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August 20, 2013 1:22 PM Impeachment Must Be For a Reason

By Ed Kilgore

Now that Ted Cruz has suggested that the only reason Republicans can’t go right ahead and impeach Barack Obama is a lack of the requisite Senate votes, it’s time to stop treating the I-word as something that lurks in the far fever swamps of the crazyverse and begin asking GOPers to be a little more precise when they bring it up. Brother Benen is definitely on the case:

I remember the good old days — back in 2011 — when unhinged conservative Republicans in Congress used to come up with pretenses of high crimes when talking up presidential impeachment. Lately, they don’t even bother. Obama is the president; he’s a Democrat; the right doesn’t like him; ergo impeachment is a credible option. QED.
For the record, as we discussed last week, a variety of voices on the right raised the specter of impeaching President Obama over all sorts of things in recent years — immigration policy, czars, recess appointments, DOMA, Benghazi, legislative gridlock, Syria, and job offers, among other things. In the spring, congressional Republicans went a little further, talking up the possibility of impeaching the president over executive orders that don’t exist, gun control, and even budget deficits.
Of course, none of these controversies point to actual presidential wrongdoing, and certainly don’t constitute “high crimes.”

I admit to being a bit of a stickler on this subject, having disliked not only the articles of impeachment brought against Bill Clinton, but those brought against Richard Nixon (there were plenty of other high crimes and misdemeanors worthy of impeachment that he and his cronies had committed, but they didn’t make the cut). Yes, “high crimes and misdemeanors” is a term of art, but it should not be emptied of meaning to the point where impeachment becomes even theoretically available as a way to nullify elections.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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