The Political Benefits Of Talking Impeachment

Steve Benen writes:

It's too soon to know if Republicans will re-take the House majority, but it's probably a good time to consider the consequences of a GOP majority. The obvious outcome is gridlock, with Republicans passing right-wing legislation, which would either be blocked by the Senate or vetoed at the White House. [. . .] But Jonathan Bernstein argues that we can also expect a GOP majority to at least try to impeach President Obama.


[. . .] With the base and at least one GOP lawmaker already talking about this, it seems more than fair to ask Republican candidates to go on the record on this. Throughout 2006, when Republicans realized that Democrats had a very good shot at reclaiming the congressional majority, one of the single most common GOP attacks before the elections was that Dems would try to impeach Bush and/or Cheney if they were in the majority. [. . .] The talk was so common that Democratic leaders, much to the chagrin for the party's base, declared unequivocally before the election that impeachment was "off the table." [. . .] So, are Republicans prepared to also take impeachment off the table in advance of these midterm elections? There's no reason for the GOP to avoid the question -- they're the ones who brought it up.

This is good political thinking by Benen. Put the GOP in the position of having to either alienate their base or the rest of the electorate. Dems should ask the question - does the GOP want to impeach Obama?

Speaking for me only

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    Oh my Gawd (5.00 / 2) (#9)
    by MO Blue on Fri May 28, 2010 at 11:17:20 AM EST
    No matter how disappointed Dem voters are with the policies of a Democratic WH and Congress, they better rush to the polls in November or the Republicans will impeach the president. Might work better than protect Roe v Wade.

    Maybe that's the plan (none / 0) (#11)
    by jbindc on Fri May 28, 2010 at 11:32:24 AM EST
    Their record is murky and has ticked off lots of people - but if they scream loud enough "The R's are going to impeach Obama!!"  people will hold their noses and vote for them.

    Or shrug and stay home. (none / 0) (#18)
    by oculus on Fri May 28, 2010 at 12:18:24 PM EST
    Might well work better (none / 0) (#14)
    by brodie on Fri May 28, 2010 at 11:42:40 AM EST
    than trying to get folks worked up about protecting Roe/Scotus justices.  

    Sometimes in politics you're given a half loaf and that's the hand you're dealt -- except for noting that you'd get no loaf, or end up owing a loaf, if the other side got power.

    Of course, still plenty of time for Obama & Co to get their act together and deliver more than just lukewarm porridge.


    Guess time will tell (5.00 / 1) (#15)
    by MO Blue on Fri May 28, 2010 at 11:56:48 AM EST
    Right about now too many Dems are blocking giving voters even lumpy porridge.

    The Blue Dogs have successfully watered down, and significantly delayed, the passage of the economic relief bill.  It will not pass before recess: link

    If the GOP takes the majority, why (5.00 / 5) (#12)
    by Anne on Fri May 28, 2010 at 11:33:19 AM EST
    on earth would they want to get rid of a president who has proven to be quite amenable to many of their "good ideas," has bent over backwards to concede on elements of many issues even before objections are raised, has given more support to conservative Blue Dogs than they ever should have gotten, and who would no doubt see a GOP-controlled House and possibly a still-majority Democratic Senate as providing untold opportunities for even more bipartisanship?

    I guess the answer is, "because these are Republicans we are talking about, and even if they are getting their way now on issue after issue, it won't stop them from continuing to at least appear as oppositional as ever."

    As far as I'm concerned, the Dems' response to the question of impeachment leading into the 2006 mid-terms should have been, "as members of Congress, we take our duties and responsibilities seriously, which means we do not make deals or promises in advance of having all the information.  We will do what we feel is right, what the facts and circumstances call for, and will not be taking anything off any table."

    But, no.  Maybe it wasn't said because no one could say it with a straight face; I couldn't even write it without giggling a little.

    I'm pretty sure though, that the effect on Obama and the Dems in both the House and Senate, will be to double-down on their efforts to appease and placate GOP legislators, when - if they are as confident as they appear to be - what they should be telling the GOP is: "Bring it."

