John Boehner wants to sue President Obama, but he doesn’t know why. Here’s the Speaker when asked last week which of the president’s actions he would challenge in court: “When I make that decision, I’ll let you know.” Other Republicans, among them the most vocal Tea Party-types, are lobbying for impeachment. The march of these little people continues in earnest, a parade of extreme Republican politicians across the country, rabble-rousing Obama-haters on Fox News and right-wing journalists. They couldn’t beat him in elections, they can’t find a real scandal, so they’re now trying to find an innovative way to apply the Constitution’s impeachment clause.
By any common sense standard, Barack Obama’s conduct of the presidency is unimpeachable. The president’s critics, however, don’t exist in a world of common sense. Trouble is, the more they dig for impeachment straws, the more the public is bound to see it for the political stunt that it is.
Both sides don’t do it. When the tab for President George W. Bush having taken us into the Iraq War was calculated, the top congressional Democrat rejected the thought of impeachment. The war emboldened Iran, caused 4,000 American combat deaths and 30,000 injuries, cost more than $1 trillion and likely has fomented turmoil in the Middle-East for decades, perhaps centuries. The non-profit, non-partisan Center for Public Integrity counts “at least 935 false statements in the two years following 9/11 about the national security threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq (and that) nearly five years after the U.S. invasion …, an exhaustive examination of the record shows that the statements were part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively galvanized public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses.”
In November 2006 Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said at a news conference, “I have said it before and I will say it again: impeachment is off the table.” In 2008 she told ABC’s “The View,” “… when I became Speaker...I saw it as my responsibility to try to bring a much divided country together to the extent that we could. I thought that impeachment would be divisive for the country.”
Ironically, many of the key Republican players who got so much wrong are now trying to hold Obama responsible for Iraq’s new sectarian fighting. The president properly opposes involving American combat forces in that country’s renewed civil strife. Yet Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) insists, “Obama erred in not leaving residual forces once the last U.S. forces pulled out in 2011.” What Graham ignores is that the American pullout was negotiated under Bush, not Obama. Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Malicki wanted the Americans out and he refused to approve a status of forces agreement under which U.S. troops would be granted immunity from Iraqi prosecution.
Right-wingers also claim Obama excessively issues executive orders. They call him the “imperial president!” The claim is ludicrous. Here are facts: As of June 20, Obama had issued 182 executive orders. Bush ordered 291 during his presidential tenure. Obama’s pace is slower than any president’s since John Kennedy. By the way, Herbert Hoover in his one term issued 968, Calvin Coolidge 1203 in less than six years.
But recent history’s most cogent case for impeachable offenses by a president is not mentioned by these Republican witch hunters because it belongs to their political saint Ronald Reagan. The guys who today condemn Obama for arranging the exchange of Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl for five Taliban inmates held at GITMO don’t talk about the egregious Reagan scandal in 1986. Bergdahl’s retrieval was based on the American military principle that dates to George Washington’s time – that we leave no soldier behind. Reagan employed the same principle when he brokered a deal with Iran to sell them arms, violating an embargo, in return for Tehran’s assistance in freeing seven American hostages held in Lebanon. Worse yet, proceeds from the illegal arms sales were channeled to financial support of Nicaraguan Contras who were fighting that country’s socialist government. At the time, assistance to the Contras was prohibited by Congress. Later that year, Reagan incredulously denied that we traded arms for hostages!
Former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger later wrote that Reagan said he “couldn’t answer to the charge that ‘big strong President Reagan passed up a chance to free the hostages.’” I wonder how these Ronnie Reagan worshippers reconcile their hero’s Iran-Contra scandal with their condemnation of Barack Obama’s Bergdahl deal. The latter, after all, had precedent — like the one in 1986!
Republicans’ all-too-casual use of the term “impeachment” cheapens its import. Then again, the GOP radicals are masters of cheap shots.
Michael Zucker is a resident of South Lake Tahoe and a stockbroker with Regal Securities. The views expressed in this column are his alone and do not represent those of Regal.