Last week, Jeffrey Lord asked the following question in this space: “Should Obama be impeached?” I have enormous respect for Lord, and agree with virtually everything he writes, but his column reflects an unsettling trend in the way many view this issue. Most pundits and politicians discuss Obama’s serial violations of the Constitution as if mulling an interesting academic subject. They ponder such arcana as the definition of “high crimes and misdemeanors,” the number of Senate votes required to convict an impeached President, the effect of the process on the GOP’s electoral prospects in 2016, ad infinitum. Few, however, discuss impeachment as a serious possibility or even a rational course of action.
In a less complacent nation, Lord’s question would not be rhetorical. It is the duty of the House of Representatives to impeach Obama. Every member of Congress takes an oath to defend the Constitution and the President has declared war on that foundational document. Barack Obama is systematically destroying the checks and balances the framers put in place to limit the power of the office he holds. The powers of the Presidency, as the founders conceived them, were meant to be constrained by two coequal branches of the government — the national legislature and the judiciary. President Obama routinely flouts inconvenient laws passed by the former and publicly excoriates the latter when its rulings displease him.
Much of what this man has done since taking office is clearly illegal, and he is becoming more and more brazen about it every day. His most recent crime against the Constitution was, of course, his latest unilateral revision of the deadline by which businesses must conform to Obamacare’s employer mandate. This mandate, according to the stipulations of the health care “reform” law, should have taken effect January 1. However, that date proved politically inconvenient for the Democrats, so Obama ordered his minions to change the deadline — twice — despite lacking any legal authority to do so. What has been done by the people invested with the power to put a stop to such illegal decrees? Virtually nothing.
Why not? In the words of Senator Ted Cruz, “There aren’t enough votes in the Senate.” I admire Senator Cruz, but he is evidently confused. It is true that, to remove a President from office, a two-thirds majority of the Senate must vote to convict him of charges emanating from the House impeachment process. However, impeachment itself is a separate step — roughly analogous to an indictment in a criminal court — and requires only a simple majority in the House of Representatives. Today, the Republicans control that body by a margin of more than thirty seats. In other words, one or more articles of impeachment could be passed against Obama in the House of Representatives without a single Democrat vote.
Why would the GOP pursue such a controversial course when they know the Senate will never produce the super majority required to convict Obama? That question, the opinion of Senator Cruz notwithstanding, is utterly irrelevant. If a policeman sees a thief picking your pocket, should he stand by and ponder the very real possibility that some clever defense attorney might help the criminal escape justice? Of course not. It’s his job to arrest the pickpocket and make sure that he faces trial for his crime. Then, even if a corrupt judge or a simple-minded jury lets the crook off, at least he has done his job. In the case under discussion here, Obama is the crook and the House of Representatives is the policeman.
Presented with this analogy, Obama would no doubt say, “I am not a crook.” Well, we’ve heard that one before. The facts tell a different story. Indeed, the President’s catalogue of crimes is so long that one hardly knows what to highlight first. Perhaps a good place to begin is with fiats like his latest rewriting of Obamacare. These decrees have quite unnerved George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley, a liberal who voted for Obama twice. Turley recently described them as follows: “What we’re seeing now is the usurpation of authority that’s unprecedented in this country … a system in which a single individual is allowed to rewrite legislation … is a system that borders on authoritarianism.”
Obama’s latest illegal change to Obamacare is, of course, only one of many. Indeed, as the Galen Institute reports, his administration has unilaterally rewritten this particular “law of the land” no fewer than 18 times since April of 2011. And such revisions have by no means been limited to the ironically titled “Affordable Care Act.” The President and his minions at the Department of Homeland Security have, for example, also rewritten our immigration laws without troubling themselves to consult with Congress: “The Obama administration has issued new exemptions to a law that bars certain asylum-seekers and refugees who provided ‘limited material support’ to terrorists who are believed to pose no threat from the U.S.”
And no column about Obama’s outrages is complete without a reminder that he used the IRS to harass his political enemies. Nor can one, in good conscience, fail to remind readers that his National Security Agency is even now collecting data on millions of private citizens. And, if none of these things render you receptive to impeachment, let’s return to Professor Turley. In addition to his worries about the President’s usurpation of power from formerly coequal branches of government, he is also very concerned about the “tour de force of an imperial presidency” by which “Obama claims the right to be able to kill any American based on his sole judgment and discretion.” And still Congress snores.
Such congressional somnolence is as new to this country as are Obama’s experiments with authoritarianism. The people we send to Congress have traditionally been very jealous of their power, and there was a time when they would have been considerably less supine in their dealings with such a power-mad president. The House has impeached two presidents and seriously considered impeaching a third. There may not be enough votes in the Senate to convict Obama, but there are certainly enough Republicans in the House to pass articles of impeachment. Their inaction is not about votes. It’s about cowardice. The GOP is more concerned about its short-term political prospects than the long-term good of the Republic.
Sadly, there is a precedent for this and where it leads. The Roman Emperor Tiberius once alluded to it with the following remark concerning the self-seeking and moral cowardice that had allowed Rome’s once-powerful Senate to be emasculated: “Those men are fit to be slaves.” If our elected representatives in Congress don’t do something about Obama, they will be regarded by posterity with equal scorn.