    There will be no impeachment, but there will also be no collective effort by the Dems to stop dancing to the GOP's tune.

    Lots to look forward to.

    Actually, (none / 0) (#21)
    by Emma on Fri May 28, 2010 at 01:05:56 PM EST
    I think the Republicans trying to impeach Obama might be the only thing that could shake him from his complacent view that there was something uniquely and inherently "divisive" about the Clintons and their politics that was the real reason for the impeachment and all other Republican opposition.

    Interesting thought (none / 0) (#35)
    by sj on Fri May 28, 2010 at 03:56:51 PM EST
    and you might be right about that.

    Disagree (none / 0) (#37)
    by squeaky on Fri May 28, 2010 at 04:10:39 PM EST
    It will shut down government, until the GOP takes over. Stupid idea to support impeachment, imo.

    I've been forecasting this for over a year now. (5.00 / 6) (#19)
    by scribe on Fri May 28, 2010 at 12:46:58 PM EST
    Before the election I expected the Rethugs to do everything they could to obstruct the incoming administration and make the country ungovernable, whipping their base into a frenzy while trying to displace the blame for their catastrophic mishandling of governance during the Bush/Cheney administration onto the Democrats.

    Well, that was right.

    Last year, during the flurry of birtherism, teabagging and the health care debacle, I kinda suspected that the Repugs saw an opportunity to retake the House and/or the Senate.  From the repeated bowing and scraping Obama and his political advisers engaged in trying to meet the Republicans' demands time and again while simultaneously b*tchslapping the Dem base (gratuitously, time and again, on issue after issue) it became clear that Obama and his political advisers were, either through stupidity or design, were doing just about everything they could to make that Republican dream come true.  

    Bill Clinton couldn't keep his pants zipped but that didn't precipitate his impeachment.  What precipitated it was his pursuit in 1993-94 of anti-Democratic-base ideals, NAFTA and Free Trade being the leading examples.  Don't go there on DADT - the Republicans went nuts on WJC for that but Republicans going nuts on a Democrat is dog bites man.  WJC's folding on DADT, instead of breaking a couple insubordinate generals' careers, is what made clear to the Republicans they could get away with making him f*ck over the Democratic base over and over, if only they'd shout loudly enough.  

    But, as in the campaign, it was "the economy stupid" that moved voters in 1994.  WJC and his political staff sold out Democrats by helping jobs - good-paying union jobs - move from the US to Mexico (and, later, China) through pursuing bipartisan deals such as NAFTA and Free Trade.  They sold out their base in trying to get Republicans to like them.

    And the same clown who was in charge of that in 1993-1994 was hired by this White House to be in charge of just about ewverything this time around:  Rahm Emanuel.

    I cannot fault Clinton for hiring Emmanuel - his propensity for selling out the Democrats infavor of the Republicans was not known when WJC hired him.  I can fault Clinton for not making sure Emmanuel's career was destroyed - no one (other than WJC and his own inability to keep his pants zipped) was more responsible for setting in motion the impeachment.

    But, 15 years on, I can and do fault Obama for hiring Emmanuel and putting him in as chief of staff.  In the history of idiotic political decisions, i.e., those which do not assist your own political success, that hiring has to have been one of the biggest.  Hiring and keeping Emmanuel after his wheeling-dealing almost ran the Blago Senate-seat-auction right into the Oval Office before they'd even moved in, showed me a profound lack of judgment.  Keeping him, particularly after the bipartisanship debacle of last year and leaving Baucus to screw around with HCR for most of the second half of the year only to get the lobbyist-written bill Rahm had dealt for early on, only confirmed that impression.

    In a sane world, a staffer whose policy proposals (accepted by the decison-maker) led to losing the Congress (and ultimately impeachment) should have never been allowed anywhere near that kind of job again.  When that same staffer nonetheless got that kind of job again and then turned around and showed he learned nothing and continues the same destructive path, well, it amazes me he's still not had a serious or fatal car accident or something, let alone a public paycheck.

