Impeachment by half-measures

A more generous man than me may, at some point, feel some sympathy for Speaker John Boehner. He’s a man who has ascended to a rather great height from very low beginnings, but can’t seem to do anything right.

His tenure as speaker after the Tea Party revolt of 2010 has been nothing but a comedy of errors. From shutting down the government to quixotically seeking to overturn Obamacare, his speakership has been a litany of failure.

And now he’s embarked on possibly his greatest failure of all: suing President Barack Obama for doing his job, where the Speaker has failed to do his.

Last night the House GOP voted to sue President Obama. The meat of the lawsuit: the President’s delay of the implementation of the employer mandate portion of the Affordable Care Act. It’s Mr. Boehner’s contention that Pres. Obama overstepped his authority by delaying the mandate for a year.

Let that sink in for a moment. Mr. Boehner is suing Pres. Obama for not fully implementing part of a law which the Speaker and his fellow Republicans have voted over 50 times to repeal. The House GOP has finally slid into the realm of Dada, suing to “uphold” a law it loathes.

Mr. Boehner must have good lawyers who are telling him that he and his merry band have no standing to bring the suit. They won’t be able to show where they were harmed by Pres. Obama’s executive action. The ACA allows for delays in implementation if they serve the law’s purposes. And, of course, the first judge before whom this suit appears may well wonder why Mr. Boehner is suing Pres. Obama for failing to fully enact a law which Mr. Boehner has spent four years trying to undo.

But of course, this isn’t about suing Pres. Obama.

Mr. Boehner’s backbenchers are braying for blood. More importantly, so are the Tea Party shock troops who are his only hope of maintaining control of the House. Regardless of Mr. Boehner calling impeachment talk a Democratic “scam”, several of his caucus have been on record over the year opining that impeachment might be the only remedy to rein in King Barack the Lawless. The calls for impeachment grow much louder off of Capitol Hill, in the hustings where slackjawed neanderthals are at their wits’ end seeing the black President running rings around their leadership, getting much more done than a president saddled with a chamber of Congress controlled by the opposition should be able to do. For them, anything Pres. Obama does is by definition an impeachable offense, because by definition he shouldn’t be occupying the Oval Office.

However, Mr. Boehner is nothing if not cagey. He knows he has to somehow satisfy his rabid base. But much like Nancy Pelosi in 2007, he knows impeachment is a non-starter, serving only to kick the Democratic base into a frenzy mere months before midterm elections. But he has to give them something. Hence, this impeachment by half-measure, the first time one branch of government has sued another branch in the Republic’s history. Unable to defeat Pres. Obama in the course of normal politics, Mr. Boehner hopes that if nothing else going to the courts will give the president a black eye, or at least a bit of annoyance.

But, as with everything he does, it’s a failure. Democrats are treating the lawsuit as a full impeachment, and are generating excitement among the base and raking in massive campaign donations. And the Tea Party is still calling for Pres. Obama’s impeachment, not satisfied by the fig leaf of this lawsuit. Most major polling over the past two weeks shows Democrats with a lead of anywhere between 2 and 6 points on the generic ballot. And the Senate, though more precarious, is still within Democrats’ grasp to maintain control. Mr. Boehner, by his lawsuit, has handed Democrats the juiciest cut of red meat with which to mobilize its base. And Pres. Obama, ever the brilliant politician, will shrug off the gross insult of being sued for doing his job by a man who hasn’t worked in four years if it means that the herd of cats he leads will attack in the same direction come November.

So, Mr. Boehner energizes Democrats, and doesn’t mollify his base by this laughable lawsuit. The dictum in politics is if you’re going to do something, do it full tilt; a half measure ensures defeat. Fortunately, Mr. Boehner is too hemmed in by competing interests to do anything at full speed. He’s just looking for a delaying action until November.

John Boehner: the right man at the right time—for Democrats.



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