US News & World Report

By Nicole Hemmer

Forty years ago, Americans were settling in for "impeachment summer," the time from early June, when polls first showed the majority of Americans believed President Richard Nixon should be removed from office, to early August, when he announced his resignation. To commemorate the occasion, Republicans are having a mini-"impeachment summer" of their own. Last Tuesday saw the publication of "Faithless Execution: Building the Political Case for Obama’s Impeachment," written by Andrew McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor and contributing editor at National Review. That same day, GOP former Rep. Allen West called for Obama’s impeachment over the release of prisoners from Guantanamo Bay. Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham warned more impeachment calls would follow if Obama released further prisoners without congressional approval.

Not that this impeachment talk will amount to anything. On Monday Rush Limbaugh, discussing McCarthy’s book, called impeachment “a waste of time, if you don't have the political will. Meaning, if the Republican Party doesn't have the gonads, and if the American people are not desirous of it, then it's just whistling into the wind.” Which is McCarthy’s point. He repeatedly argues that while Obama has committed a slew of impeachable offenses, Republicans can’t impeach him until they’ve made the political case — that is, until they’ve won the public over to their side.

Yet despite the book’s subtitle — "Building the Political Case for Obama’s Impeachment" — McCarthy seems singularly uninterested in explaining how the GOP is supposed to win over the public on this issue. Instead the book is a recitation of every conservative complaint about Obama since 2008, from Obama’s praise for Saul Alinsky’s "Rules for Radicals" to the collapse of Solyndra to Operation Fast and Furious. Benghazi receives ample attention, of course, but so do George Zimmerman, Arizona immigration law and the administration’s “appeasement of Islamic supremacism.” McCarthy isn’t proselytizing to the unsaved; he’s preaching to the choir.

If McCarthy were genuinely committed to understanding the barriers to impeachment and explaining how they could be removed, he would have spent at least part of his analysis on the presidency of George W. Bush. Here was a president with historically low approval ratings, facing both an opposition-controlled Congress and a grassroots movement calling for his removal. McCarthy would no doubt also see parallels between Bush and Nixon, who he argues had to contend with liberal media “bashing him day after day, powerfully influencing the public’s perception.”

Given all that, there was still no real drive within the Democratic Party to impeach Bush. Nancy Pelosi declared the issue "off the table" before the Democrats won in 2006. Sure, there were the Kucinich-Waxman impeachment articles, submitted seven months before Bush left office, but the Democrat-controlled House quickly shuffled them off to committee to wither out of sight. If impeachment couldn’t happen under those conditions, Republicans hoping to impeach Obama stand almost no chance.

A look at impeachment talk in the 2000s would have added real heft to McCarthy's book, but George W. Bush is conspicuously absent from "Faithless Execution," just as he is from every Republican discussion of impeachment. As he must be. If Bush enters the conversation, then McCarthy and company must explain why his administration didn’t meet the conditions of “high crimes and misdemeanors”: why Fast and Furious is impeachable but Operation Wide Receiver, its predecessor, was not; why “the willful misleading of the American people” and “the provision of false information to Congress” about an anti-Islamic video is a dereliction of duty but doing the same about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq is not; and on and on. Only by making a convincing case on those issues can Republicans demonstrate theirs is a principled rather than partisan position.

That’s not a case they can make, however. The current impeachment discussion isn’t about making the legal or political case for Obama’s ouster. It’s just one more way to rally the base in advance of the 2014 midterms. Like the government shutdown, it is a remarkably short-sighted strategy. While the frisson of excitement that shudders through the conservative movement when impeachment is mentioned may help goose turnout in November, it also adds to the impression that the GOP is both out of touch and out of ideas. For all the talk of expanding their appeal post-2012, Republicans are still only speaking to themselves.

This article was originally published in US News & World Report