    Or it should amaze me.  Viewed from another perspective, this satisfies Corporate America quite well.  They get to keep the improvements they bought and paid for during Bush with no rollbacks and they get another huge sideshow to divert the public attention from just how badly they continue to loot the country.

    But, in sum, it's like this:  I defended Clinton before and during his impeachment and went to bat (in my own way and to the extent of my own power, little though it might be) for him and the Democrats.  It was the first time through and, frankly, a raw deal all around.  This time, though, I won't be there - at the polls this fall or after the Republicans take one or both houses.  Obama had the benefit of history and knowing how the repsective players had behaved and would behave and went ahead to follow that same well-worn path.  He will have brought this on himself not out of ignorance or stupidity, but rather out of arrogance and while trashing every one of the principles and policies he campaigned on.  I don't ratify bad behavior.

    Tough, buddy.  We warned you.  You didn't listen.  You're on your own.

    This was a great post. (4.25 / 4) (#20)
    by Anne on Fri May 28, 2010 at 01:04:21 PM EST
    I think part of the problem is that Obama doesn't necessarily want to learn from history - he wants to make history; never was that more apparent than when he said, on multiple occasions, that he was not the first president to tackle health care reform, but he wanted to be the last.  

    He carries this attitude into everything; he has repeatedly sacrificed real reform efforts for legislative victories that are optically satisfying, but muddy and mushy in content, and which accrue the greatest benefit to the corporate sector responsible for the particular problems we face.

    I think he thinks he is smarter than everyone else, that nothing can touch him - and I believe it is this hubris, which, if anything, has grown exponentially since the election, that will be his undoing.

    As unkind as history may be to George Bush, I believe it will be just as unkind to Barack Obama, and for many of the same reasons.


    Well, making history as opposed to (3.66 / 3) (#22)
    by scribe on Fri May 28, 2010 at 01:56:20 PM EST
    learning from history fits quie nicely with my opinion of his presidency:  he's all about being President, and nothing about doing anything with the Presidency.  

    Like his iconic "Hope" poster - all about ego and fluff,  a cult of personality.

    But, to elaborate on an already elaborate comment, there's a lot more to be taken away where I said:

    From the repeated bowing and scraping Obama and his political advisers engaged in trying to meet the Republicans' demands time and again while simultaneously b*tchslapping the Dem base (gratuitously, time and again, on issue after issue) it became clear that Obama and his political advisers were, either through stupidity or design, were doing just about everything they could to make that Republican dream come true.  

    We have to remember that the Blue Dog "centrists", like any swing bloc anywhere, have the greatest amount of power where the majorities are narrowest.  During the HCR via dolorosa we saw, time and again, how much Senatorial hind teat the administration was willing to suckle when the promise at the end of it was Vote #60, where 60 was the magic number to get anything done.  Landrieu got something for Louisiana, Nelson got something for Nebraska, Lincoln got something for Walton-Walmart, Lieberman got ... press and attention, Collins and Snowe (why anyone would name their daughter Olympia escapes me, as does keeping that name as a pol.  Oh, yeah.  Right.) got more heavy courting than Helen of Troy.  All for magical vote #60.

    In the House, the last thing the Corporatist Blue Dogs and their leader/creator/patron Rahm want is a big Democratic majority.  They want the House divided by a vote or two.  That way the Blue Dogs, by the mere threat of sitting out, let alone voting "no", get to control the outcome.  And that way, we get all-corporate-friendly, all-the-time legislation out of Congress.

    Seen in that perspective, sillinesses like the DCCC running a Blue Dog-who-woulda-been-a-Repug 30 years ago against a real progressive Democrat in Hawaii-1's special election the other week makes sense.  IF the Blue Dogs can't have it, they'll make sure a Republican gets it and then blame it on the dam*ed liberals.

    That's the ultimate game being played on the populace.  

    Barry, if I'd wanted a Republican president, I'd have voted for that doddering fool and his tart running mate.  I didn't and I didn't, but you seem intent on making sure I get one anyway.  

