McConnell: We're not impeaching Biden over Afghanistan

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

There’s a descriptive and prescriptive element to this. Descriptive: The math is what it is. So long as Democrats control the House, the guy’s not getting impeached. And so long as they control the Senate, he’s not getting removed.

Even if Republicans controlled the Senate, they wouldn’t have anywhere near 67 votes to remove the president over gross incompetence rather than some form of corruption amounting to a high crime or misdemeanor.

Prescriptive: Cocaine Mitch is tired of high-stakes impeachment politics after the last two years, especially since his floor speech following Trump’s second trial wrecked his relationship with the head of the party. Let’s settle our differences in the voting booth going forward, he says.

Asked during an event in Kentucky if Biden’s mishandling of the exit from Afghanistan is cause for impeachment and if he would support it, McConnell said that “the president is not going to be removed from office.”

“There’s a Democratic House, a narrowly Democratic Senate. That’s not going to happen,” he said.

“There isn’t going to be an impeachment,” he added…

“The report card you get is every two years,” McConnell said. “I think the way these behaviors get adjusted in this country is at the ballot box.”

McConnell’s always thinking ahead to the next election. A hopeless impeachment doesn’t get him closer to being majority leader again. (It may reduce his chances by antagonizing Democratic voters, who’d treat it as motivation to vote.) Channeling Republican contempt for Biden into midterm enthusiasm does.

Not everyone’s motives are so bottom-line, though. There’s a tangle of impulses driving other Republican pols to talk up impeachment despite knowing that it’s hopeless. For a MAGA diehard like Lauren Boebert, it’s a matter of proving your willingness to “fight.” If an opportunity has arisen to drop a political atomic bomb on your despised opponent then you drop it or else you’re a softhearted RINO who doesn’t have what it takes to win.

Declining to demand that the 25th Amendment be invoked against one’s own running mate is an interesting read on “high crimes and misdemeanors.” Other Republicans support impeachment as essentially a reprisal for the double impeachment of Trump, as Hannity clearly does here in goading Lindsey Graham into endorsing it.

Trump wasn’t impeached “over a phone call.” He was impeached for requesting a personal benefit, Ukrainian dirt on his potential election opponent, in return for a public good over which he had official authority, military aid. Some righties are trying to shoehorn the newly revealed phone call between Biden and Afghanistan’s president in July into that framework (Biden asked him to lie!) but Ed did a nice job analyzing that this morning. Biden didn’t seek any personal benefit, which was the core of the corruption in Trump’s case. His point to Ghani was that if he didn’t at least create the perception that the Afghan army was a formidable force, the Taliban was going to roll right over them and into Kabul. Ghani needed to give the enemy a reason to fear his forces, whether it was true or not, to try to slow them down.

If there’s a scandal there, as Ed says, it’s the fact that even at that late date Biden and his intelligence bureaus didn’t recognize that the situation was hopeless and scramble to start the evacuations immediately. Incompetent. But not a high crime or misdemeanor.

Psaki tried to explain Biden’s point to Ghani at today’s briefing. As a matter of basic morale, a leader needs to show confidence in his military forces. That was what Biden was telling him. In the end, Ghani politely heard him out and then bugged out of Kabul with suitcases full of money once the Taliban arrived at the gates of his capital. So much for morale.

Graham responds to Hannity in the clip above that Biden should be impeached for “dereliction of duty” because he left Americans behind, which is at least theoretically a valid grounds for impeachment. A president who categorically refused to use the military to defend America’s national interests could be properly impeached, no? Biden would say, though, that he had and continues to have every intention of getting every American out and is working to do so still. That is, he didn’t abandon American citizens because he doesn’t care about them; he abandoned them for now because if U.S. troops had fought it out with the Taliban at the airport to extend the deadline, some might have been killed and American citizens in Kabul and elsewhere would have been captured by the Taliban and murdered. Leaving them behind — temporarily, allegedly — was the best chance of guaranteeing their safety once the Afghan army collapsed and the U.S. had to scramble to get everyone out.

Here again the core problem was incompetence in not anticipating the Afghans’ weakness and planning accordingly, not corruption. And although dereliction of duty is good grounds for impeachment in certain circumstances, it’s also so broad a concept potentially that it could lead to presidents being impeached for all sorts of reasons. Arguably Trump’s decision to take money appropriated for the defense department and spend it on building the wall instead was dereliction of duty in that he failed to faithfully execute a law passed by Congress to supply the military with what it needed for national defense. But he wasn’t impeached for that. It was a dubious exercise of presidential power but not obviously corrupt, which is the core of an impeachable offense.

The real motive for Hannity and Graham, I think, is simple retaliation. Trump got impeached — twice! — and therefore it’s their solemn partisan duty to pay Democrats back by finding some grounds to impeach Biden. Remember Trump’s favorite Bible verse? That’s a core MAGA principle, although not a Christian one. But there may also be an impulse animating Hannity or Graham to retroactively dilute the moral stigma from Trump’s two impeachments by coming up with a reason to lay the same punishment on Biden. If Biden were to be impeached for his half-assed evacuation then impeachment would become more of an ordinary weapon in the partisan arsenal rather than a severe rebuke for extraordinary corruption. Trump’s two impeachments (or at least the first one) wouldn’t seem so bad in hindsight, just part of the nasty game Democrats and Republicans play with each other. Maybe that’s their angle. We’ll find out in January 2023.