Postmodern Conservative

The Case for Formally Threatening Obama with Impeachment Right Now

In what follows, I will be making the case for the current Republican members of Congress, and all new Republican candidates running for House election to sign, ASAP, a pledge to this effect:

“We the undersigned promise the American People, that we will initiate impeachment proceedings against President Barack Obama if he either a) commits three more violations, no matter how minor in practical effect, of the take-care clause and/or presentment clause of the Constitution, or if he b) commits one such violation that has the effect of providing amnesty to more than 100,000 illegal immigrants. 

This promise is totally independent from whatever occurs with the lawsuit.  Nor does it rule out or promise impeachment for other reasons, such as impeding investigations of current or future scandals.  This promise does not apply to just any independent executive actions, regardless of controversy about their being constitutional, but only to the kind indicated.  While this pledge could be used to judge how we actually vote on the final House decision on impeachment if such occurs, it does not pre-determine that vote:  each of us would certainly weigh all House debate and all input from our particular districts concerning that vote.”

A good brief argument against doing anything like this is found in Newt Gingrich’s remarks the other day

A solid case for undertaking some kind of future impeachment against Obama, once public opinion has been made ready for it, was made yesterday by Andrew McCarthy.  I am in broad agreement with Andrew, and particularly with his condemnation of the confusing lawsuit path, but note that the case I am making here would judge Andrew’s timetable as too slow and vague.  My case is that some commitment-to-impeach statement has to occur before the election, and some definite warning-shot has to be fired in response to Obama’s trial-balloon/threat this last weekend to unilaterally amnesty several millions. 

I also part ways with McCarthy when he assumes that because we know that any impeachment will die in the Senate, we know that Obama will be able to convincingly sell that as a vindication of his actions.  I rather think that, unless we drag out the threat forever, the consequence of becoming one of only three presidents to be impeached by the House remains one that Obama would strongly prefer to avoid.  But here’s what McCarthy warns about a Sarah Palin-style impeach-Obama-now stand:

But because public support has not yet been built, Obama’s certain win in the Senate would be spun by the administration and the media as an endorsement of his lawlessness. Inadvertently, those calling for immediate impeachment would end up encouraging more executive overreach — exactly the opposite of what they’re trying to do.

I certainly agree with McCarthy’s broad point about building up public support.  But we don’t necessarily get to choose the timing for how that occurs, as again, the November elections, and Obama’s threatened Big Amnesty action demand that Republican reps indicate what they will do now.

If Republicans who have been largely silent about impeachment, or vocal in calling its prospect a Democratic fundraising bogeyman, suddenly say they’re willing to vote on it after the election, that is going to rightly anger a lot of their constituents.  Nor would dragging out an exhibition of a purported change of heart over a few months help.  As I argued in a previous post (scroll below), they must not promise, or even seem to promise, that they will not seek impeachment, because the fact is Obama might take new actions that forces them to seek it.  So my advice is: don’t try to outwit your own constituents—be candid with them and at the least say, “Yes, if Obama continues these sorts of actions, I will favorably consider impeaching him.” 

By pledging oneself to impeach after three instances of a specified type of action, one tells one’s constituents, and the President, what to expect, while not forswearing other possibilities.  And one focuses the public debate not on political advantage, not on the prospect of removing the “hated” Obama (truth is, little appalls us more than the prospect of President Biden), but on what Andrew rightly says the debate should focus upon:  the increasing number of constitutional violations.  We’re not talking impeachment because we can’t stand Obama, we’re doing it for the sake of future Democratic leadership patterns, and to remove the temptation of such unilateral executive action from future Republican presidents as well. 

This is, you know, a full-on constitutional crisis.

If what Obama is doing and threatening to do is allowed to stand unanswered, separation of powers is essentially over.  Back in January, a cheeky Weekly Standard reporter showed that neither my Senator Tim Kaine, nor Senators Blumenthal and Casey, could answer a question about whether there was any part of the Obamacare law that the president couldn’t suspend.  Make no mistake about what that revealed:  a future Democratic president could just drop 400 more pages of regulations into the text of the Obamacare law, and a future Republican president could simply refuse to enforce the entire thing, and these Senators would have no opinion about whether such was constitutional.  There is no difference in principle between those Senators refusing to answer the question posed to them, and their allowing a future president to take such actions.

