Some Democrats and their camp-followers in the Mainstream Media have again started waving a familiar banner – accusing Republicans of plotting to impeach Joe Biden if they regain control of the Congress in the fall elections. Of course, the tale is purest moonshine, since even kindergarteners know that any real move toward impeachment would totally befoul the fall elections – almost certainly destroying the GOP’s chances of gaining a majority in the Senate. Although Republicans are famous for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, even they might be too smart to let it happen this time.
But Democrats seem convinced that even a bogus impeachment-scare can serve as well as genuine proceedings. The merest mention of the I-word tends to rile the Democratic base – motivating them to cough up gazillions to help Democrats who are hanging onto their Congressional seats by a thread. Democrat poo-bahs also hope their voters will forget what a mess “Good Old Moderate Joe” has made of the country, and will flock to the polls to help the party hold onto the Congress. It’s a desperate ploy, but certainly worth a try since nothing else is working. The jury is out on the impeachment-scare strategy, but Dems will keep going with it as long as it brings in the bucks.
On the substance of impeachment – as opposed to Democrats’ fantasy – Republicans certainly have a reasonable case about the president’s conduct. He has repeatedly exceeded Constitutional limits on his power and authority – particularly with respect to control of the nation’s borders on which earlier Congresses, including some controlled by Democrats, have passed governing legislation. It’s doubtful that any president in history has so blatantly disregarded the nation’s laws. If that’s not a “high crime,” what is? I’m almost embarrassed for voters who thought Joe was some kind of lofty, apolitical personage who would restore “normalcy” to the nation.
But despite a strong jurisprudential case, impeachment would be a flawed strategy on several counts:
The drama of impeachment would suck all the air out of the political room – completely diverting both news media and voters away from Biden administration failures that should be front and center as the elections approach. The hugely damaging scandals of uncontrolled illegal immigration, spending trillions in printed money that we don’t actually have, undoing Mr. Trump’s energy independence, $5-a-gallon gas, runaway inflation, disastrous foreign policies, and a risky game of “war-chicken” with a dangerous nuclear power would all be forgotten by the Mainstream Media as they joyfully paint Republicans as sore losers, white supremacists, haters of women, and many other damaging labels. Mr. Biden’s prosecutors would replace Good Old Joe as the primary issue. Even the mechanics of impeachment would bore most of the public into snooze-land, since the charges against the president would center on points of Constitutional law that mean nothing to most voters.
Any attempt to remove the president they elected will unite and energize Democrats as few other issues can. Democrat Party leaders hope that just a rumor of impeachment will drive enough of their partisans to the polls to salvage the November Congressional elections. If they can hold the Senate – goes the story-line – they’ll be able to salvage Joe’s valiant crusade to save the earth from climate disaster, and his other great deeds. Even realistic Dems who know Joe has totally screwed up won’t want him removed. This factor, alone, explains why Democrats are preaching that impeachment is definitely the GOP plan.
3. Guaranteed Failure.
Based on the Clinton-experience in 1998, as well as the two tries against Mr. Trump in 2019 and 2021, impeachment cannot succeed, even on the most serious of charges. In past articles I have argued that no president can be removed via the impeachment process because he is an important national symbol that many senators will not wish to see damaged by their hands, on their watch. Despite actions that might reach the level of “high crimes,” any president will thus be invulnerable, rendering the impeachment remedy meaningless.
President Clinton’s articles of impeachment included serious charges of perjury and obstruction of justice arising from his trial on sexual harassment charges brought by Paula Jones – an Arkansas state employee during Mr. Clinton’s governorship. The charges were clearly true – particularly the obstruction charge, which involved tampering with the jury. But Mr. Clinton’s political and media allies managed to convince the public that the impeachment was about the president’s highly publicized sexual dalliance with a young White House intern named Monica Lewinsky. It was “only about sex,” said the president’s allies, by way of insisting that the impeachment articles were not “high crimes,” as specified in the Constitution.
Ultimately, the Senate failed to convict Mr. Clinton on charges that would have put any ordinary citizen in jail. The Senate vote on the obstruction charge was 55 for conviction and 45 against – strictly along party lines. (Republicans then held a 55-45 majority in the Senate.) But on the perjury charge, five GOP senators also voted against conviction, making the vote 50 to 50. Obviously, neither vote reached the 2/3 majority needed for conviction. (After Mr. Clinton left office in 2001, an Arkansas court stripped him of his law license for five years because of the same charges, which he had dodged in the Senate.)
4. Political Blowback.
Political recoil from the Clinton impeachment made the elections in the fall of 1998 very damaging to Republicans. Instead of gaining seats in the House of Representatives and Senate, as is normally true for the party not holding the White House at the end of a president’s term, the GOP actually lost five seats in the House and gained no seats in the Senate. Most political analysts blamed the Clinton impeachment and trial for this poor electoral showing. The GOP retained a slim majority in the House, but Newt Gingrich was forced out of the Speakership in early 1999.
