While it isn't exactly certain yet that Hillary Clinton will be our next president, at this point it is worth contemplating what will happen after the election if she does win. I did so yesterday on the subject of Merrick Garland's Supreme Court nomination, but today the news centers on how a Republican House would react to a Clinton presidency. In a word: petulantly. They are now promising endless investigations of Hillary Clinton, as far as the eye can see.
This shouldn't be all that unfamiliar territory, for anyone who was politically aware during the 1990s, since endless investigations of Bill Clinton were pretty much par for the course while he was president. Whole right-wing industries were built on the foundation of attacking the Clintons, in fact. Some of them are still around today, and are still just as eager to begin attacking Bill's wife, pretty much from the first minute after she's sworn into office.
Here is Jason Chaffetz, the current chair of the House Oversight Committee, explaining what they've got teed up:
It's a target-rich environment. Even before we get to Day One, we've got two years' worth of material already lined up. She has four years of history at the State Department, and it ain't good.
In other words, two years of non-stop investigation, in the hopes that by throwing everything and the kitchen sink at President Hillary Clinton, something will stick. Even this prospect doesn't go far enough for some on the right. One of those industries created to attack Clinton is called Judicial Watch, and here's what their leader wants to see happen:
"You're going to still have a clamor for a serious criminal investigation of Mrs. Clinton's conduct with respect to her emails and the [Clinton] Foundation," Judicial Watch's president, Tom Fitton, told NBC News. "There's been no systematic investigation of various issues." According to NBC, Fitton "has criticized GOP lawmakers for failing to pre-emptively impeach Clinton."
He added, "I know this generation of Republican leaders is loath to exercise these tolls, but impeachment is something that's relevant. They see [the oversight process] as an opportunity in some measure to keep their opponents off-kilter, but they don't want to do the substantive and principled work to truly hold corrupt politicians or the administration or anyone accountable."
Got that? "Pre-emptive impeachment." That's a doozy of a political neologism, right there. Why both with an investigation when you can just jump right to the impeachment part, right? As the Queen of Hearts famously said: "Sentence first -- verdict afterwards!"
It would be funny, if it weren't so serious. If Hillary Clinton does win the election, she is going to have a non-existent "honeymoon" period immediately afterwards, if House Republicans have anything to say about it. With the prospect of ever taking back the White House dimming with every election, and with the possible loss of control in the Senate staring them in the face, this is all they have left to promise to their rabidly anti-Clinton base: continued gridlock, and endless investigations.
The Republicans have already proven that they are incapable of governing. They have controlled the House and the Senate for years now, and they have yet to even put together a real budget. They are in full control, and they can't even manage the most basic part of their job description, to put this another way. They cannot agree among themselves about much of anything, meaning they are incapable of passing any meaningful legislation. When they took control, they could have offered the American public concrete examples of their agenda -- a replacement plan for Obamacare, say, or even a tax reform bill -- and they have not. They are completely incompetent at coming up with any legislation, in fact. So obstructionism is really all they have left to offer the voters.
Republicans are like the dog who actually caught a car -- and didn't know what to do with it. They function much better as a minority party, in fact, because being in the minority is easy -- all you have to do is be strongly against whatever the party in power is pushing. It requires no thought process at all, and it is a uniting factor for the entire caucus. Once you're actually in power, however, you are supposed to come up with some ideas and plans of your own -- but Republicans have shown they are incapable of doing so.
In fact, the only thing which could change the prospect of two years of endless Clinton investigations is if the Democrats took back control of the House. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, obviously, wouldn't make it her highest priority to attack President Hillary Clinton. Even Chaffetz admits this, in a rather candid statement:
The one thing Chaffetz will not consider is an election that goes badly against the GOP. He sees the Oversight Committee as "the tip of the spear," with a valuable role to play in challenging the executive. If Republicans lose the majority, Chaffetz has no Plan B.
"Heaven help us!" said Chaffetz, laughing. "Please, no! I'm not even going to think about that one. I can't even utter the sentence out loud."
Taking back the House is a longshot, since Democrats would need to flip 30 seats. If Hillary Clinton wins in a popular vote landslide (a margin of around 10 percent), then this might be a possibility. But it's a remote one, because House elections are indeed (legally) "rigged" in favor of Republicans, by rampant gerrymandering after the 2010 redistricting. Even winning the popular vote for the House by over a million votes nationwide didn't give the Democrats control of the chamber, in previous elections. That's a pretty good definition of rigged, really.
If the Republicans retain control of the Senate, there might be a lot more pressure on the party to act responsibly and pass actual bills to do the country's business. But if they lose the White House and the Senate, then the House will be the only place they have any real influence at all. As we've seen, they are completely incapable of passing their own agenda legislatively, meaning the only thing they're all likely to agree upon is that they need to be as fierce as possible in attacking Hillary Clinton. For the next two years.
At least when Barack Obama was elected, the Republicans waited until he was sworn in before announcing their top priority would be to make him a "one-term president." With Hillary Clinton, they're not even waiting until then. They're not even waiting until the election happens, in fact. Instead, even now, some are calling for "pre-emptive impeachment," even though the possibility of a Senate conviction (which requires a two-thirds majority) would be incredibly low. But remember -- that didn't stop them the last time they impeached a Clinton.
Chris Weigant blogs at:
Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant