|"Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast"
|"The liberal soul shall be made fat, and he that watereth, shall be watered also himself."
-- Proverbs 11:25
Hear me now and believe me later: If Republicans win and maintain control of the House of Representatives, they are going to impeach President Obama. They won’t do it right away. And they won’t succeed in removing Obama. (You need 67 Senate votes.) But if Obama wins a second term, the House will vote to impeach him before he leaves office.
Wait, you say. What will they impeach him over? You can always find something. Mini-scandals break out regularly in Washington. Last spring, the political press erupted in a frenzy over the news that the White House had floated a potential job to prospective Senate candidate Joe Sestak. On a scale of one to 100, with one representing presidential jaywalking and 100 representing Watergate, the Sestak job offer probably rated about a 1.5. Yet it was enough that GOP Representative Darrell Issa called the incident an impeachable offense.
It is safe to say that Issa’s threshold of what constitutes an impeachable offense is not terribly high. As it happens, should Republicans win control of the House, Issa would bring his hair-trigger finger to the chairmanship of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. The Sestak pseudo-scandal disappeared because there was no process to drive the story forward. Had Issa been running the Oversight Committee, it would have been the subject of hearings and subpoenas.
And it is not as if Issa’s interest in the Sestak case springs from some idiosyncratic obsession with the generally common practice of using executive-branch jobs to lure candidates out of the Senate. His taste in Obama-related scandal is catholic. In addition to the Sestak allegations, Issa has called for the investigation or disclosure of matters weighty and not-so-weighty, including the so-called Climategate e-mail controversy, congressional recipients of friendly loans from Countrywide, the methodology behind the government’s statistics on jobs “created or saved,” the Treasury’s prior knowledge of the AIG bonuses, the leaking of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s fraud suit against Goldman Sachs, the District of Columbia school vouchers program, all taxpayer-funded White House trips on behalf of Democratic candidates, the administration’s response to the BP oil spill and its drilling moratorium, National Labor Relations Board nominee Craig Becker’s possible conflict of interest, the “executive branch’s approach to food safety,” potential collusion between General Motors and the Treasury, and the firing of the inspector general of the Corporation for National and Community Service, plus many, many others.
This merely covers Obama’s first 20 months in office. No doubt more outrages would command Issa’s attention. Just as a rigorous IRS audit of a taxpayer is bound to turn up something, an investigation by the likes of Issa will eventually produce a scandal. Once you have grasped hold of the investigative machinery, the process drives itself. “We would never go looking for a scandal—they come to us,” Issa explained to National Review. “Typically, it is not the crime but the cover-up. The scandal comes when administration officials try to circumvent, not report, or distort what is happening.”
Obviously, Issa cannot impeach the president by himself. That would take a vote by the House of Representatives. But once a major figure like Issa puts impeachment on the table, it is impossible to imagine the rest of the party failing to go along. A December poll found that 35 percent of Republicans already favor impeaching Obama, with just 48 percent opposed and the balance undecided. That is a large base of support to impeach Obama for literally anything at all.
Once Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Matt Drudge, and the like collectively decide that this or that incident represents an intolerable abuse of power by the Obama administration, the conservative base will go from supporting impeachment to demanding it. At that point, the acquiescence of the House GOP would become inevitable. Since Obama took office, whatever willingness the party establishment had to resist the impulses of its base has been submerged beneath a wave of right-wing primary challenges.