A handful of Republicans have mentioned the word “impeachment” lately, and, naturally, a lot of liberals have lined up to express their outrage.
In reference to Senator Tom Coburn’s suggestion Thursday that President Obama was “getting perilously close” to the standard for impeachment, former White House adviser David Axelrod said it was evidence of a “virus that has infected our politics.”
NBC’s David Gregory on Sunday asked Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal to respond to the “calls for impeachment this week that some have chalked up to racism” — were they an example of what former secretary of state Colin Powell described as the “dark vein of intolerance” within the GOP? (Jindal urged Republicans to reject any talk of the idea. “Let’s not talk about impeachment,” he said. “Let’s talk about policies we disagree with.”)
And, predictably, Chris Matthews warned that “a vocal chorus of Republicans” was calling for Obama to be impeached, part of a concerted effort to “delegitimize” the president. (Apparently, so is referring to him as “Obama.”)
So which Republicans, besides Coburn, constitute this “vocal chorus” of impeachment-mongers?
Well, there’s Representative Blake Farenthold of Texas, who earlier this month said the House “would probably get the votes” to impeach Obama if the issue were brought to the floor, but went on to argue against impeachment, saying the Democratic-controlled Senate would never convict the president.
And there’s Michigan representative Kerry Bentivolio, who told constituents it would be “a dream come true” for him to author a resolution to impeach the president. However, he too cautioned against the idea, citing a lack of solid legal evidence.
And don’t forget Senator Ted Cruz, one of Matthews’s favorite bogeymen, who was recently asked why Republican shouldn’t try to impeach Obama. “It’s a good question,” Cruz responded, before adding, “That’s not a fight we have a prospect of winning,” because Democrats control the Senate. Still, Matthews insisted, Cruz had unquestionably “offered his sympathy and implicit support” for the cause.
That’s it. Out of the nearly 280 Republican lawmakers conducting town halls during the August recess, the Left found four who discussed impeachment, none of whom advocated for it. But suddenly a “vocal chorus” is calling for impeachment; a “virus” has taken hold. Some Republican aides seemed surprised that more examples hadn’t turned up, saying it was not uncommon for a riled-up constituent to utter the I-word at town-hall meetings, although most members know better than to indulge such questions. In any event, the GOP has no appetite for seriously pursuing impeachment.
“No,” a House leadership aide said bluntly when asked if Republicans had devoted any resources to trying to remove Obama from office or were likely to. Had there been any serious conversations about impeachment within the conference? “Absolutely not.”
GOP Senate aides are equally dismissive. “I don’t think we’re headed in that direction,” one said. Others suggested the excessive media coverage was part of an orchestrated liberal campaign to smear Republicans with independent voters. “They go out and try to find the thing that would be most offensive to independent focus groups and they blow it up,” another aide said.
Appearing on Matthews’s show Thursday, former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell essentially admitted as much. “From the standpoint of a loyal Democrat, I love it,” he said, going on to explain that Democrats would exploit the impeachment talk when trying to oust GOP incumbents such as Representative Pat Meehan (Pa.), and regain control of the House.
“When we campaign against a good guy like Pat Meehan, from Delaware County, next time, we’re going to say ‘Pat Meehan’s okay, but he’s controlled by the Republican leadership and they’re controlled by these whackos, these divisive, hateful people who you don’t like, [and] the only way we can change it is to get rid of Republican control of the House,” he said.
Most liberals react to any discussion of impeachment as if it is somehow unique to this president, indicative of the GOP’s refusal to accept the legitimacy of a black president. The hysteria also betrays a short, or at least a selective memory — Democrats certainly never talked about impeaching George W. Bush, right?
They went much further than that. State Democratic parties in more than a dozen states passed resolutions calling for Bush’s impeachment. New Hampshire Democrats tried to do the same in the state legislature.
Beginning in 2005, Representative John Conyers (Mich.), then the ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee, led efforts to pursue impeachment that involved other Democratic lawmakers who are also still in office today, such as Keith Ellison (Minn.) and Jerry Nadler (N.Y.). Conyers also authored a 350-page report titled “The Constitution in Crisis: The Downing Street Minutes and Deception, Manipulation, Torture, Retribution, and Coverups in the Iraq War, and Illegal Domestic Surveillance,” which laid the groundwork for Bush’s impeachment in the event Democrats retook the House in 2006, which they did.
Representatives Dennis Kucinich (D., Ohio) and Robert Wexler (D., Fla.) actually introduced articles of impeachment in 2008, but never received a vote on the floor. The movement ultimately fizzled, to the dismay of many, not least groups such as ImpeachPAC, which had donated nearly $45,000 to Democrats in 2006.
It’s as if that never happened. A few Republicans answering questions from their constituents, on the other hand, is part of an alarming trend, the Left insists. Only it isn’t.
“I didn’t like it when the Left spent eight years trying to delegitimize President Bush, calling to question his election,” Jindal said on Meet the Press. “I don’t think we should be doing that to President Obama.”
There’s a “growing chorus,” all right, but it only comprises Democrats’ phony outrage.
— Andrew Stiles is a political reporter for National Review Online.