When the grassroots come together for events like Western CPAC, it usually brings together a great deal of energy as well as a wide idea of ideas, some better than others. One of the worst — and worst defended — ideas at WCPAC comes from Floyd Brown, whose ImpeachObamaCampaign.com is one of the sponsors for this event. In his speech this morning, Brown misstates history, draws ridiculous parallels to the Nazi era, and takes the wrong lessons from the Clinton impeachment, which at least had the virtue of coming from an actual impeachable offense.
Brown’s best argument for impeaching Barack Obama was his reliance on Federalist 65 to claim that impeachment was a mechanism to express political dissent from the executive. Unfortunately, Federalist 65 is a philosophical, not legal, document. The language of the Constitution is pretty clear: impeachment is reserved for “high crimes and misdemeanors,” not political dissent. Contra Brown, the US is not set up to be a parliamentary democracy with votes of no confidence, because the President does not derive his powers from Congress in our system as the Prime Minister does from Parliament in those systems. Presidents get elected by the states through popular votes in our constitution. Congress has no jurisdiction to issue no-confidence votes, and to arrogate that role would be a usurpation of power from the people and the states.
The Constitution includes impeachment for Congress to remove corrupt Presidents, and other federal officials as well. Even then, it uses a large amount of political capital, which usually comes to the detriment of those pursuing it, especially when the effort is seen as partisan. Floyd Brown not only missed this, he fundamentally misrepresented the impact of the impeachment of Bill Clinton. Brown claims that before Clinton’s impeachment, he was pursuing a radical agenda on health care and foreign policy, and that the impeachment left him a lame duck and compliant to a Republican Congress. Unfortunately, he’s completely wrong about this history. The impeachment came in 1998, long after Clinton lost Congress to Republicans in 1994 and successfully tacked back to the center. The impeachment effort left Republicans on the defensive, somewhat divided, and provided enough momentum for Democrats to keep the GOP from gaining seats in both the House and Senate, as had been expected in the last Clinton-era midterms.
If that wasn’t bad enough, Brown then drew parallels between Obama and Adolf Hitler and the Nazi seizure of power in the 1930s. I have no love of Barack Obama as President, but one would have to have never studied the Nazis in order to claim that the Democratic majority is following in their footsteps. They have a radical agenda that is a disaster for America in both the short and long terms. There are plenty of grounds to argue for their defeat in the next election, and fortunately for us, the Democrats are making most of them for us, which is why they’re crashing in the polls. However, the Democrats are not rounding up opposition and throwing them in camps, shooting them on the streets, or passing bills granting Obama dictatorial power. Those arguments do nothing but make a certain portion of the grassroots look ill-educated and hysterical.
If we want to “remove” Obama from office, we have an election in 2012 that will do the trick nicely, if we can remain focused on it. If we want to cut into his power, the midterms in 2010 give us the same opportunity we seized in 1994. Calls for impeachment only make us less credible for both efforts.
Update: Fixed the link and corrected “misrepresented”.