Let’s assume most of the Republican House representatives heed the advice of Newt Gingrich, Charles Krauthammer, etc., and refuse to impeach Barack Obama. And even refuse to threaten to impeach him. Even if he actually does this rumored big amnesty order that Yuval Levin says “could well be the most extreme act of executive overreach ever attempted by an American president in peacetime.”
The primary rationale behind the advice is that an impeachment threat gives Democrats a much better shot at holding on to the Senate. Let’s assume for the moment that that it is correct. (Indeed, it probably is.) So, the Republicans follow that advice and they hold the House, and gain the Senate by the likely narrow margin.
What if on the Friday afternoon following the election, Obama does the big amnesty order?
And assume that his minions stirred the rumors that a big amnesty order was imminent from August through election day, for the purpose of baiting impeachment. That would mean Republican candidates for the House would have constantly been asked variations of this simplistic question: “Do you support impeaching the President?” And we have to assume most of them, listening to the likes of Gingrich and Krauthammer, would have denied that they support it, some claiming this to be a false issue concocted by desperate Democrats.
Each and every one of them, if they then sought to impeach Obama following a November amnesty order, would be wide open to the charge of lying to their constituents. The 2016 ads write themselves: “He promised us wouldn’t join his parties’ immigrant-hating extremists in impeaching Obama” — cut to close-ups of livid faces of shouting anti-Obama protestors — “so why should we listen to anything he promises us now?”
Try another scenario. What if Obama were to do the amnesty order well before the election, say, next week? The Republican candidates, also in this scenario listening to the advice of the political pros, refuse to take the bait, deny to one and all they will seek impeachment, and instead continue with the present plans to sue. Now let’s say that a week after the election Obama then does another extra-egregious violation of the Constitution, whether in the area of immigration or not. Assuming the House has remained in Republican hands, how will the representatives feel about not initiating impeachment proceedings then? Well, let’s say they don’t, and Obama commits another such violation in December. And another in January. And if they finally find the courage to impeach him then, how effectual will it feel? In every scenario, there is no possibility of Obama’s conviction in the Senate but only the consequence of going on record as one of only three presidents to be impeached. I think that is a serious consequence — but in this scenario the belated application of it to repeated offenses might well seem arbitrary to the public. Moreover, the Republicans would still face the charge of lying to their constituents about opposing impeachment.
These hypothetical scenarios, which merely assume Obama cares little about the Constitution and is game enough to raise the stakes whenever he calculates advantage, might suggest that the advice given by nearly the entire conservative establishment not to pursue a threat to impeach Obama now is less wise than it seems. I expect to explore that suggestion further in another post.
But for now, one obvious takeaway. Republican representatives and candidates, do not let the media trap you into saying that you “are against impeachment.” For please notice, saying that implies that you will be against it regardless of what Obama does. Saying you are “against impeachment at the present time” is fine, but don’t promise your constituents that you will always be so.