Time to be Pelosiesque.

Impeachment Idiocy's Republican Enablers

Jonathan Bernstein is a Bloomberg View columnist. He taught political science at the University of Texas at San Antonio and DePauw University and wrote A Plain Blog About Politics.
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Even if the claims that Democrats invented the whole idea that Republicans want to impeach President Barack Obama are false, it’s certainly true that Democrats have been aggressively exploiting the impeachment threat. Nate Silver documents the numbers: MSNBC has mentioned impeachment more than four times as often as Fox News, and Democrats are bragging about raising money on the impeachment scare.

Actual impeachment remains a longshot, whatever Democrats and the Democratic-aligned press claim. Impossible? Alas, no. But we’re not anywhere close to where we were in 1998, and the clock is ticking: If impeachment doesn’t move forward in the next 12 months, it’s not going to happen, probably even if there’s a sudden scandal.

Yet I can’t blame the Democrats for getting as much mileage from it as they can. After all, we’re talking about a Republican Party that:

  • Constantly uses over-the-top rhetoric. And not just talk-show hosts. This also applies to the congressional leadership -- about fluff such as, say, “czars.” Or, yes, Benghazi, the non-scandal that has Republicans gearing up a special committee that they will try to keep going as long as possible.
  • Moved forward today, on the House floor, with an irresponsible lawsuit against the president.
  • Has shut down the government and gone to the brink of default, demonstrating a willingness to take ill-considered extreme actions.
  • Actually committed the partisan impeachment of the previous Democratic president.
  • And cannot produce a flat-out Pelosiesque statement that impeachment isn't going to happen (during her tenure as speaker. Nancy Pelosi shot down Democrats who suggested action against President George W. Bush). Although outside of the formal House leadership, Paul Ryan is at least getting closer.

Republicans can’t do anything about 1998 other than to try to remember that short-term plays to their strongest supporters can have long-lasting consequences with everybody else. They can, however, do something now: they could drop the lawsuit, make it absolutely clear impeachment is for nuts and kooks, and stop pretending that Obama is the first president to ever issue an executive order or use discretion in interpreting the law.

Do those things, and I’ll be ready to bash Democrats who, at that point, would be pulling things from the fringes and attempting to pass them off as part of the Republican mainstream. But if House Speaker John Boehner and other Republican leaders continue to try to fudge it, then they’re getting exactly what they deserve.

  1. That doesn’t mean Obama has colored inside the lines in all instances. Like all modern presidents, he has pushed the boundaries, and Congress is entitled to use its legislative and oversight powers to push back. However, the idea that Obama is a tyrant who is somehow unique in his use of the presidency is just plain nonsense.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

To contact the author on this story:
Jonathan Bernstein at jbernstein62@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor on this story:
Max Berley at mberley@bloomberg.net