So it looks like Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is really doing it. Yesterday the House elected to sue the President, something that has never been done before in U.S. history. But Boehner swears this is not about impeachment, even as he’s got Sarah Palin shrieking, “It’s time to impeach; and on behalf of American workers and legal immigrants of all backgrounds, we should vehemently oppose any politician on the left or right who would hesitate in voting for articles of impeachment.” Oh, and CNN just released a poll that claims that 1/3 of Americans want Obama impeached.
But what does it actually mean to be “impeachable”? Well it’s kind of vague.
Maybe we should put this Obama and the Giant Impeachment situation in context by comparing it to some of the more famous past impeachment proceedings we’ve had in this country, namely those involving Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Bill “Slick Willy” Clinton.
Andrew Johnson: Violating the Tenure of Office Act (a since-repealed act intended to restrict the power of the President of the United States to remove certain office-holders without the approval of the Senate). Johnson removed Edwin M. Stanton, the Secretary of War (whom the Tenure of Office Act was largely designed to protect), from office and replaced him with Major General Lorenzo Thomas.
Richard Nixon: Though technically not impeached since he resigned before the trial, because of the Watergate scandal, he was looking at Obstruction of Justice, Abuse of Power, and Contempt of Congress at the very least.
Bill Clinton: Perjury and Obstruction of Justice (a second perjury charge and a charge of abuse of power failed in the House). We all know the Lewinsky-related basics; it depends on what your definition of “is” is…
Barack Obama: Signing some executive orders? Falling in line with his parties’ beliefs on issues? Not giving in to the general chaos around him? Doing his job? It’s kind of unclear (because it’s never, ever, ever been on the table for the GOP, right?).
Johnson: Johnson did do most of the objective things he was tried with (dismissing Edwin Stanton from office after the Senate had voted not to concur with his dismissal and had ordered him reinstated, appointing Thomas without the required advice and consent of the Senate, etc). But his defense argued that President Abraham Lincoln did not reappoint Stanton as Secretary of War at the beginning of his second term in 1865 and that he was therefore a leftover appointment from the 1860 cabinet, which removed his protection by the Tenure of Office Act.
Nixon: The Watergate Scandal, which ended up being about as damning as you can get.
Clinton: The Starr Report, an investigative report done by independent counsel which included recorded phone conversations between Clinton and Monica Lewinsky talking about the oral sex they had previously had (because everyone loves a good recap session).
Johnson: Acquittal after a 10-week trial. However, there were rampant reports following the trial that claimed Republican senators had been bribed to vote for Johnson’s acquittal.
Nixon: Resignation before trial. Nixon then got in a helicopter, ruined the two hand peace-sign pose, was pardoned by Ford, and then he found his true calling of saving us from Communist threats like a diplomatic Rocky IV.
Clinton: Acquittal after a 5-week trial. Clinton left office with a 67% approval rating, his wife could very well be our first woman President in a few years, and we all secretly wish we could have him back for just one more run in the Oval Office.
Obama: A great excuse for Democrats to “run on a Congress that is just obsessed with lawsuits, suing the President, talking about impeaching him instead of solutions for the middle class, talking about jobs and infrastructure,” as Democratic Rep. Steve Israel admitted. The same Steve Israel who is chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. The same DCCC that has raised $7.6 million online since Boehner announced the lawsuit plan just over five weeks ago…
Really, the long and short of it is that Obama will never be impeached, but until he isn’t, he might be, and that’s about as great a situation as he and the Democratic Party can hope for.