    Don't call me for help.  I don't ratify bad behavior.


    They won't (none / 0) (#1)
    by jbindc on Fri May 28, 2010 at 10:50:21 AM EST
    They already used that arrow in that quiver and lost with Clinton.

    These is mere puffery, and will never happen.

    I'm sure they won't also (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by ruffian on Fri May 28, 2010 at 10:51:19 AM EST
    But they ought to have to break that news to their base.

    None of the Republicans I know (none / 0) (#4)
    by jbindc on Fri May 28, 2010 at 10:55:33 AM EST
    Are talking about impeachment.  They are anticipating picking up a significant number of seats, but even they don't believe they will get a majority.

    Hmm, you're forgetting (none / 0) (#6)
    by brodie on Fri May 28, 2010 at 11:04:21 AM EST
    GOP Rep Darrell Issa, who's already suggested that the Sestak matter might involve an impeachable offense.

    Sestak (none / 0) (#7)
    by jbindc on Fri May 28, 2010 at 11:08:24 AM EST
    Is a problem for the WH because it goes to credibility, but no one seriously believes it's an impeachable offense.  

    Issa is also up for re-election.

    Republicans know they have to win a national election in two years - starting the day after election day 2010.  They know how angry the people were about Clinton - they won't try it again so soon (esepcially when some Dem would find some way to charge GWB and Cheney with war crimes in retaliation).


    No one seriously believed (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by brodie on Fri May 28, 2010 at 11:20:39 AM EST
    the Repubs would continue to push impeachment after their thumping at the polls in Nov 1998, yet they did.

    This time the thinking would be, after getting back the House, Obama is by definition a weaker president given a split Congress, and just about in the position where he could be weakened enough, with a bogus House investigation of something, to put him in grave jeopardy of not being re-elected in 2012.

    I think it's very likely we'd see at least a pre-impeachment set of loud and aggressive GOP hearings by various committees in the House -- all supposed to be suggestive of something bad, like all the Whitewater and Dem fundraising investigations, but all really designed to damage the incumbent for the presidential race.  


    I'm not so sure they'd (none / 0) (#5)
    by brodie on Fri May 28, 2010 at 11:02:14 AM EST
    decline the opportunity if they got the House back.

    Repubs are probably not overly regretful of the Clinton impeachment and that gross abuse of process, thinking it may have been enough to tarnish Gore or at least make the public kind of sick and tired of anyone connected with that admin.

    So I wouldn't at all be surprised if they cooked up something leading to impeachment with a House majority next Jan.  The Sestak pseudoscandal, something to do with BP and the oil spill response, a terrorism incident that isn't stopped, whatever.  We know they have no scruples about the process -- it's pure power politics to them.

    Good for Benen for bringing this up.  A reasonable proposition for voters to consider this fall.


    Sure they will. Scorpion and Frog. (none / 0) (#8)
    by steviez314 on Fri May 28, 2010 at 11:10:14 AM EST
    It's in their nature.

    Not The QUestion (none / 0) (#23)
    by squeaky on Fri May 28, 2010 at 02:05:28 PM EST
    The question is will the GOP go on record that impeachment is off the table or will they continue to build a case, as you have been doing, with the intention winning enough seats to call for impeachment.

    Of course your non-answer to the question, is dodging the question. We will see how the real GOP handles it, and then you can follow their cues.

    Certainly the accolades are already calling for a independent prosecutor.


    I am? (none / 0) (#24)
    by jbindc on Fri May 28, 2010 at 02:18:47 PM EST
    I, personally, am building a case to win enough seats to call for impeachment??

    I better talk to someone about back pay that I am owed then.....


    You Are Dodging The Question (5.00 / 1) (#25)
    by squeaky on Fri May 28, 2010 at 02:27:52 PM EST
    That BTD asks. Should the GOP announce that impeachment if "off the table" or should GOPers go on record calling for impeachment.

