October 22, 2021

The White House’s Impeachment Distraction

The White House's Impeachment DistractionThe I word – impeachment – has been flying around in Washington politics recently. But it’s not because Republicans are going to impeach the President. No, it’s because Democrats want people to think Republicans might impeach the President. Indeed, as FiveThirtyEight documented, the White House, Democrats, and President Obama are obsessed with the idea:

And it’s not just official party outlets; MSNBC has done segment after segment raising the spectre of impeachment. Conservative media, and the other hand, aren’t all that interested:

As Nate Silver writes:

Some of the impeachment discussion from Democratic politicians and liberal commentators has a kind of a Br’er Rabbit quality. “Only please, Br’er Republicans, don’t impeach President Obama!” they say. But Democrats know such a move would be highly unpopular with the public and might be one of the few things that would revive their long-shot chances of recapturing the House of Representatives in November. In the meantime, Democrats have raised a bundle of money — at least $2.1 million.

The irony of all of this? President Obama is actually preparing for an unprecedented grab of domestic power. The immigration crisis and Democrats’ refusal to work with Republicans is giving President Obama the excuse to undertake a unilateral amnesty that would be of a scope beyond what we’ve seen before.

Ross Douthat writes:

Even as his team plays the impeachment card with gusto, the president is contemplating — indeed, all but promising — an extraordinary abuse of office: the granting of temporary legal status, by executive fiat, to up to half the country’s population of illegal immigrants.

Such an action would come equipped with legal justifications, of course. Past presidents have suspended immigration enforcement for select groups, and Obama himself did the same for certain younger immigrants in 2012. A creative White House lawyer — a John Yoo of the left — could rely on those precedents to build a case for the legality of a more sweeping move.

But the precedents would not actually justify the policy, because the scope would be radically different. Beyond a certain point, as the president himself has conceded in the past, selective enforcement of our laws amounts to a de facto repeal of their provisions. And in this case the de facto repeal would aim to effectively settle — not shift, but settle — a major domestic policy controversy on the terms favored by the White House.

This simply does not happen in our politics.

Douthat’s entire column is worth a read, and it puts the impeachment talk in a vital context. President Obama wants to place the impeachment talk in Americans’ minds so that if actually does undertake an executive action of unprecedented scale and questionable legality, he can accuse his critics of being unhinged, and that this is just an ordinary action that hyperbolic conservatives are out of bounds to criticize.