The Corner

Dubious Assumption: Impeachment Talk Is Good For Obama

Thanks to Faithless Execution, I am in some quarters being credited (or blamed, depending on one’s perspective) for the impeachment talk – notwithstanding that my book argues against the filing of articles of impeachment in the absence of public support for the president’s removal and urges, instead, that our political theme ought to be Obama’s lawlessness and how it threatens our governing framework.

On the homepage today, I have a column about the impeachment chatter. (Jonah and Dr. K have weighed in on the dread I-word, too.) The column covers a number of points; the one I want to underscore here is the administration’s strange assumption – which, unfortunately, Republicans and the media appear to have joined Democrats in buying into – that impeachment talk is good politically for Obama. My column offers two counter-arguments on that notion. First, most of Obama’s important strategic assumptions, like most of his policies, have been wrong, so why should we assume he’s right about this:

Obama’s approval rating has taken a dive largely because he and his brain trust have repeatedly made flawed assumptions about public sentiment. They thought making children the face of their ruinous immigration policies would make those policies popular — and they have been surprised at the welter of protest. They thought health-insurance subsidies would be so popular governors could be extorted into establishing the state health-care exchanges needed to make Obamacare work — and they have been surprised by the 36 states that said “no,” and by the D.C. Circuit Court ruling that may lead to Obamacare’s collapse. They thought cries for accountability on the Benghazi massacre, the IRS scandal, the VA scandal, and Fast and Furious would by now have faded — and they are surprised to find themselves facing a Benghazi select committee, other congressional committees continuing to uncover evidence of wrongdoing and obstruction, and judges who are now demanding answers. They thought the uproar over executive lawlessness could be marginalized as partisan carping by the “extreme” Right — and they are surprised to find progressive law professors describing Obama as the uber president” Richard Nixon only dreamed of being.

Republicans should stop taking their cues from the president’s vastly overrated political intuition.

Second, Republicans who argue that impeaching and removing Obama is a pipe-dream are wrong to deduce from this correct premise that talking about impeachment is crazy and therefore good for Obama. To grasp the flaw in this deduction we need to consider why impeachment is a pipe-dream. It is not because claims of Obama’s rampant lawlessness are manufactured – they are very real. It is because Democrats would never vote to remove Obama, no matter how much damage he does:

Talk of impeachment from his opponents could be a winning issue only for a president as to whom it was palpably a crazy idea. In Obama’s case, it most certainly is not. True, it might be “crazy” to suggest that Democrats might stop defending the president’s lawlessness at some point; but Obama’s refusal to execute the laws faithfully is not in doubt. Only the same skewed thinking that has gotten Obama into the mess he’s in could now convince him that even more rampant presidential lawlessness will make the broad middle of the country sympathetic toward him….

The president’s problem is that impeachment talk has not arisen in a vacuum or been confined to the tea-party fever swamp of his imagination. It has been catalyzed by his flagrant violations of law and derelictions of duty. Disquiet has descended on a society that sees the rule of law devolving into executive caprice. On the world stage, it has become dangerous to be America’s ally — better to be Putin, Hamas, or the Taliban. There is a widening public recognition that the president’s vow to “fundamentally transform the United States of America” was not just campaign rhetoric. He really meant it.

Moreover, the public senses that impeachment is not, as in the Clinton days, being pressed by partisans heedless of public opinion. It is being considered — with patent reluctance — by an increasing number of concerned Americans who are offended by Obama’s aggressive lawlessness and have run out of other ideas for stopping it.

Charles’s comments on Special Report get to this crux of the matter. Obama is outrageously lawless to a degree that could be impeachment-worthy, but filing articles of impeachment would be a kamikaze mission because Democrats are content with their lawless president. Impeachment becomes a political loser for Republicans only if they go on the kamikaze mission — if they try to file articles of impeachment in the absence of sufficient public support and with the prospect of certain defeat in the Senate. But if impeachment is raised, as Charles discussed it, for the purpose of emphasizing how serious is the lawlessness that Obama is committing and Democrats are defending, how on earth would that help Obama or hurt Republicans?

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