December 5, 2013 in Opinion

Dana Milbank: Impeachment talk just that

Dana Milbank
 

History will record that on Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2013, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary met to consider the impeachment of Barack Hussein Obama.

They didn’t use that word, of course. Republican leaders frown on such labeling because it makes the House majority look, well, crazy.

It is, Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, said from the dais, “the word that we don’t like to say in this committee, and I’m not about to utter here in this particular hearing.”

One of the majority’s witnesses, Georgetown law professor Nicholas Rosenkranz, encouraged the Republicans not to be so shy. “I don’t think you should be hesitant to speak the word in this room,” he said. “A check on executive lawlessness is impeachment.”

This gave the Republican lawmakers courage. “I’m often asked this,” said Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia. “You got to go up there, and you just impeach him.”

Rep. Blake Farenthold of Texas, who has said there are enough votes in the House to impeach Obama, added: “We’ve also talked about the I-word, impeachment, which again I don’t think would get past the Senate in the current climate. … Is there anything else we can do?”

Why, yes, there is, congressman: You can hold hearings that accomplish nothing but allow you to sound fierce for your most rabid constituents.

The Republicans in the House know there is no chance of throwing this president from office. Yet at least 13 of the 22 Republicans on the panel have threatened or hinted at impeachment of Obama, his appointees or his allies in Congress. They’ve proposed this as the remedy to just about every dispute or political disagreement, from Syria to Obamacare.

Tuesday’s hearing was titled “The President’s Constitutional Duty to Faithfully Execute the Laws.” The unanimous view among Republicans was that Obama had not done his duty, and it’s true that this president has stretched the bounds of executive authority almost as much as his predecessor, whose abuses bothered Republicans much less (and Democrats much more).

But what to do about it? They’ve failed at cutting off funding, they’ve had difficulty suing Obama in court and they lost the 2012 election. That basically leaves them with the option of making loud but ineffectual noises about high crimes and misdemeanors.

In recent days, Rep. Steve Stockman of Texas, one of the more exotic members of the Republican caucus, has distributed proposed Articles of Impeachment to his colleagues. Last month, 20 House Republicans filed Articles of Impeachment against Attorney General Eric Holder. A month earlier, Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota accused Obama of “impeachable offenses.”

Rep. Trey Radel of Florida, before his cocaine arrest and guilty plea, invoked the prospect of impeaching Obama over gun policy. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) raised the specter of impeachment over Obama’s threat to bomb Syria without congressional approval.

Sen. Jim Inhofe said Obama could be impeached over the attack on Americans at Benghazi, Libya, while fellow Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn said in August that Obama was “getting perilously close” to meeting the standard for impeachment (though he called Obama a “personal friend”). Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina thought it would have been an impeachable offense if Obama unilaterally raised the debt ceiling. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz branded Obama “lawless.”

On the House Judiciary panel, impeachment has been floated by GOP Reps. Jason Chaffetz (over Benghazi), Louie Gohmert and King (default on the debt), Darrell Issa (presidential patronage), Trent Franks (Defense of Marriage Act enforcement) and Lamar Smith (who said Obama’s record on immigration comes “awfully close” to violating the oath of office). Rep. Tom Marino of Pennsylvania gets creativity points for proposing the impeachment of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

At Tuesday’s hearing, the committee chairman, Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., accused Obama of “picking and choosing which laws to enforce” and of being “the first president since Richard Nixon to ignore a duly enacted law simply because he disagrees with it.”

Contributed Smith: “The president has ignored laws, failed to enforce laws, undermined laws and changed laws, all contrary to the Constitution.”

The majority’s witnesses added to the accusations. George Washington University’s Jonathan Turley said Obama had “claimed the right of the king to essentially stand above the law.”

This excited Franks, who embraced impeachment back in 2011. Obama’s actions, he said, “could be considered royal prerogatives, which is, if my history’s right, what we had that little unpleasantness with Great Britain about.”

Yikes! Why bother with impeachment? They need a revolution.

Dana Milbank is a columnist for the Washington Post. Follow Dana Milbank on Twitter, @Milbank.


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