President Obama will go ahead with a “very significant” executive action on immigration after the summer – a move that may well trigger impeachment proceedings against him, senior Obama adviser Dan Pfeiffer told reporters at a Monitor breakfast Friday.
“The president acting on immigration reform will certainly up the likelihood that [Republicans] would contemplate impeachment at some point,” said Mr. Pfeiffer, who has been at the Obama White House since its inception.
A lot of people in Washington laughed off Sarah Palin’s call to impeach the president for executive overreach, Pfeiffer said, but “I would not discount that possibility.”
A spokesman for Speaker John A. Boehner is dismissing Friday comments from senior White House adviser Dan Pfeiffer about the White House taking the threat of impeachment “very seriously.”
“We have a humanitarian crisis at our border, and the White House is making matters worse with inattention and mixed signals,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said in an email when asked about Pfeiffer’s comments. “It is telling, and sad, that a senior White House official is focused on political games, rather than helping these kids and securing the border.”
For the record, House Republicans haven’t done anything to suggest they’re going to impeach Mr. Obama. There’s been some low-level chatter, true. But the very lawsuit Pfeiffer is talking about is seen by many analysts as House Speaker John Boehner’s attempt to head off any push for impeachment by throwing a bone to the Republican base…
[L]inking impeachment to the president’s potential executive action subtly shifts the battle lines. It suggests that “either you are with the White House on this, or you’re with the impeachment crowd.” The White House knows that most Americans don’t support impeachment. A CNN/ORC poll released Friday finds that 35 percent of Americans back impeachment, and they’re heavily Republicans. Linking opposition to executive action to impeachment is a way of trying to paint opponents as right-wing radicals…
In that light, Pfeiffer’s comments Friday might merely seem like a return volley in D.C.’s cold war. Even though a House impeachment vote remains a remote possibility – and actual impeachment by the House and Senate a virtual impossibility – Pfeiffer freely raised the topic in an apparent bid to turn the tables and score some political points with the Democratic base.
It might not even be too strong to say that Democrats love all the talk of impeachment, even if the most prominent Republican to beat that drum is former vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin.
Or perhaps it’s especially because Ms. Palin is leading the charge that Democrats are gleeful. She’s the perfect foil. Now several years out of elective office, the ex-governor of Alaska and tea party rabble-rouser still knows how to grab headlines. And when she brings up the “I-word,” you can be sure a Democratic fundraising e-mail isn’t far behind.
Less than four months before the November midterms, Palin’s impeachment talk is a gift to Democrats. And it’s not just about money: It’s also about turnout. Democrats are famous for not voting in midterms as reliably as Republicans.
In an almost farcical twist on the recent political debate, the Obama White House has joined the Democratic fundraising apparatus in what appears to be a campaign to encourage Republicans to impeach the president…
Pelosi and the Democratic fundraising machine joined in. “Sorry to email you late on a Friday, but I need your urgent support,” Pelosi emailed. “Yesterday, for the first time in history, Congress voted to sue a sitting president. Today, the White House alerted us that they believe ‘Speaker [John] Boehner … has opened the door to impeachment …'”
“With everything happening right now, I’m a little disappointed to see that you haven’t had a chance to chip in to defend President Obama,” Pelosi continued. “We could use your support today. ALL GIFTS TODAY TRIPLE-MATCHED!”
A couple of hours later, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sent out another mass email. “The White House just announced that they believe John Boehner’s lawsuit could lead to the impeachment of President Barack Obama,” the DCCC said. “We are now on full RED ALERT at Democratic Headquarters. We are scrambling to defend the President in every way we can at this critical moment.”
Joe Madison, known as the Black Eagle on his popular satellite-radio show of the same name, has been asserting for months that if Republicans take control of the Senate majority, they will use their power to impeach Obama. Madison sees that as an effort to permanently damage the legacy of the nation’s first black president. Mostly though, he said, his arguments had been met with skepticism…
Madison, who has a close relationship with the Obamas and members of the administration, has all along viewed the impeachment debate as a powerful motivating tool for black voters, among the most loyal Democrats but who have not been a reliable force in recent midterm elections…
“We have already had a rehearsal for this,” said David Bositis, who has studied black voting patterns for decades. “There is a very strong case to be made that you would see black voters turning out to respond to any attempts to impeach Obama. . . . If you get people angry and fearful, they can be motivated.”…
“Impeachment talks fit the same type of frame and narrative to get black people to vote again. The idea is ‘We can’t let Obama go down like that,’ ” said Andra Gillespie, a professor of political science at Emory University who is working on a book about Obama and race. “It’s a slightly harder case to make to voters, and voters would have to be educated about the connection.”
If there’s a greater danger of impeachment in today’s political environment than in 2006, it’s because House Republican leaders today, as in 1998, really aren’t in control of their own caucus or their own base. It’s a parched, dry landscape out there, just waiting for a spark to ignite a wildfire.
People may not remember it this way, but in 1998, then-Speaker Newt Gingrich was not initially enthusiastic about pursuing impeachment of Clinton either. Perhaps he was reluctant because his own secret affair made him feel vulnerable; perhaps he recognized the dangers that impeachment presented to his party. Whatever the reason, Gingrich raced to lead the mad dash to impeachment only when he concluded that he could no longer halt it, and that trying to do so would threaten his own grip on power.
It’s also important to note that on the day the House voted to impeach Clinton, the president enjoyed a 73 percent job approval rating from the American public. That’s how out of touch House Republicans had gotten, how caught up they had become in their own righteous fury and how blinded they were by their own rhetoric. And today’s environment is not that far off from what it was back then. If anything, given Obama’s job approval rating, it may be even more volatile.
According to Article II, section 4 of the U.S. Constitution, “The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” Palin and others have called for Obama’s impeachment over a number of perceived scandals, ranging from the mishandling of Obamacare’s rollout to his taking military action without getting approval from Congress. But it’s unclear, really, whether they’re suggesting that his role in these controversies constitutes “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors” — Palin’s column mentions none of those terms.
Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, earlier this month offered perhaps the most sober rebuke to the calls for impeachment.
“The Constitution is very clear as to what constitutes grounds for impeachment of the President of the United States,” he told ABC’s “This Week.” “He has not committed the kind of criminal acts that call for that.”