By Greg Smith
It is understandable that people do not scour the pages of history to gain insight into every detail of daily life. It is sad though, when political leaders ignore major precedent that, if personified, would not be old enough for a drivers permit. As usual, Republicans who are talking about impeachment are only harming their own long-term interests – and that of the GOP – with their short-term approach.
Impeachment, a process in which the House of Representatives acts as a grand jury in deciding whether the Senate should try the president for “high crimes and misdemeanors,” is generally considered a criminal proceeding. In reality, impeachment is a purely political proceeding and should be treated as such by anyone willing to utter the word guaranteed to send a spasm of anger from one political sect on a collision course with the righteous indignation of another.
Republicans as a group have not been foolish enough to speak of impeachment, but too many individuals have brought up the subject for Democrats to ignore it. And why would they? Democrats would be foolish not to use any loose talk of attempting to remove President Obama, and if the tables were turned no doubt each side would be doing what the other is now.
The simple fact is that for all the rhetoric involved, impeaching a president except in absolutely clear cut circumstances will not be supported by the public. One need only look back at the impeachment and subsequent acquittal of President Clinton in 1999. A case for the Senate to convict President Clinton, thereby removing him from office, was far more clear and obvious. Clinton committed a crime. He knew he committed a crime. We all knew he committed a crime. But the public by and large viewed impeachment either as politically motivated or as a huge, unnecessary waste of time. Republicans suffered in the ensuing election.
Clearly, the public today is more interested in bread and butter issues than whether Obama ignored a foolish law, even if he was the fool who foist it on us.
President Obama has acted outside the law, especially on implementation of his own health care act. In cases where faithfully implementing the law would cause he and his party political problems, he has simply ignored the law. I say the following as someone absolutely dismayed and perplexed by Barack Obama’s lack of understanding of history, the Constitution, the crucial importance of personal liberty, economics, foreign policy and almost everything else for which he stands: there is no case for impeachment.
Moreover, the worst thing Republicans can do is allow the nation’s precarious focus to be removed from the results of Obama’s tenure onto some farcical ‘he said, she said’ to which independent voters cannot relate. Even if Obama were removed from office, there would still be a Democratic president. Joe Biden, not elected in his own right, would wind up a caretaker until January 2017. The nation would be no better off.
The most convincing reason for Republicans to cease and desist mention of impeachment is purely practical politics. Right now there is a gaping chasm between what Americans want and what the Obama administration has delivered. To allow the president’s legislative and economic air ball to be drown out by a side show would be akin to a debate winner voluntarily changing the subject. Republicans cannot enact legislation on their own, and Obama has repeatedly refused any compromises so there is nothing to do but wait for the next election. If Republicans are smart they will spend the next three months talking about whether President Obama’s push for ever more government has improved the economic prospects and personal happiness of the average American.
The situation calls to mind an episode of The Simpsons in which Homer gets mad at Ray Patterson, the town’s competent, hard-working sanitation commissioner. Homer runs a sleazy campaign and wins election as sanitation commissioner; in short order he destroys the town through short-term, feel-good ideas. At a subsequent town meeting the townspeople cheer for Patterson to be put back into office. Patterson is emotional as he steps to the podium to address the crowd, appearing to be happy at the prospect.
“Oh gosh. You know, I’m not much on speeches,” Patterson says, “but it’s so gratifying to leave you wallowing in the mess you’ve made. You’re screwed, thank you, bye.”
There is no better strategy a party for small government can follow for the next two elections than allowing voters to suffer the consequences of electing a man who has made such enormous claims about the power of government to solve life’s problems. Obama himself is constantly trying to place blame elsewhere for his failures. Why help him change the subject? ©
Greg Smith is a freelance writer and political consultant who lives in Bantam, CT. His blog is found at www.betterfatthanfascist.com.