George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley, a frequent guest of Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow during the Bush years, described the situation in severe terms.
“I really have great trepidation over where we are headed,” Turley said. “We are creating a new system here. . . . The center of gravity is shifting, and that makes it unstable. Within that system you have a rise of an uber-presidency. There could be no greater danger for individual liberty. And I really think that the Framers would be horrified by that shift.”
The situation, Turley later said, is the “most serious constitutional crisis, I believe, in my lifetime.”
Then the dam burst altogether. Responding to a hypothetical from King about the president’s declaring war without Congress’s assent, Cannon raised the idea of revolution.
“I think what Mr. King was getting at is, there is one last thing to which the people can resort if the government does not respect the restraints the Constitution places on the government,” Cannon said. “Abraham Lincoln talked about the right to alter our government or our revolutionary right to overthrow it. And that is certainly something that no one wants to contemplate. But as I mentioned in my delivered testimony, if the people come to believe that the government is no longer constrained by the laws, then they will conclude that neither are they. That is why this is a very, very dangerous sort of thing for the president to do — to wantonly ignore the laws, to try to impose obligations on people that the legislature did not approve.”
“An excellent conclusion!” exclaimed King.
That said, in a phone interview, Cannon admitted he can’t think of “anything” Obama could do in the next three years that would lead to rebellion. He regrets even mentioning it, he said, because it allowed people to impute a “nutty idea” to him (that today’s circumstances are serious enough to prompt talk of violent overthrow of the government).
Nevertheless, the fact that the House Judiciary Committee is entertaining such dire discussion shows how wantonly the House GOP feels Obama has transgressed the law — and how eager they are for a way to stop him.
“I don’t think he’s pushed the legal envelope. I think he’s shredded the legal envelope,” says Representative Tom McClintock of California. One problem, McClintock laments, is that younger generations don’t seem to be very upset about it.
“Ultimately it will come down to whether the owners of the Constitution insist that it be enforced with the votes they cast at the ballot box. So far this generation has been rather lax,” he says.
Like most Republicans I speak with, McClintock says impeachment is not on the horizon. But the possibility does increasingly pop up in conversations with conservatives on and off Capitol Hill.