Tuesday, July 29, 2014


If you're a regular reader, you know that I think John Boehner is a lot smarter than most people think he is. I don't think he's shown any governance skills, but that's because he's given up on governing, just like the rest of his party. Instead, he's good at what he's trying to be good at, which is holding on to his job as the well-remunerated keeper of an angry nest of poisonous snakes without being blamed for anyone else's snakebite death, and without being bitten himself.

I'm watching the gamesmanship surrounding impeachment, and I have to say that Boehner is doing a pretty good job of persuading the rest of the Beltway that Republicans are the voice of reason. I especially enjoy the way someone from Team Boehner -- it has to be one of his people, acting anonymously -- spoon-fed the Washington Examiner's Byron York some anecdotes portraying Boehner as the anti-impeachment voice of reason in 1998, as if that's proof that the current class of crazies nominally under his command would never demand impeachment:
In September of '98, independent counsel Kenneth Starr sent a report to the GOP-controlled Congress that was essentially a road map for impeachment.

Congress followed the map. But before impeachment came the midterms. Many top Republicans felt that all GOP candidates had to do was run ads bashing Clinton and tying him to Democratic candidates. Victory would follow.

But other Republicans -- including some close to Rep. John Boehner, who at the time was still a relatively junior member of the House -- felt Republicans should campaign on their accomplishments since winning the majority in 1994.

"Boehner was of the opinion that we need to prove what we had done in the last four years as a majority," says one strategist involved in the discussions. "Unemployment going down, growth going up, the budget balanced." Republicans on Boehner's side put together a document known as "the playbook" to sketch out an issue-based campaign.

But the people who ran the party's central campaign apparatus had other ideas....
Boehner is now arguing that impeachment talk is just something President Obama is crying wolf about, in order to fundraise and win votes:
"Listen, this whole talk about impeachment is coming from the president's own staff, and coming from Democrats on Capitol Hill. Why? Because they're trying to rally their people to give money and to show up in this year's election," the Ohio Republican told reporters, in response to a question.

"We have no plans to impeach the president. We have no future plans," a visibly frustrated Boehner said. "Listen, it's all a scam started by Democrats at the White House."
Politico seconds that:
It's not enough that Boehner’s House is preparing to sue the president over his use of executive authority; Democrats are busily trying to craft a narrative that the president will shortly be on trial in the Capitol.

The tactic has brought big dollars into Democrats' coffers, and it has kept Republican aides and lawmakers busy as they keep swatting down the idea whenever it sprouts up.
And, Hot Air's Noah Rothman finds a lefty journalist arguing that Boehner has a point:
"Have you noticed this impeach Obama talk lately?" MSNBC's Chris Hayes asked on Monday night. "Is it possible this is all a masterful stroke of Democrats running a false flag operation?"
Of course, plenty of Republicans have been talking about impeachment. It's understandable that Democrats are trying to rally the base by pointing out this actually existing impeachment talk.

But Boehner and his impeachment-averse allies have done something very clever by flooding the zone with Obama-wants-impeachment talk: they've persuaded the insider press that Boehner is the reasonable one and Obama the reckless and divisive one, and they've given Republican officeholders who might be hearing impeachment talk from Fox-crazed constituents a counternarrative: We shouldn't pursue impeachment because that's what Obama wants us to do! So now not pursuing impeachment seems like the thing to do if you hate Obama.

And meanwhile, the White House is floating a trial balloon suggesting that the president may make a bold unilateral move on immigration just before the midterms. The AP story reporting this mentions the possibility of impeachment in its second paragraph:
Such a large-scale move on immigration could scramble election-year politics and lead some conservative Republicans to push for impeachment proceedings against President Barack Obama, a prospect White House officials have openly discussed.
In the battle for the hearts and minds of the MSM -- which will shape this story for most people -- I'm afraid Boehner is looking like the guy who's maintaining calm, while Obama looks like the guy who's fostering division. That, of course, ignores what's actually been going on in America since ... oh, January 20, 2009. But what do you expect from the press?

Boehner is winning this one. He may still lose if Obama makes an immigration move and the crazies howl for impeachment. But he's also giving them a reason not to.


UPDATE: It's working if this guy is anti-impeachment now.


Unknown said...

I don't think it's working that way. I think Boehner's anonymous aide is setting up the narrative that "Hey, I'm not some hothead; look back to 1994 when I was against impeachment," so that he can sadly, more-in-sorrow-than-anger, allow the impeachment show to go on after November.

It's what they're all doing. Everyone has to go on record as not being in favor of impeachment now, so that later they can sell the press on the narrative that the push to impeach is a recent idea that they support reluctantly and after lots of very serous thought.
Or maybe they're just waiting until they have the votes. I don't know. When all you want to do is destroy, there are many ways to do it.

Steve M. said...

can see it your way, but I think Boehner is sincere about not wanting impeachment -- pre-November, it does motivate Democratic voters, and post-November, it makes Republicans look crazy going into 2016. And while impeachment (which is basically indictment) can pass by a simple majority in the House, a two-thirds vote is needed to convict in the Senate, and that will never happen.

Boehner likes the lawsuit because he knows GOP-appointed judges are quite likely to endorse any argument that screws Democrats, regardless of the lack of legal grounds. Boehner knows Hillary Clinton is the favorite for 2016. A lawsuit rather than an impeachment has the potential to drastically curtail her power, if she wins (but it wouldn't hurt a Republican, because a Republican will probably have a rubber-stamp Republican Congress).

Victor said...

I don't think Obama's going to anything big - or even small - on immigrations until after the midterms.

After that, no matter what he does, the Republicans will holler and scream, and move to impeach.

Parallax said...

Makes no difference what the MSM has to say. Such a small fraction read newspapers. Those who watch the news on television are already aligned with one party or the other. When Obama takes strong action on immigration, the knuckle draggers will howl from the sheer brutality of the pain of victimhood. If they don't convince leadership to impeach, they'll surely convince those who don't normally pay attention that they're insane and unsuitable for any role in government. Plus they'll force all the Republican candidates for president to howl in sympathetic rage.