    In fact, impeachment talk moved [Wednesday] from Tea Party rallies to at least one Republican Member of the House, Darrell Issa. And Issa's not an obscure backbencher; he's the ranking Republican on Oversight and Government Reform, and he also sits on the Judiciary Committee

    Considering that your comments have been in lockstep with Darrell Issa, I assume that you would jump on the bandwagon once you had enough GOP cover..

    Should the GOP go on record, or is it a better strategy to duck the question as you did.


    BTD says the question Dems should ask is, (5.00 / 2) (#29)
    by Anne on Fri May 28, 2010 at 03:04:26 PM EST
    "does the GOP want to impeach Obama?"

    It was Steve Benen who asked whether the GOP was prepared to take impeachment off the table, which cannot be answered until there is an answer to BTD's question: does the GOP want to impeach Obama?

    So, far from dodging BTD's question, most of the comments here have been discussing the chances Dems will ask that question, or the chances the GOP will answer the question by putting up or shutting up, probably because no one knows what Republicans think, and almost no one believes the Dems have the b@lls to call their bluff.

    Your "assumptions" about what others think, or what they would do, certainly bears out the old saw about perils of using the word "assume."

    My feeling is that the GOP wants to control the agenda, and I think they will float whatever ideas they have in the hope of gaining political traction; the Dems, as usual, will take the high road as a substitute for throwing it all right back in their faces, will be puzzled about why the GOP won't take it off the table when they did it in 2006, and will fail to use it to their advantage in any substantive way.

    Same old, same old: Dems dancing to the GOP's tune, no matter what the answer to any of these questions is.


    You shouldn't assume (none / 0) (#26)
    by jbindc on Fri May 28, 2010 at 02:33:56 PM EST
    My answer is - it's never going to happen, so for the Dems to push it, when only fringe Republicans are talking about it - would be silly.

    Look how well the Dems did with their "impeach Bush" message - taken off the table the minute Nancy Pelosi was sworn in.  The Dems actually could have had a legitimate shot of impeaching Bush, but they had their reasons not to do it - probably because they public was going to see it as a tit-for-tat for Clinton.

    It's not going to happen, so if the Dems go around pre-emptively pushing that theme, they will look stupid and defensive.


    Darrell Issa Fringe? (none / 0) (#27)
    by squeaky on Fri May 28, 2010 at 02:52:23 PM EST
    Well your comments on Sestak are almost identical to his, save for the calling of an independent investigator, and impeachment.

    Although your friend Debbie Schlussel, does agree with you that Issa is fringe, because he has talked to Assad. She calls him Jihad Issa, is that your pet name for Issa as well?


    Had to google (5.00 / 1) (#28)
    by jbindc on Fri May 28, 2010 at 03:04:14 PM EST
    Debbie Schussel.

    And you have once again reached the point of going off into squeaky-land, and leaving us here in reality-world, so I will ask you to please not respond to my comments and I will do the same to yours.

    But I know you'll say somethig else, just to get the last word in.



    As I Have Said Many Times (none / 0) (#30)
    by squeaky on Fri May 28, 2010 at 03:12:59 PM EST
    If you want a private Kaffee Klatch, start your own blog, or send email to those who you want to have a private conversation with.

    If you post a comment I disagree with, I may choose to respond. Stop writing comments that support GOP positions, and you will have a better chance that I will not disagree with you and comment.


    Well, maybe you should just write (5.00 / 1) (#32)
    by Anne on Fri May 28, 2010 at 03:21:54 PM EST
    the comments for those you assume have these GOP positions; that way you can always have the argument you want to have, and - bonus! - you can always win!

    What is just so deeply ironic is that Obama may be the most Republican president we've had since Reagan, so if you are interested in opposing GOP positions, you might want to consider starting at the source, and not with the people who are opposed to Obama.

    But, I get that it's so much more fun for you to do it your way.


    Yes GOP Positions (3.50 / 2) (#33)
    by squeaky on Fri May 28, 2010 at 03:48:15 PM EST
    Tough on crime, and jumping on every smear campaign launched by the GOP. jbindc's latest rant on the Sestak, is essentially stenography from wingnuttia, and in particular that lovely right winger Darrell Issa.

