” by the President. He just signed it, and signing bills is not an impeachable offense.

    Impeachment is a process for the removal of alleged criminals from office so that they can be charged and tried as ordinary citizens. It is not a process for resolution of policy differences by other means, as von Clausewitz might have said were he an American.

      raven in reply to rantbot. | January 19, 2014 at 2:51 pm

      I think the reference to Obamacare is to the fact Obama unilaterally changed the law more than a dozen times — i.e., acting specifically and intentionally outside the Constitutional scope of his authority. Of course, that’s only one of the arguments for his impeachment.

    bour3 in reply to Mary Sue. | January 20, 2014 at 4:24 pm

    From omelets with self-cracking eggs that can hear to interlocking machinery with carburetors in one paragraph, this is why I love Megan.

Henry Hawkins | January 19, 2014 at 1:01 pm

Impeachment is far from dead – do not underestimate the ability of future presidents to achieve new lows of crokkery and ineptitude. Impeachment as a political tactic may be dead, and it ought to be.

The successful impeachment will come from the grassroots, demanded by the people with such vehemence that congress sees no other choice but to go forward with it.

    Henry Hawkins in reply to Henry Hawkins. | January 19, 2014 at 1:02 pm

    Crokkery is the new spelling for ‘crookery’. Please make a note of that.

    BierceAmbrose in reply to Henry Hawkins. | January 24, 2014 at 7:45 pm


    I think our esteemed host missed it claiming an infinitesimal chance, and only by picking off some dems.

    To me this administration is characterized by hubris, incompetence (in governing), and a thin-skinned self-righteousness. You can count on them to do anything they think they can get away with, and to think they can get away with much more than one might imagine.

    Seriously. I’m constantly surprised when they reach yet another level of unilateralism, obstruction or just plain snottiness, that I hadn’t thought possible. Then there’s always the apologists who in turn find another level of carrying water for a cause that no longer deserves it (if it ever did.)

    Whether it happens or not depends on whether the administration does something so egregious that their cheerleaders can feel OK abandoning their defense. There’s a good chance that this administration, based on the personalities and habits they’ve shown, will do that once freed of having to make at least a good show for the ’14 election.

    If it happens it’ll play out like this…

    – In the run up to the 2014 elections the Republicans will uncharacteristically avoid shooting themselves in the food, or interrupting their opponents while they are making mistakes. For once the R’s spinelessness will work for them. (50/50. Never count on the R’s to avoid self-destruction.)

    – The “do nothing” congress maintained after that election will pique the one who has run his last campaign. To do what must be done, he’ll have to act unilaterally. I can hear the speech already. “We had a chance to address this, but the bad, evil, are still in power and still intransigent. Therefore, I will…” He’s limiting his acting up now only to preserve some chance of having a more compliant congress next year, and some vestige of legacy with the Democratic party. If the House holds it’ll come out with the next policy fight. If the R’s take the Senate, it’ll be immediate. (100% the snotty will come out. 95% he’ll escalate the unilateralism.)

    – Hubris in full swing, they’ll launch a series of things so egregious they’ll swipe a bunch of their constituencies. (50/50 each quarter, after the election.) The stuff already in place will continue to swipe their constituencies. (50/50 of a new media storm each quarter.)

    – One or more agencies will get caught doing something totally mandarin-state, complete with a smoking gun leading to the White House or somebody they can’t get distance on. Holder. Sibelius. Jarrett. (50/50 before the ’16 election sucks up all the oxygen.)

    – This will at the last be enough to spark the growing grass roots outrage and disillusionment. When town hall meetings in the Chicago neighborhoods turn into “we’re being taken for granted” and “look to what they have done for us, and not” revivals, something’s afoot.

    I’m arguing there’s a good chance that absent the constraints of a ’14 election(*), they’ll do something so egregious that the first calls for impeachment will come from a Democrat, probably a Senator, who’s prerogatives have been encroached, and who’s constituency gored by some unilateral Presidential action.

