Politics & Policy

Exploiting the I-Word

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Far more than the GOP, it’s the Democrats who love talking about impeachment.

‘Sorry to email you late on a Friday, but I need your urgent support,” Nancy Pelosi wrote me.

The House minority leader went on to explain that “for the first time in history, Congress voted to sue a sitting president.” And, “Today: the White House alerted us that they believe ‘Speaker Boehner . . . has opened the door to impeachment.’

“What Republicans are doing to President Obama is historic — and offensive,” she wrote. And then, in a bright bold red text that can’t be done justice in black and white, she chided me, “With everything happening right now, I’m a little disappointed to see that you haven’t had a chance to chip in to defend President Obama.

“Jonah — we could use your support today.”

Nancy (apparently we’re on a first-name basis) went on to promise that ALL GIFTS ARE TRIPLE MATCHED!

This was only one of a bushel of such e-mails from the Democratic party. I particularly like the ones from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee referring to the “red alert impeachment deadline,” complete with a scoreboard slowly ticking upward toward $2 million. “We now have a shot at hitting our $2,000,000 goal to defend the President — and defeat Boehner’s Republican House.”

No doubt as karmic payback for grave sins I committed in a past life, I am on all of the Democratic fundraising lists. In terms of whipped-up urgency aimed at low-information voters, there’s nothing special about these importuning missives. I can’t count how many times I’ve been told that if I don’t chip in $5 — right now! — the Koch brothers will throw another puppy into the furnace of their land-raping dynamo.

But what is interesting about these e-mails is the transparent glee. Far more than Republicans, Democrats love talking about impeachment. Not just Pelosi and the DCCC, but White House spokesman Josh Earnest, Obama adviser Dan Pfeiffer, and first lady Michelle Obama all chummed the waters with the I-word, igniting a frenzy among reporters who pretend that this is a real thing.

Ostensibly the hook for all of this is John Boehner’s decision to sue Obama for abusing presidential authority. Pfeiffer said Friday that the suit “opened the door to impeachment.” But pretty much everyone in Washington knows that the political motivation for the lawsuit is to close, not open, those doors.

The president constantly talks about the evils of cynicism as if denouncing the alleged dishonesty of others demonstrates his own honesty. In 2008, he said cynicism was his real opponent. Last week at an L.A. fundraiser, he returned to the theme, calling Republicans liars and bamboozlers.

The cynicism of Obama’s war on cynicism is breathtaking. He’s wasted so much of his presidency demonizing political opponents as deranged radicals who need to shut up and get in line. Even now he is thumping the podium about “economic patriotism,” as if loyalty to his views on taxation is the only proof of 100 percent Americanism.

Last fall, Obama did nearly everything he could to be thrown into the briar patch of a government shutdown in order to denounce the Republicans for shutting down the government. When it went into effect, the administration endeavored to make the shutdown as painful as possible — a replay of a similar scheme with the sequester — so he could arouse the public against his political foes.

Given Obama’s famously low regard for the Clinton presidency, it’s ironic that he keeps stealing from its playbook. Bill Clinton benefited from a government shutdown and impeachment and from the general perception that his enemies were worse than his sins. The difference is that while Clinton was hardly immune to the charge of cynicism, he wasn’t trying to shut down the government or get impeached for narrow political advantage.

Now Obama is reportedly considering a unilateral amnesty of millions of immigrants here illegally, knowing full well it will spark a fierce political backlash and heighten impeachment talk. No doubt he thinks it’s the right thing to do on the merits, with his famous pen and phone. What’s less clear is if the merits are his top priority.

— Jonah Goldberg is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and editor-at-large of National Review Online. You can write to him by e-mail at goldbergcolumn@gmail.com, or via Twitter @JonahNRO. © 2014 Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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