    "May be" the most Republican.. (none / 0) (#39)
    by jondee on Sat May 29, 2010 at 08:07:50 AM EST
    More like following the how-Republican-you-can-be-and-get-elected-as-a-Democrat template laid out by Our Lady's husband.



    Blasphemy (none / 0) (#40)
    by squeaky on Sat May 29, 2010 at 11:55:04 AM EST
    Well Hillary is different.... lol

    Some have argued that she has been a good wifey and agreed with Bill's right wing tendencies, only because that was her place.

    And her campaign, well....., she is actually much farther to the left, and was waiting until POTUS to show her true progressive cards.


    Of course - whatever you want, master (3.00 / 2) (#31)
    by jbindc on Fri May 28, 2010 at 03:17:34 PM EST
    Of course, if you don't like reading my comments, you, too, are free to start your own blog and have everyone agree with you like an echo chamber.

    "GOP" positions?  Funny.  Only to those cultists who think everything Obama does is golden and the Dems are infallible.  Oh, I forgot - we are not to question Dear Leader.

    But I knew it was too much to expect civility from you.


    Sorry (5.00 / 1) (#34)
    by squeaky on Fri May 28, 2010 at 03:55:50 PM EST
    Change the subject as you will to my not liking your comments, as opposed to disagreeing with them.

    And, unlike you, I am not looking for a kaffee klatch founded for the sole purpose of dumping on Obama, so I am not interested in my own blog.

    And as far as your BS about questioning Obama, I have zero love for the guy, just about the same amount as I had for hillary who I supported.

    But then again, everything you write is though a myopic of TLTL (talkleft temperance league) and anyone who would criticize you and other members of your club, must be Obama lovers.

    A blight, imo, but TL will live on in all its incarnations... people come and go speaking of michelangelo


    Fair question (none / 0) (#2)
    by ruffian on Fri May 28, 2010 at 10:50:28 AM EST
    Good one to be asked at all the debates.

    I would also ask them who they would support for Speaker of the House.

    Impeach the first black President? (none / 0) (#13)
    by Saul on Fri May 28, 2010 at 11:38:08 AM EST
    Come on do they really want that bomb in their quiver.  I doubt if they will really go there.  

    It would turn into a totally racial issue if they tried it.  It would be political suicide for them.

    On what grounds? (none / 0) (#16)
    by nyrias on Fri May 28, 2010 at 11:57:43 AM EST
    Aside from the fact that it is a super dumb political move, Obama has not done anything remotely resembling a cause for impeachment.

    He's not a native-born citizen (none / 0) (#17)
    by scribe on Fri May 28, 2010 at 12:16:26 PM EST
    There's a good ground for you.

    It matters not whether it's true - if watching Republicans has taught you anything, it's that they will say anything, regardless of its relation to reality, if they think it will get them votes or power.


    Repubs have no problem with impeachment (none / 0) (#36)
    by Lora on Fri May 28, 2010 at 04:03:51 PM EST
    It worked as a "principled stance" with Clinton to undermine the Democratic Party.  It worked as an "unpatriotic maneuver that would aid the terrorists" with Bush to undermine the Democratic Party's effectiveness. If they could make it work as a "get the socialist muslim Hitler-follower (((BLACK))) pretender who's ruining our great country" platform with Obama, whether there is any truth to any allegations they might make or not, why wouldn't they use it?

    They are totally unprincipled.  They would use it if they thought it would undermine the Dems in any way.  A conviction or even impeachment proceedings would not be needed.  And truth would not be an obstacle.

    This part (none / 0) (#38)
    by jen on Fri May 28, 2010 at 06:59:59 PM EST
    from Benen cracked me up:

    . . . The obvious outcome is gridlock, with Republicans passing right-wing legislation, which would either be blocked by the Senate or vetoed at the White House. [. . .]

    Yeah. Right.