Well, now. Finally, a voice of reason on the Republican side. “Slow down,” the voice of reason counsels his more het-up colleagues. If Hillary Clinton wins, let’s not start screaming for impeachment right from jump street. Merely dropping the I-word, he says, “is usually a fairly reckless thing.”
Was it Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk, one of the last moderate Republicans in Washington? Kelly Ayotte, trying to hang on in blue(ish) New Hampshire? Some poor old hobbled ghost of Bob Michel or John Heinz?
None of the above. It’s Darrell Issa. The Darrell Issa who, as chairman of the House Oversight Committee, spent years trying to impeach Barack Obama. Who wasted who knows how many millions of taxpayer dollars investigating Benghazi, because back in 2012-2013, before Benghazi was the torpedo that was going to sink battleship Hillary, it was supposed to do the same to Obama. On Fast and Furious, which was likewise supposed to lead to Obama’s downfall. And the famous old IRS “scandal,” which was another in a long line of classic GOP Soviet-style “gee, these three particular facts can be strung together in such a way as to make this look really bad” pseudo-scandals.
That Darrell Issa. The one who said in spring 2010 that an alleged White House effort to play politics in a Pennsylvania Senate primary was a crime and “could be impeachable,” citing as one of his authorities Dick Morris, no less. That fall, Issa sought to reassure the nation that he’d tamp down impeachment talk if his party won the by-elections and he became chairman, which he of course did.
And it is true that he didn’t ultimately try to impeach Obama, but that was mostly because there was—yes, conservative readers—absolutely nothing to impeach Obama over. He still wasted the aforementioned taxpayer money on conspiracy after conspiracy. He became an embarrassment to his own party, which was why John Boehner gave the special Benghazi committee to Trey Gowdy, a move that infuriated Issa to the extent that Issa pulled the stunt of trying to crash Sidney Blumenthal’s deposition (Gowdy escorted him out).
So now Issa is saying hey, friends, let’s calm down here. He’s even had the audacity to use Obama in his ads now, praising Potus for his tireless efforts on behalf of victims of sexual assault. Issa’s locked in a close race against Democratic challenger Doug Applegate, in a district that Clinton is likely to carry.
It’s lovely to see Republicans having nice words for Obama. Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey is doing it too. It’s no mystery why. Obama is popular in their districts/states. Issa’s misery is compounded by the fact that he endorsed Donald Trump back in May, probably before he imagined he’d have a tough race. That was also when Obama’s approval numbers were just treading water nationally.
Now, guess what? Few seem to have noticed, but Monday, the last day before the election, Obama’s approval numbers hit a high-water mark—56 percent approve, 41 disapprove. He hasn’t been at 56 since January 2013 in Gallup’s daily tracking.
So Issa and Toomey are grasping at Obama’s coattails. I hope they—and if not they, at least you—appreciate the irony, because they are both representative in their ways of what’s happened to the Republican Party and how it came to be the Party of Trump.
Probably the only thing you know about Toomey these days, the thing they say in shorthand on cable news or NPR, is that he’s a basically conservative Republican, but one who had the courage to fight the National Rifle Association by teaming with Senate Democrat Joe Manchin on background-check legislation. And he did. But I bet you’ve forgotten that between his House service (which ended in a 2004 primary loss) and his Senate term (which started in 2010), he was president of the hard-right Club for Growth at exactly the time when it was helping to steer the Republican ship into the radical-right rocks. Under him, the Club backed Social Security privatization, an epic fail for Dubya.
Further, in the election cycles that Toomey oversaw, the Club honed the art of supporting right-wing insurgents in primary after primary on the Republican side. One that got national attention was an upstate New York congressional race where the Club (and others) threw tons of money behind conservative Doug Hoffman against the more mainstream Republican Dede Scozzafava. She was attacked relentlessly, but she got her revenge by dropping out of the three-way race (Hoffman was running on a third-party line) shortly before the vote, thus tossing the seat to the Democrat. Stop and think for a minute about how infuriated she had to be to do that.
So Toomey, guns aside, has been a key player, in fact one of the handful of very central actors, given the prominence of the Club in the constellation of conservative pressure groups, in turning the GOP into a whacko party. And Issa, with his investigations into nothing that always went nowhere but were designed only to throw red meat at the Obama haters, has likewise been a cog in the whackification machine.
On Election Day, we all look first at the presidency, but obviously the Senate is of prime importance. And although recapturing the House is a long shot for Democrats, a pickup of 15 or 20 seats, which gets them at least halfway there, is not out of the question at all.
Clinton and her top surrogates have been campaigning with these thoughts in mind. When Obama went to Ann Arbor the other day, some liberals panicked: What? Michigan is in play? Well, maybe. But here’s another consideration. In the general Ann Arbor neck of the woods, there are two House seats currently held by Republicans that are gettable. So part of the Clinton-Obama agenda was to gin up turnout for those Democratic candidates.
Likewise the emphasis on Pennsylvania Monday, with stops in Pittsburgh and Philly. On cable TV, it was all, “Wow, is Clinton is trouble there??” In real life, it’s much more likely that those stops were as much about finishing off Toomey and electing Democrat Katie McGinty.
Issa and Toomey. There are crazier Republicans, I suppose. But just for the hypocrisy of trying to import Obama into their races, they deserve a loss tonight more than a lot of the others.