There is simply no downside for Sarah Palin in calling for Barack Obama’s impeachment.
She grabs a nice bit of media attention. She rallies her conservative base. She gets to talk about it on Fox. And since she holds no elective office, she doesn’t have to worry about whether her rhetorical broadside has the slightest chance of succeeding.
In fact, the chances that the House will impeach a second straight Democratic president are extremely remote. But so what? Palin gets the issue and positions herself on the leading edge of anti-Obamaism.
The former Alaska governor and Fox News contributor launched her attack yesterday on the conservative Breitbart News website, and she came out swinging:
“Enough is enough of the years of abuse from this president. His unsecured border crisis is the last straw that makes the battered wife say, ‘no mas.’…
“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.”
The 2008 VP nominee made the case last night on “Hannity” as well, guaranteeing a second bump.
But while various GOP congressmen have openly mused about impeachment, the House leadership hasn’t given any indication that such proceedings would be seriously considered. With the Republicans appearing to be in a strong position in the 2014 midterms, why introduce an explosive new element that would divide the country and enable critics to turn the spotlight on their motivation?
The impeachment of Bill Clinton didn’t work out so well from the GOP point of view, as the country turned against the effort and the Democrats actually picked up House seats in the 1998 midterms.
I’m sure a chunk of the country would love to see Obama run out of office. But being a bad president isn’t grounds for impeachment. The Constitution requires evidence of “high crimes and misdemeanors”—say, like authorizing burglaries and orchestrating a coverup, as Richard Nixon did.
The IRS scandal certainly carries a strong whiff of Watergate-style political retaliation. But with all those missing Lois Lerner emails, no one has tied the misconduct to the president or top White House aides.
Interestingly, Palin’s Breitbart column doesn’t offer a legal bill of particulars for impeachment. It’s more of a laundry-list indictment of his conduct in office:
“Opening our borders to a flood of illegal immigrants is deliberate. This is his fundamental transformation of America…
“The federal government is trillions of dollars in debt, many cities are on the verge of insolvency, our overrun healthcare system, police forces, social services, schools, and our unsustainably generous welfare-state programs are stretched to the max. ..
“President Obama’s rewarding of lawlessness, including his own, is the foundational problem here. It’s not going to get better, and in fact irreparable harm can be done in this lame-duck term as he continues to make up his own laws as he goes along.”
Will this have a political impact? The Washington Post sees Palin putting her Capitol Hill colleagues on the spot:
“If a significant pro-impeachment portion of the conservative base does materialize — and that's a big ‘if’ — it will put Republican lawmakers in the unenviable position of responding to questions about whether they, too, agree with the idea of impeachment…
“It lends credence to Democrats' argument that Republicans are controlled by the extreme wing of their party. And to the extent that Democrats can make the 2014 election a referendum on the GOP's conduct in Congress (see: government shutdown), it's to their benefit.”
On the right, Hot Air's Allahpundit suggests the effort isn’t worth it because the president would most likely be acquitted in the Senate:
“Don’t be so sure there’d be a majority in favor of convicting Obama even if Republicans retake the Senate. The usual centrist suspects — Collins, Murkowski, Kirk, et al. — will be chilly to the idea. And now that Thad Cochran owes his reelection to black Democrats in Mississippi, it’s hard to believe he’d turn around and vote to remove the first black president. To even have a bare majority willing to convict, I suspect you’d need at least 57 or so seats in GOP hands next year, which is a tall order for November.
“But again, this is mainly about constructing a true conservative/RINO litmus test, so if a bunch of RINOs end up voting to acquit, no biggie. That’ll simply be taken as proof of the underlying point that the Senate needs more tea partiers…
“Does John McCain agree with his former running mate that the president should be impeached? Inquiring minds want to know!”
(McCain said yesterday he doesn't support impeachment.)
On the left, Salon laments the extreme polarization of such efforts:
"We’ve gotten into the habit of delegitimizing our presidents — not just contesting their election or pushing back against their policies, but denying their very claim to the White House. From the farcical (birthers) to the faux-serious ('anti-American socialist!'), we’ve moved beyond mere opposition and into a deeper civic sickness, where casting aspersions on the policies of an opposition president has given way to challenging his very right to implement those policies.
"It didn’t start with Barack Obama. This new kind of cynicism has been gaining ground for years."
Sarah Palin was a powerful force in the 2010 elections, boosting some candidates to victory with her coveted endorsements and still being talked about as a presidential possibility. But with the rise of figures like Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, she hasn’t been talked about much in 2014 at all. That, at least for now, has suddenly changed.
Howard Kurtz is a Fox News analyst and the host of "MediaBuzz" (Sundays 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET). He is the author of five books and is based in Washington. Follow him at @HowardKurtz. Click here for more information on Howard Kurtz.