Given the shrill denunciations of Joe Biden’s handling of the Afghanistan endgame from virtually every corner of the Republican Party (including multiple calls for Biden to resign just eight months into his presidency), there is inevitably some buzz about a possible impeachment of the 46th president, particularly if Republicans take back control of the House in 2022. Indeed, while GOP elected officials (other than the chronically bizarre Marjorie Taylor Greene, who introduced articles of impeachment related to earlier Hunter Biden allegations the day after Joe Biden was inaugurated) have largely avoided the I-word in relation to this president, Politico reports that there’s great enthusiasm for the idea in the MAGA heartland, with GOP congressional offices being “bombarded with calls from base voters for a future Biden impeachment or another more forceful response against the administration.”
This creates a sticky situation in particular for House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who is perfectly happy to demagogue about Biden’s responsibility for events in Kabul to which his own party so abundantly contributed but who doesn’t particularly want to make a commitment to what he might do 17 months from now if he wrests the Speaker’s gavel away from Nancy Pelosi. And speaking of Pelosi, McCarthy does have the benefit of watching her experience in 2019 when she resisted and then led the campaign to impeach Donald Trump. By waiting to accept the pleas of her own base to impeach Trump strictly over the Mueller Report findings, she was able to diversify the argument for removing him from office while strengthening the unity and resolve of her troops.
Indeed, it’s possible McCarthy will want to resist climbing on an impeachment bandwagon for even longer than Pelosi did on grounds that Democrats ultimately accomplished nothing in their two impeachments of Trump, other than creating false hopes of success (which was never really feasible thanks to the constitutional requirement of a two-thirds Senate vote to secure a conviction and any real consequences). And McCarthy does have one argument that wasn’t available to his Democratic colleague: Removing Biden from office would put Kamala Harris, a Black woman whom Trump called a “monster” and a “communist” just last year, in charge of the country. Mike Pence was a significantly less horrifying figure to congressional Democrats than his boss was.
Assuming McCarthy doesn’t want to head down the fateful path to impeachment any time soon, he will need to make it very clear that he will do anything and everything to demonize and damage Biden over the Afghanistan situation or anything else that occurs to Republicans. So expect him and his colleagues in the congressional leadership to go pretty hog wild in attacking the president but not so hog wild as to make the GOP rank and file so intent on impeachment that it proves necessary to avoid a right-wing purge of McCarthy himself. One safety valve could be a crusade aimed at bringing down Biden subordinates like Secretary of State Antony Blinken, already the object of congressional Republican impeachment talk.
What McCarthy cannot control, of course, is Trump’s own tendency to get his fans riled up into a snake-dancing hate frenzy. It is hard to imagine that Trump won’t treat a potential impeachment of Biden as payback for his own discomfort in 2020 and 2021. If that becomes his favorite way to set up a 2024 comeback, probably nothing McCarthy can say or do will stop the train to Impeachment Town.