(Update) The GOP wants to party like it’s 1999


let-s-go-crazy-and-party-like-it-s-1999Update to yesterday’s post, The GOP wants to party like it’s 1999.

The Washington Post’s Paul Waldman has more on #Benghazi! being a precursor to something far more near and dear to the hearts of those who live in the fever swamps of the conservative media entertainment complex closed information feedback loop: Is a drive to impeach Barack Obama on its way?:

If you’re looking for some beach reading this summer, you might pick up a copy of this soon-to-be-released book: “Faithless Execution: Building the Political Case for Obama’s Impeachment,” by National Review writer Andrew McCarthy. It’s hitting bookstores at the perfect time, just as John Boehner has appointed a select committee to investigate Benghazi, and will no doubt be required reading on Capitol Hill and at the Fox News studios.

Is it reasonable to surmise that a move to impeach Barack Obama is a realistic possibility?

It isn’t that no one has talked about impeaching Obama before, because they have. But for the last five years, impeachment has been the purview of the nuttier corners of the right — the conspiracist web sites, the chain emails, the ranting radio hosts. For much of that time, the complaints weren’t so much about specific alleged misdeeds as Obama’s fundamental illegitimacy. Impeach him because he isn’t American. Impeach him because ACORN and the New Black Panthers stole the election for him. Impeach him because while other presidents hired people known as “White House staff,” when this president does it they’re “czars” wielding unconstitutional powers. They could certainly give you a list of particulars if you asked, but what it came down to was that Barack Obama was, well, Barack Obama.

But now we have the Benghazi select committee, and a select committee is what you form when there may be crimes and misdemeanors to uncover. It has no other business to distract it, and it will be led by Trey Gowdy, a former prosecutor who excels at channeling conservatives’ outrage.

B enghazi

To be clear, this doesn’t mean that Boehner or the party establishment he represents want impeachment, not by any means. They realize what a political disaster it was when they did it in 1998, and they understand that the effects would likely be similar if it happened again. But there are multiple Republican members of Congress who have at least toyed with the idea, and the committee’s hearings could build pressure in the Republican base for it.

How would that play out? The select committee hearings will provide an institutional pathway and the requisite media attention necessary to air all sorts of dramatic allegations against the administration (supported by evidence or not). They’ll get non-stop coverage on Fox News, where some personalities are already calling for impeachment. Conservative radio hosts will talk of little else for months. Spurred on by their media, base Republicans will begin pressuring their representatives, in phone calls and emails and town meetings and wherever those members of Congress go. And remember that your average Republican member comes from a safe Republican district, where the only political threat is from the right.

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All that would make many in the House conclude that coming out in favor of impeachment is the safest political play to make. And isn’t in the logical extension of everything they’ve been saying for the last five years about this socialist anti-American liberty-destroying president?

In all seriousness, an impeachment drive would be, in many ways, another iteration of the central conflict of this period of our political history, the one between a Tea Party pushing the GOP to ever more radical tactics and a party establishment warning of political catastrophe if they go too far. The GOP establishment didn’t want to shut down the government or cause a debt ceiling crisis, but they got pushed into them and didn’t get out until the political costs became undeniable. They’ll warn that impeachment would be a terrible mistake, and they might persuade their brethren to hold back. But it won’t be easy.

The biggest problem the pro-impeachment forces would face is that the Benghazi committee is unlikely to produce any particular action by Obama that they could point to and say, this is the crime for which he must be impeached. The real threat is that it may well produce something that’s good enough for them, even if the rest of the country is unconvinced. After all, even before anyone heard the name Monica Lewinsky, Republicans in the House were preparing to impeach Bill Clinton. All they needed was the controversy that took it from a fringe idea to a mainstream Republican idea, and then the momentum made it unstoppable.

Washington Post media villager Dana Milbank examines Sen. Joe McCarthy and his list of 76 Communists in the American government, er, I mean Sen. Ted “Calgary” Cruz and his The Legal Limit Report No. 4 (.pdf) detailing 76 “lawless” Obama administration actions and abuses of power, and calls bullshit on this shyster Texas lawyer. Ted Cruz, the reckless accuser:

Cruz-McCarthySen. Ted Cruz, in a speech to fellow conservatives at the Federalist Society this week, provided detailed evidence of what the right calls the “lawlessness” of the Obama administration.

The Texas Republican, in his latest McCar­thyesque flourish, said he had a list of “76 instances of lawlessness and other abuses of power.”

To his credit, Cruz made his list public. But perhaps he shouldn’t have. An examination of the accusations reveals less about the lawlessness of the accused than about the recklessness of the accuser.

Cruz was particularly agitated about President Obama’s use of signing statements, executive orders, recess appointments and unconfirmed “czars” — omitting the salient detail that this president has used four less than George W. Bush, for whom Cruz worked as a campaign adviser and administration official.

Beyond such perennial check-and-balance disputes, Cruz’s list was a recitation of policy grievances (Cruz, if you haven’t heard, doesn’t like Obamacare very much, nor the president’s immigration policy). These were interspersed with some whoppers that the senator, a former Texas solicitor general, couldn’t have researched thoroughly.

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Cruz, in a preamble to his accusations, writes piously of “the president’s persistent pattern of lawlessness, his willingness to disregard the written law and instead enforce his own policies via executive fiat.”

The evidence? The first item in the first category (“Governing By Executive Fiat”): ”Disregarded 1996 welfare reform law in granting broad work waivers for work requirements of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.”

Such waivers were at the heart of welfare reform, which I covered. Ron Haskins, who drafted the law, told The Post that waivers made the law possible by giving states freedom to experiment.

A few lines down, Cruz alleges that Obama “extended federal marriage benefits by recognizing, under federal law, same-sex marriages . . . even if the couple is living in a state that doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage.”

Cruz’s footnote for this allegation is to a February news article, which notes that the administration’s “changes were set in motion last year when the Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional to refuse federal benefits to married same-sex couples.” So Obama is being “lawless” by obeying a Supreme Court ruling?

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No item was too small to escape Cruz’s notice. Obama “shut down an Amish farm for selling fresh unpasteurized milk across state lines,” he alleges. Actually, the Food and Drug Administration was acting under the authority of a federal court order — not exactly lawlessness.

There are, among the 76, legitimate grievances about expanded surveillance at the National Security Agency and about efforts to get reporters’ phone records. But it’s difficult to avoid the conclusion that the alleged abuse and lawlessness are actually differences of politics and policy.

Obama “shut down the Amber Alert website, while keeping up Let’s Move website, during the partial government shutdown,” writes Cruz — who almost singlehandedly caused the shutdown.

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Cruz disagrees with Obama on just about everything. But this doesn’t make Obama a criminal.

In America we do not criminalize policy disputes.