After House Democrats impeached Donald Trump on charges of Russia-collusion which have now been shown to be entirely bogus, their control of the House was reduced to only a handful of seats, and their control of the Senate went to 50-50, in the 2020 elections. Impeachment was (and is) a losing hand.
5. Cure worse than the disease.
I’m not the first to observe that Mr. Biden’s inner circle showed political sagacity by choosing Kamala Harris for vice-president. She is essentially Joe’s impeachment-avoidance ticket. The realization that Ms. Harris is waiting to step in, should Mr. Biden go down, is dead certain to stop any impeachment effort before it can get started. Republicans would have to be crazy to let VP Harris get anywhere near the presidency and position herself for re-election as a sitting president.
The bottom line on impeachment is that it cannot resolve a dispute created by a president who refuses to honor Constitutional limits on his power and authority. The “remedy” of removal from office is so drastic that Senators will refuse to use it. Its disruption of the nation’s good will and good order would be huge.
Nor can a lawsuit do anything material to curb the chief executive’s excursions outside the Constitution. The president is not governed by any orders issued by a court, unless he wants to be. If the Constitutional principle of Separation of Powers means anything, it certainly means that. No Constitutional provision directs a president to obey a court ruling, except when the Supreme Court has ruled on the Constitutionality of a particular law. Indeed, none of the three branches can order another branch to do anything, except as the Constitution directs. A “lawsuit” against a presidential action might be politically useful, but it cannot affect the president’s actions, except as he chooses to limit or change them for his own purposes. Even Mr. Biden – however diminished his capacity might be – probably understands that impeachment cannot be a useful tool in restraining his actions.
Most presidents are very shrewd, politically – Mr. Obama possibly among the shrewdest ever. He understood his invulnerability to impeachment better than most of us, including his political adversaries. This, I believe, is why he was so bold in stretching the “envelope” of presidential authority. His opponents had no remedy to his extra-Constitutional actions except the impeachment route, which he undoubtedly saw as no remedy at all. He was completely safe; no curb existed on his ability to do nearly anything. And Mr. Biden learned by Mr. Obama’s example. This is a very dangerous place for the country, as well as for Mr. Biden and his party.
Does this mean the situation is hopeless? Can nothing be done to stop Joe Biden’s radical march through the Constitution? The answers are No and Yes, respectively. No, it’s not hopeless because The People (God bless them!) hold the final power over the government – not the other way round. And Yes, the good news is that something can be done. (The bad news is that we’re the ones who have to do it.)
When the president acts unconstitutionally, the people must make their voices heard in every possible venue to contest those actions – including correspondence, print and broadcast media, public rallies, and direct civil disobedience. Should the president take unconstitutional action on illegal immigration, for instance – throwing open the borders, as Mr. Biden has done, or “legalizing” aliens’ status, as Mr. Obama did – communities can rally in protest to keep the unlawful orders from being carried out. (This is already occurring in some Texas towns.) Mr. Biden might seem deaf to those voices, but other Democrats are certainly hearing them.
For far too long, conservative Americans have acted as though the Marquis of Queensbury rules apply only to political activism from the GOP side of the political spectrum. But this is untrue. On this score we can learn from racial minorities. They rallied, marched, demonstrated, and disobeyed civil laws in the 1950s and ‘60s, until Jim Crow discrimination was defeated and they had gained full participation in American society. At Dr. King’s insistence their campaign was non-violent, but it was ubiquitous and it was untiring. They never gave up. It was the most successful effort of its kind in history.
Reporters love conflict. They always run toward the sound of the guns – whether real or metaphorical. We need to use that fact to advantage in opposing unconstitutional presidential actions. But we’ll have to carry the ball ourselves. No one will do it for us while we’re relaxing in the TV chair. Good Old Joe has inadvertently issued a call to arms. The question is whether we care enough about our Constitution and the liberties it guarantees to answer that call.
That being said, we also need to teach our political adversaries how dangerous Mr. Biden’s methods are for the country, and how much they will regret their willingness to countenance his overreach while he was doing things they liked. We must remind them that political alignments will not always be as they are now. When a conservative president holds office again – as will certainly be true, in due time – he might follow the radical Obama-Biden model and take actions that Democrats dislike, but will be unable to stop. These are dangerous, uncharted waters for the nation. We should not be sailing into them.
Above all, we need to support politicians who stand for the Constitution, with both our time and our finances. And we need to vote for them. People who dislike where things are heading, but withhold their money and don’t bother to cast an intelligent vote, are failing in their duties as citizens. If we end up losing this “war of presidential overreach,” it will be because we didn’t take the field. That should never happen to real Americans. It’s not who we are – never has been.