They likely knew that Obama had encroached upon their legislative power, but they figured, “Well, anything to finesse the problems with Obamacare.  Just stay mum about what you think and things will move on.”  But now, Obama wants more.  And what’s to stop the next Democratic president, from wanting just as many exceptions to the rule as Obama got? Or more?   And how many more exceptions will Obama expect to be granted him?  He’ll have two more full years. 

That is, it’s looking like the future incontestable refutation of Federalist #51 will boil down to one word:  2014. 

So consider what happens if Obama does the Big Amnesty by executive order, and prior to the election.  We will have a naked violation of a fundamental principle of the Constitution, despotically “settling” a long-standing matter of legislative debate in our politics.  We will have a Republican Party and conservative movement on record, from Boehner’s lame lawsuit, to editorials from Jonah Goldberg, Newt Gingrich, Charles Krauthammer, forswearing impeachment of Obama even though he deserves it, because of their theory about the November election.  We will have Drudge Report conservatives in border states, some already engaged in citizen actions to oppose federal efforts to emergency-house the current Obama-provoked influx of illegals, with not a few of these conservatives being gun-enthusiasts, and with not a few of them convinced that the amnestied millions will forever vote Dem, thereby locking that majority in for good.  There will be spontaneous protest situations (“Come quickly—reports indicate the feds are moving the illegals over here!”) in which groups like La Raza will also be sending their hot-heads to oppose the “racist hate” of the pro-border-security protestors, and in which certain local and federal officers, who might find themselves already embroiled in jurisdiction clashes with one another, might take it upon themselves to violate some of their orders, since the President is violating his.  What could possibly go wrong? 

That is, the Republican party has a responsibility to keep its base from plunging into despair, despair that could in certain circumstances result in serious violence.  They have to, like Andrew says, but I say even more so than he, show their base that the option of impeachment remains very much on the table. 

For what can one make of an adult who cries “Wolf!” repeatedly, but who never goes to get his gun?  Who even denounces those who go to get theirs?  What can one make of a representative who cries “Unconstitutional!” repeatedly but who never goes on to threaten impeachment?  Is Boehner serious?  A lawsuit of confusing and questionable standing, that might not get resolved until two years later? 

Is Gingrich serious?  He recommends, if Obama dares to do Big Amnesty, a resolution condemning the action.  What!?  An impeachment that we know won’t result in removal anyhow (given the two-thirds of the Senate needed to convict) and thus which would amount to a formal reprimand placed on the historical record, is to be avoided at all costs, indeed we’d better not even threaten it nor talk about it due to the politics, but, a resolution that does the basically same thing in a weaker way, is somehow, a moderate course?  Oh, the MSM will let us off the haters wanna impeach Obama angle if we just don’t use the I-word?  “All we said was resolution!”  “All we said was lawsuit!”  “How dare you say that we said that…” 

No, no, no, NO!  Enough of these childish word-games! If you’re going to accuse our president of “repeated unconstitutional executive actions,” then be adult enough to call for the remedy provided for that by the Constitution itself.  “Let your yes be yes, and your no be no.”  Give the public a clear choice, be candid with them, and let the chips fall where they may. 

Look, nearly every thoughtful conservative already thinks Obama deserves impeachment.  (Tip for gotcha journalists interviewing conservative leaders:  just ask that—“Does Obama deserve impeachment?”–it’s likely your target will either say “yes,” or will squirmingly lie in some way obvious to the camera.)  For those of you who have refused to think about this, I did show why Obama deserves it last December, in a First Things Postmodern Conservative post, “Kevin Williamson on Obama’s Impeach-worthiness,” with a little unsolicited help from that NRO star.

