Not Again

Impeaching Obama May Be Absurd But That Won’t Stop the Right Wing Fringe

The recent talk of impeaching the president is sheer silliness, but that doesn’t mean it can’t become a litmus-test issue in the next election, writes Michael Tomasky.

It must be said: WorldNetDaily always delivers. Whenever the earth really starts to shake on the right-wing fringes, WND is there, gleefully placing a finger or two on the Richter scale. So when the “Impeach Obama!” story started gathering legs this week, it was to WND I flew, and sure enough, they had the goods. I report this to you as a public service, because I’d bet that for many of you, when you hear that the right wants to impeach the president, your first thought is: for what? While for those of you on the right, you think: Benghazi! But even you are wrong. The answer, perhaps inescapably: Obamacare. It’s the all-purpose evil. It won’t fly—obviously. But it, along with Sen. Tom Coburn’s recent weird comment, instructs us that we just need to settle in and live with this noise for the next three years.

The WND article (an “exclusive,” natch) “reports” on the findings of a book released yesterday by Aaron Klein and Brenda J. Elliott called, straightforwardly but unimaginatively, Impeachable Offenses: The Case to Remove Barack Obama From Office. Klein and Elliott exist in that sweaty and mephitic, yet highly profitable, corner of the swamp populated by people who write rumormongering books about Obama. Their earlier masterpiece is The Manchurian President. It made the New York Times bestseller list for several weeks, as have a few of Klein’s other works. Who said grime doesn’t pay?

The case is that Obamacare constitutes “taxation without representation.” But wait. Didn’t Congress, the people’s representatives, vote to pass it? Yes, it did. And wait again. Didn’t the Supreme Court—didn’t John Roberts himself—rule that Obamacare passes constitutional muster expressly because the mandate is in effect a tax? Yes, it and he did. So what’s the beef? Well, this is where the mainstream media have left you, citizen, in the lurch. The problem is that “the White House has been changing the law without involving Congress following the Supreme Court ruling and that multiple sections of the implementation of Obamacare are unconstitutional.”

I’m not going to get into the details, because they aren’t important or compelling. It’s all madness. Whenever laws pass, administration employees (and governmental employees, i.e., full-time civil servants who work for any administration) sit down and write up the implementation of those laws. This part of the process was never understood to need Congress’s input. Congress had its moment. If someone doesn’t like the way the regulations of a duly passed law are being written, they can always haul the matter back into court and hope to get a hearing again before the Supreme Court. I’m not an expert on how often this has happened in American history, but I know of almost no cases in which a major law has been upheld by the Supreme Court and then nullified in a subsequent challenge. McCain-Feingold. But this is not a regular feature of our democratic life. And if that’s not, then impeaching and convicting a president while the law is still law surely isn’t!

I sometimes wonder if people like Klein are just hustling the rubes, as they say. But I guess he’s devoted far too many man-hours to the walking evil that is Barack Obama not to believe. Of others, I’m not so sure.

Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn made headlines a few days by saying that Obama is “perilously close” to meeting criteria for impeachment. But again, for what? If you read the original Tulsa World dispatch, Coburn never mentions any specific, hard charge. He was really appearing before this crowd to push his idea of a convention to amend the Constitution. That is a nutty idea in and of itself, but he appears to have thrown the impeachment business in there just to calm the natives.

Nevertheless, when a sitting senator uses the I word, especially one known to insiders to have had a decent personal relationship with Obama when both were senators, eyebrows arch skyward. Over time, you’re going to get other senators and certainly more House members talking like this. It’s going to seep, or creep, into more news cycles. The fact that no grounds exist outside the mad, mad world of Aaron Klein will, I hope, serve as something of a firewall against the talk getting too serious.

But that doesn’t mean it won’t become a new right-wing litmus test. Can we see that—senators up for reelection next year facing primary challenges because they refuse to avow that they will, if handed counts of impeachment by the House, vote to remove Obama from office? And if they refuse to so avow, suddenly finding themselves with a challenge from the right?

And if they do so avow—well, the worst scenario is as follows. The Republicans keep the House. They take control of the Senate. Eighteen, to grab a not implausible number out of the air, Republican senators have now agreed that, yes, they will convict Obama of high crimes. Then the Tea Party wrests commitments out of the GOP senators who’ll be up for reelection in 2016. And who knows then? The House, they’re crazy enough to do anything along these lines. Especially if the efforts to defund Obamacare fail, as I and most people think they will—a case in which the right will face more pressure from its extreme base to do something.

There’s only one way for Democrats to stop it. Vote next year. Don’t repeat 2010, when only angry Republicans voted. If the Republicans don’t take the Senate, impeachment talk might stop. But if they do, even if they can’t pull it off, they’ll be able to waste an awful lot of the nation’s time failing.