By Peter Grier
Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
Mike Huckabee thinks President Obama deserves to be impeached. The former Arkansas governor and possible 2016 GOP candidate told conservative radio host Steve Deace earlier this week that Mr. Obama “has done plenty of things worthy of impeachment” and that in his view the president’s overreach “absolutely” merits such action.
Mr. Huckabee added an important caveat, though. He said that Republicans can’t impeach Obama at the moment because they don’t have the votes to convict and remove him from office in the Senate.
“From a governmental standpoint you’re not going to see it accomplished with this Senate. But I think it’s an important argument to make that there are a number of things this president has done in the overuse of the executive power, his complete ignoring of the law, even his own law,” said Huckabee.
In some respects this is a clever way of trying to appeal to multiple audiences – GOP hardliners who favor impeachment, and more moderate types who don’t. At the Washington Monthly the left-leaning Ed Kilgore calls Huckabee’s “yes, but” approach to impeachment the “Huckabee straddle.”
“This, of course, begs the question of what Republicans would do if they win a majority of the Senate in November,” writes Mr. Kilgore.
But we’d say Huckabee’s formulation is also indicative of the overall state of seriousness in regard to Obama impeachment rhetoric.
There are a few big GOP figures willing to entertain the idea. Besides Huckabee, Sarah Palin is the top name here – and she’s got no “but” in her argument. She wants impeachment, now.
These folks are generally in a position where they’re trying to build or maintain an audience among party true believers. Huckabee would like to run as the conservative choice in 2016. Palin needs to maintain her political/entertainment role in the media.
Besides them, there are a scattering of conservative House members who talk openly about impeachment. But they tend to be outside the ring of actual power in the chamber, such as Rep. Steven King (R) of Iowa.
Establishment Republicans in Washington reject the idea. House Speaker John Boehner says flatly he does not agree with Palin on impeachment. Even firebrand Sen. Ted Cruz (R) of Texas is wishy-washy on the subject, according to a handy chart of impeachment positions produced by The Washington Post’s Philip Bump.
So it’s not accurate to say the Republican Party is talking about impeaching President Obama. It is accurate to say a few in the GOP are pushing it, while the party’s current institutional structure is trying hard to dampen the talk, through such methods as Speaker Boehner’s lawsuit challenging Obama actions.
Democrats are doing what they can to take partisan advantage of this intramural split. They’re raising money off it, for one thing – the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has sent out a number of blast emails playing up Palin’s call for impeachment.
To some extent Democrats may be trying to use impeachment talk to rally the dispirited party base for the approaching 2014 midterms. Congressional Democrats have talked about impeachment on the House and Senate floors 20 times more than have Republicans, according to an analysis in The Hill.
Does this mean Democrats are actually “desirous of impeachment,” as Noah Rothman writes at the right-leaning "Hot Air"? Some Republicans think that’s the real dynamic at work here – a cynical Democratic leadership senses an advantage in an actual impeachment trial, safe in the knowledge that the Democratic-controlled Senate would not vote to oust a Democratic president.
Maybe. Lots of things are possible in politics. But given the stakes in an "impeachment now" strategy for Democrats, that approach would seem close to nuts, risky in the extreme.