    (*) ’16 isn’t like ’14, because failure there can be blamed on the democratic candidate – think “likeable enough” Hillary – and holds no legislative or legacy consequences for President Obama. ’14 results will be blamed on him. Even without progress in congressional seats, working with the party & lesser officials (to channel their mindset) helps their same-party support after the election. I speculate that D’s up for election in ’14 are asking the White House 1) don’t do anything stupid, 2) send money, 3) stay away.

MouseTheLuckyDog | January 19, 2014 at 1:45 pm

My first thought. Impeach Obama, and make Biden president?
Good God no.

    It’s not clear that Biden wouldn’t be a vast improvement.

    He’s stupid. He’s incompetent. In no way could he be mistaken for leadership material. All true.

    But he’s not intrinsically nasty or vindictive, or kneejerk anti-American. And there’s no sign that he shares The Won’s delusions of adequacy. Best of all, being an ordinary white guy, he’s not immune to all forms of criticism.

I want him impeached.

I’m tired of the navel contemplating, and the fear-mongering by media and politician pseudo-mavins who really don’t have any crystal balls.

I want this country to do the right thing, because it’s the right thing. Not the expedient thing. Not the safe thing. Elect a Republican Senate in November, and impeach the pr***.

MouseTheLuckyDog | January 19, 2014 at 2:05 pm

I don’t know that impeachment is something that you really want to consider at this point for Obama, barring some revelations that is.

There is however one person that we should be looking at removing. Eric Holder. I believe impeachment is a wahy to remove a sitting attorney general.

After that look at reinstating some form of special prosecutor law.
I know the last time it was badly abused, but look at modifications to curb those abuses. In this day and age we really need some way to form a truely independent investigation of civil servants.

For impeachment to mean something, laws have to mean something.

Consequences have to mean something.

I’ve seen enough to come to the conclusion that we are a lawless society. From a run-down, backwoods City Hall to the Ivory Towers in D.C.–same diff, only the scale is different.

I’ve said we are the most corrupt country in the world, and stand by it–for two reasons:

-Starting point.

A very young country on the world scale, our form of government and judicial system was the most honest, fair, and forthright the world have ever known from it’s inception.


As a society, we still have a romantic attachment to what was. The fact most Americans still believe we are a free society, our laws prevent injustices, and the Constitution is the Law of the Land makes us the most corrupt. Find me another country known for corruption that both citizens and government didn’t openly acknowledge the fact they lived in a corrupt society.

I might just be pessimistic. Then again, I might just be realistic.

I’d like to believe I’m just wrong.

I think the House should impeach with well-written tight articles of impeachment. If I’m right, that would be the end of it because Dingy Hairy would not authorize the Senate to sit as a jury in an impeachment trial.

A standoff. Yet the vote will have been taken in the House so the charges would be very much in play during the election season. As would charges of cowardice directed at the Senate donkeys.

The same people who voted for BO a second time are still around and still no brighter. And, of course, each of them wants to maintain their relative position of power whether as a food stamp/Obamaphone recipient or as a main stream media lap dog.

Obama gave them the wine now they must sing his songs.

Yet, impeachent will always be waiting in the wings for its own coup.

I would love to see Obama impeached. I can think of 5 or 6 instances in which he has broken both the law and his oath of office. That said, the only way that the American people can win with impeachment, is to have a significant number of Democrats on board. If it is a Republican movement only, then both the Party and the people will end up losing. Considering the lockstep nature and groupthink of the Democrat Party, the only way I see that happening is if, after a significant loss in the elections in ’14, the few sane people in the Party, finally decide they have had enough of Obama’s destructive and lawless nature, and decide to go after him.

It’s an even dumber idea than the shutdown because there would be no way to ever get it off the front page once begun.

There is NO WAY IN HELL the Democrats would let their First Black President be impeached and convicted. You think they play dirty now? It would be all-out thermonuclear war, to heck with the country and anything else in their effort to save him.

If we keep focusing on the failures of his policies and retake the Senate, we can marginalize him to the point even his EOs won’t matter much. History will eventually come to a final verdict on Obama, our objective should be to stop him from doing more harm, not some quixotic effort to unseat him now.

I think Nicky Machiavelli who said, “If you strike at the king….”