the national interest

Barack Hussein Milhous Nixon Impeachment Update

U.S. Presidents Barack Obama and Richard Nixon
U.S. presidents Barack Obama and Richard Nixon. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images; Wally McNamee/CORBIS

The Weekly Standard has an essay by Noemie Emery on the scandalousness of Barack Hussein Obama, which provides an interesting window into the current state of conservative thought on Obama and impeachment. They are not ready to impeach. On the other hand, they have little doubt that impeachment is merited. It’s a bit like the way the feds thought about Al Capone in the twenties — his guilt was assumed; the puzzle merely how they could go about nailing him.

In 3,500 words, Emery passes very quickly over the assumed fact of Obama’s guilt. Like Nixon, Emery asserts, Obama sicced the IRS on his enemies, only he did so in an “inferential” manner, which means “not at all.” (Obama publicly denounced large, undisclosed campaign groups like those financed by the Koch brothers, but the IRS never scrutinized those groups and in fact screened liberal as well as conservative groups.) The facts don’t interest Emery; she assumes his criminality and undertakes to show that he absorbed it environmentally via his career in Chicago:

A biracial man who posed as a healer, he attended the church of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, who preached racial antipathy; a proponent of peace, he befriended Bernardine Dohrn and Bill Ayers, who had trafficked in violence; a high-minded reformer, he became a cog in Chicago’s notorious Democratic machine, known for corruption and strong-arm behavior.

Emery argues that corruption is the essence of Obama’s identity. If you find that persuasive, the particulars of this or that misdeed don’t change the picture very much.

Kerry Bentivolio, a Republican member of the House, made the same basic assumption in a more explicit way. At a public meeting, he was asked about impeachment and replied:

I stood twelve feet away from the guy and listened to him. I couldn’t stand being there, but because he is president I have to respect the office. That’s my job, as a Congressman, I respect the office.”

“I went back to my office and I’ve had lawyers come in” the Congressman continued. “These are lawyers, Ph.Ds in history, and I said ‘tell me how I can impeach the President of the United States.’”

The Michigan Congressman then explained to the audience that someone couldn’t impeach the president without evidence.

“Until we have evidence, you’re going to become a laughing stock if you’ve submitted the bill to impeach the president because number one you’ve got to convince the press,” he said. “There are some people out there no matter what Obama does he’s still the greatest president they’ve ever had. That’s what you’re fighting.”

Note Representative Bentivolio’s belief that it’s the prejudices of Democrats — the ones who love Obama “no matter what he does” — that stand in the way of impeachment, in contrast to sage statesmen like himself who can rationally assess Obama’s criminality on its own terms. More interesting is the progression he describes: First he concluded he wanted to impeach Obama, and then he asked his lawyers how he could do that. Finally, he regards the appearance of evidence for impeachment as a matter of when rather than if (“until we have evidence,” not “unless we have evidence”).

Several years ago, I recklessly predicted Republicans would impeach Obama. I wish I could retract the prediction, which seems pretty unlikely now. The backlash against impeachment is one lesson many of them have carried with them from the nineties. Still, it is noteworthy how many conservatives take the basic moral logic of Obama’s impeachment for granted. Ted Cruz was asked about impeachment this week and replied not that Obama hadn’t committed any high crimes, but that Republicans didn’t have the votes to carry it off: “To successfully impeach a president you need the votes in the U.S. Senate,” he said. “That’s not a fight we have a prospect of winning.” Of course, after 2014 Republicans may well have a majority of the Senate.

Barack Hussein Milhous Nixon Impeachment Update