Quite unlike six years ago, President Barack Obama has become a liability for his fellow Democrats running for federal office.
Surveys have consistently shown that the GOP is well positioned to take back at least three of the six seats they need to regain control over the Senate and reduce Obama’s final two years in office to a series of vetoes. In another five seats, Republican candidates remain competitive.
The president is no longer energizing his unique coalition of voters. This year, they are staying home. Democrats are desperate to reawaken those young, single, women, and minority voters and get them back out to the polls. Without Obama at the top of the ticket, Democrats appear set to face another brutal midterm election cycle.
The president is no longer a transformative figure. He cannot bestride the world like the colossus which he was once portrayed. Now, he must be cast as a victim in need of protection.
“I think it’s important to note, though, that through all of this, the Republicans are trying to sue the president — on a path to impeach the president – while we’re trying to create jobs and have stability,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) fabricated in an appearance on CNN over the weekend. Point A and Point B in this train of thought remain parsecs apart, though her interlocutor – Candy Crowley – chose to throw to break rather than to dig too deeply into Pelosi’s flawed thinking.
“There are some republicans including some running for office hoping to get into office to impeach the president,” White House Press Sec. Josh Earnest invented on Monday. “That is a view they have because it’s one they have repeatedly expressed publically.”
“Have you noticed this impeach Obama talk lately?” MSNBC’s Chris Hayes asked on Monday night. “Is it possible this is all a masterful stroke of Democrats running a false flag operation?”
Included in this undeserved complement for a sloppy and transparent strategy is the acknowledgement that it is based on virtually nothing other than hope.
For several weeks, the television personality and former Republican vice presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, has been beating the drum for impeachment on her Facebook page and at speaking engagements. In a deluded interview with conservative radio host Michael Medved, Palin was confronted by the fact that her calls for impeachment are precisely what the Democratic Party wants and, if successful, impeachment proceedings would redound negatively on the conservative movement.
Palin replied that she is quite positive that there are many Democrats in Congress “who are on our side on this.”
She’s right, though not in the way in which she intended. Over the weekend, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee raised $2.1 million off her comments.
“Impeachment is a very serious thing that has been bandied about by the recent Republican vice presidential nominee and others in a very un-serious way,” Obama communications advisor Dan Pfeiffer told reporters. “We take it very seriously and I don’t think it would be a good thing.”
The press has been far more than complicit, even culpable, in this manufactured effort to suggest that Republicans are trying to impeach Obama. In an appearance on Fox News Sunday, newly selected House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) was asked if he would take the option of impeaching the president “off the table.”
“The White House wants to talk about impeachment and they’re trying to fundraise off that, too,” Scalise replied. “The White House will do anything they can to change the topic away from the president’s failed agenda.”
In this answer, Scalise refused to remove a tool from Congress’s limited toolbox when it comes to reining in executive authority, but he also acknowledged how politically problematic impeachment would be for Republicans. The headlines which followed this appearance all ran in some fashion with the revelation that Scalise had refused to take impeachment off the table. Impeachment is imminent!
Even Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX), a House Republican known with a penchant for excessive rhetoric, thinks that pursuing impeachment would be foolish. Stockman told a conservative news site recently that Obama and his advisors are praying for the House to impeach the president “because his senior advisers believe that is the only chance the Democratic Party has to avoid a major electoral defeat.”
Even with the Democrats’ strategy this transparent and obvious, the press is still covering it uncritically.
The Associated Press, reporting on another possible Hail Mary from the White House on Tuesday which would extend semi-legal status to millions of illegal immigrants, couldn’t help but raise the threat of impeachment in the second paragraph.
“Such a large-scale move on immigration could scramble election-year politics and lead some conservative Republicans to push for impeachment proceedings against President Barack Obama, a prospect White House officials have openly discussed,” the AP reported inexplicably.
MSNBC has, of course, gone wall to wall with impeachment talk, conceding to have to rely on Democratic press releases in order to invent this this “news.”
“It is the political fight that just won’t let up,” CNN’s Carol Costello imagined on Monday. “A Republican push to try and impeach President Obama.” She leveraged this bit of fancy to suggest that Republicans should be focusing on passing comprehensive immigration reform. It was an pitch that might as well have come straight out of the White House press shop.
This is journalistic malpractice. The threat of impeachment is a fictitious one. A television personality invented it and this White House, so bereft of governing strategies and rapidly bleeding popularity, elevated it. The press has a responsibility to note that, but the reaction has largely been to parrot Democrats.
But Barack Obama is not Bill Clinton. He will not be rescued by impeachment talk, and this strategy carries risks for Democrats and their allies in the press as well. So flailing and so embarrassingly obvious is this latest attempt to frame Obama as a victim of the GOP that it carries more than just the whiff of panic. And panic is contagious.