That was the second post in a four-part series.  Now as I said in my first post then, “Why We Must Talk about Impeaching Obama,” (which, do note, anticipated and answered many of the objections that will likely be made to this post), the fact that Obama deserves impeachment does not automatically mean he should be impeached now. Nor anytime during his term. In Federalist #65 Hamilton says that the offenses for impeachment will have a partly political character—that means, for one thing, that a party’s calculation about whether they will electorally be punished for initiating impeachment is an expected part of the whole procedure. 

In the third part of the series, “Federalist No. 65 on Impeachment,” I showed that there is no textual barrier, either in the Constitution or in The Federalist,  to impeaching Obama.  He has already committed the sorts of “high crimes and misdemeanors” that impeachment was designed to check.  The final part was “Three General Reasons Why Obama Deserves Impeachment.” 

I might add here some of my credentials besides my December blogging.  I am a currently independent scholar of political science (PhD., Fordham) who has taught constitutional law several times, who taught a seminar devoted solely to The Federalist Papers at Christopher Newport University last year, and who recently published a major, and in some ways a rather progressive-friendly essay, “The Five Conceptions of Liberty,” in the “reform-conservatism” journal National Affairs.  I have also taught at The University of Virginia, Hampden-Sydney College, and Skidmore College.  I know a few things.

Now, take care, for I could be wrong.  I’ve written the above with some passion, but it remains a Case. 

For it could be that pros like Boehner and Gingrich have seen recent polling and focus-group test results which really show that threatening to impeach Obama in the way I’ve described above is a political loser.  But if so, they need to release that data. We need to see polls with very carefully-worded questions, and not dumb for-impeachment-or-not ones, showing that the public is presently very against such ultimatums.  And, we need to see similar polls a good month or so after we’ve felt there’s been more fulsome debate about the topic in the media. 

Andrew at one point asks, “what if it isn’t true” that “the politics of impeachment are bad for Republicans?”  All the Dems, most the media, and most the Republican leaders assume that it is.  But, do we, er…know this?  Well, we sure can’t know what the public thinks about an issue that our own leaders refuse to prod them to think about.  Might it not be important in the midst of a constitutional crisis to know more clearly what it thinks?  We’ve got a mere three months before the election, so I say we’ve got to acquaint the public with the conversation now.  That can only happen if something concrete, like the pledge I am arguing for, forces the MSM to truly cover the issue.

I tried to warn against this anti-democratic and self-defeating fear of the “I-word” back in December, but to no avail.  And now, just as the hour gets nearly too late for Republicans to respond in a way that could allow clear public opinion, one way or the other, to develop in time, Obama and the Dems unleash what looks like a coordinated campaign to repeatedly dangle the word before the public’s eye.  I told you!  Our leaders, bless ‘em, still seem to think we don’t have to talk about this, that our whiny and at heart dishonest response can be:  we aren’t the ones talking about this.  By that tactic, the Dems get everything they want: the Horror of the I-Word is paraded before the public, but the public gets no discussion of the thing itself and the reasons for it.

And for two years, every threat to impeach issued against further violations will be met with “you said you wouldn’t seek impeachment!”  In the endless back-and-forth, and in the complicated kvetching about the lawsuit also, the public will likely turn away from the debate in across-the-board disgust with both parties.

The threat-pledge I call for acknowledges that the public isn’t ready.  In spirit it says to the public,  “We know you don’t want this.  That’s why we’re giving this as a warning, and thus allowing Obama two more violations, each of which we would feel, if they occur, to be an abominable breach of the Constitution.  We know it shocks you, but most of us think Obama already merits impeachment.  We’re only holding back from acting on that conviction because we know how it would pain you, and because we’re scared about certain seats in the election.  But if he keeps doing these violations, the situation can’t continue without our becoming utter hypocrites.  So, we’re letting you know openly what we intend to do.  Things have become too serious not to.  Come, let us candidly discuss with you why we, and nearly half of your fellow citizens, think this way.”  

You know what?   The case convinces me.  I’m beyond being a devil’s advocate now.  And I will need to see particularly good opinion data to think otherwise.  So again, here’s what I demand:  Republican representatives and candidates, make a Contract with America-like pledge to impeach Obama if he dares to commit three more violations, or one big one, and do it now. 

What do you think?  Or, who is with me?

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