Impeaching Obama: Serial Madness in Washington

The litany of Congressional Republican nuttiness in the past 20 years is impressive. Think back on assertions that Hilary Clinton was involved in murdering Vince Foster and Whitewater, and the Mother Of All Scandals the Lewinsky/impeachment saga. Remember the more recent assertions that Obama is an Islamic Socialist born in Kenya who wants to seize all American guns. Now climate-change denier Senator Inhofe and other Republicans are again talking about impeachment of Obama.

There are two strands to this kind of thing. Sheer kookiness looms large as a wellspring for this stuff. Bachman, Broun, Paul and the grass-roots actually believe a lot of the weirder conspiracy theories. But there are also Republicans with a cold professional understanding that a drumbeat of accusation changes the ability of any President to govern. And that, beyond political fist-fighting, seems to be the goal. For months after the 2012 election, Congressional Republicans were throwing stuff at the wall hoping something would stick. It didn't. Now they think it might, even if the source of the problem is Obama administration itself.

Make no mistake, there's a real discussion to be had about the IRS scandal, and the AP scandal. The nutty Right is in good company when it speaks to these things, and the IRS/Tea Party investigations will resonate with voters who normally shrug this stuff off. There may be valid explanations for what went on, there may be responses by the Administration that can calm things down. But this is a legit area of concern and Congressional inquiry.

Congressional non-kooks are apparently trying to restrain their nutty brethren and sistren. There seems to be an agreement to stop using the term "scandal" and a sense that they can't overheat the rhetoric too early. I spent a number of years conducting controversial investigations of government and private sector wrongdoing in New York, and if there's one truth about these inquiries it is that the people conducting them have to tone it down, act in ways the public will think are thorough and fair, and let the evidence carry the argument. If the Republicans can do those things, and the evidence is damning, they can move beyond their 30% base and engage the American people in conversations that are real, and politically damaging to Obama. If they can't, they will emerge with a re-re-energized base of Obama haters and the disdain of the bulk of Americans.

Beyond the political maneuvering however is a profound and troubling tendency. Take the worst interpretation of all the scandals. There is nothing on the public record that justifies mentioning impeachment. Stupidity and mismanagement are not "High Crimes and Misdemeanors." It tells us a lot that the rush to impeachment is underway, sans evidence, sans justification, sans a decent respect for the function of government. The politics of ultimate destruction is alive and well, with no apparent way to end it.ap

There are plenty of us who want the Obama administration held accountable, and view Congress and politics as two ways to do it. It would be so much easier if both weren't infected by hate, real hate, for Obama, bizarre conspiracy theorists, and ideologues who really want to stop the federal Government from functioning. Here's a guess. Obama will handle the politics of the IRS skillfully, and the non-kooky Congressional Republicans won't be able to restrain enough of the kooks to control the storyline. Result: Anger on the right, disappointment for everyone else, and a much tougher row to hoe for a president whose effort to remake the economy and our institutions is in trouble.