I’ve been skeptical if not dismissive of all the loose talk that the multiple scandals piling up around Obama would be sufficient to bring about his impeachment–until this afternoon. Let’s remember that impeachment didn’t work out too well with Clinton, and the evidence of his bad behavior was a lot more direct than it is (so far) with Obama. In the case of Nixon, it will be recalled, it required a tape recording of his collaborating in the obstruction of justice to bring about the tipping point that doomed his presidency. But for that tape, he might have been able to tough it out as Clinton did.
But there’s always been an important contrast between the Nixon and Clinton cases–and the unfolding Obama mess–that tends to get lost in the Standard Heroic Narrative that liberals and journalists tell themselves at Watergate revival campfires. Nixon had deeply angered members of both parties in Congress with his attempts to gain control of pork barrel spending, such that his support among Republicans was already somewhat diminished when the storms of Watergate broke.
Hence the news this afternoon that the Obama administration may have even secretly obtained phone records for members of Congress is going to be a bombshell if true. See what Rep. Devin Nunes told Hugh Hewitt this afternoon:
Rep. Nunes: I don’t think people are focusing on the right thing when they talk about going after the AP reporters. The big problem that I see is that they actually tapped right where I’m sitting right now, the Cloak Room.
Hewitt: Wait a minute, this is news to me.
Nunes: The Cloak Room in the House of Representatives.
Hewitt: I have no idea what you’re talking about.
Nunes: So when they went after the AP reporters, right? Went after all of their phone records, they went after the phone records, including right up here in the House Gallery, right up from where I’m sitting right now. So you have a real separation of powers issue that did this really rise to the level that you would have to get phone records that would, that would most likely include members of Congress, because as you know…
Nunes: …members of Congress talk to the press all the time.
Hewitt: I did not know that, and that is a stunner.
Nunes: Now that is a separation of powers issue here, Hugh.
Only thing missing now is a batch of thumb drives hidden in someone’s pumpkin patch.
UPDATE: Nunes has walked back some of the details of this story this morning. Stay tuned. I expect journalists and members of the House won’t be much reassured by this.