Impeach President Obama?

As Steve has just argued, if Mitt Romney had been elected president and then proceeded to rewrite Obamacare on his alleged executive authority, Democrats would probably be screaming for his impeachment. So should Republicans be screaming for President Obama’s impeachment?

John says no:

Technically, President Obama’s misuse of executive agencies to harass his political opponents and his usurpation of Congress’s powers by purporting to rewrite statutes by executive decree–the Obamacare changes are not the only instances–are grounds for impeachment. These are, in fact, precisely the sorts of abuses for which the impeachment remedy was intended, and for which no other remedy is adequate. For political reasons, impeachment is not an option, and I don’t mean to suggest that Republicans should start talking about it.

My view is a little bit different. I don’t believe Republicans should start talking seriously about impeachment now, with congressional elections looming and the GOP seemingly in good shape for them. But after the elections, and especially if Republicans gain control of the Senate, the calculus might change.

There are really only three relevant questions here: (1) has Obama committed impeachable offenses, (2) would impeachment proceedings (which would certainly fail to remove Obama) hurt the country, and (3) how would his impeachment play out politically. The third question is relevant because Republicans have no obligation to further weaken their position in a futile attempt to drive Obama from office through the impeachment process.

If Obama continues on his current course of overriding and rewriting the law, my answer to the first question will be a pretty easy “yes.” Under the same scenario, I think the answer to the second question is “no,” impeachment would not hurt the country. If anything, we might be better off with impeachment proceedings because they might cause Obama (or at least future presidents) to feel less free to do whatever he wants.

As for the third question, impeaching a president, even an unpopular one, is presumptively bad politics. But if the Obamacare fiasco deepens, if some Democrats begin to jump ship, and if Obama’s favorability rating drops another ten points, it’s far from clear to me that impeachment proceedings would hurt Republicans more than Democrats. Indeed, Republicans paid only a small political price for impeaching a popular president in the late 1990s.

So I agree that Republicans shouldn’t talk about impeachment now. But neither should they rule it out.

In the meantime, we really need to get the Supreme Court to review some of Obama’s lawless actions. I strongly suspect that the center-right majority on that Court is looking for an opportunity to teach Obama a lesson on the limits of executive power.

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