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“We Have To Impeach Someone!”: The Right’s Competing Targets For An Impeachment Drive

The Republican message on impeachment is something of a mess. For every GOP leader who dismisses such talk as a Democratic “scam,” there are two more Republicans taking the idea seriously. For example, in Alaska last week, two GOP Senate candidates touched on the idea – and the more credible of the two, former state Attorney General Dan Sullivan, said he would take impeachment “very, very seriously” if elected and “would focus on it” if it reached the Senate.

So much for the notion of a Democratic “scam.”

Mike Huckabee is further helping exemplify the confusion. Last week, the former Arkansas governor said President Obama “absolutely” deserves to be impeached, adding there’s “no doubt that he has done plenty of things worthy of impeachment.” And then over the weekend, Huckabee added, “Let me be very clear. I never said he should be impeached.”

While Republicans work on sorting this out, some of their brethren are prepared to move on – not to other issues, but to other executive-branch officials they’d like to see impeached.

Senator Ted Cruz (R., Texas) doesn’t want conservatives to try to impeach President Obama, but he supports targeting Attorney General Eric Holder.

“It is clear, with the Harry Reid Senate, impeachment of the president is not going anywhere,” Cruz told National Review Online during an interview at the 2014 RedState Gathering in Fort Worth, Texas. “If the House of Representatives were to impeach the attorney general, that process would shine much needed light on the indefensible abuse of power by the attorney general,” he says.

And what, pray tell, is the evidence of Eric Holder abusing his power? Cruz says he’s still outraged by the IRS “scandal,” a controversy that evaporated a year ago when no one could find any evidence of wrongdoing by anyone. The far-right senator nevertheless suspects Holder of “obstruction of justice” for reasons he has not been able to explain.

(Others on the far-right have different targets in mind. Rep. Michele Bachmann last week raised the prospect of impeaching Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson.)

No good can come of this.

To be sure, Cruz conceded that he doesn’t expect Holder to be removed from office by the Senate, even if House Republicans impeach him. But the Texas Republican – who has a little too much influence over the direction of the lower chamber – told National Review he’d like to see the House pursue articles of impeachment against the Attorney General anyway in order to “shine a powerful light” on whatever it is Cruz finds important.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because far-right GOP lawmakers have been slowly moving in this direction for a long while. In November 2013, some House Republicans began pushing for Holder’s impeachment. A month ago, a House GOP leadership aide said that the impeach-Holder caucus has “been picking up a lot recently.”

As we talked about at the time, this seems to be the manifestation of a bizarre sort of frustration. “We may not be able to impeach the president,” some GOP lawmakers appear to be arguing, “but gosh darn it we’re going to have to impeach someone.”


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, August 12, 2014

August 13, 2014 Posted by | Impeachment, Republicans, Right Wing | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Right’s Impeachment Trap”: How Pundits Blame Obama For GOP Extremism

Every once in a while, those of us who were slow to board the magical Barack Obama 2008 Hope and Change Express get to say “We told you so,” and then go back to work. This is one of those times. Forgive me.

As Ezra Klein insists Obama has achieved success only by “breaking American politics,” and Ron Fournier tells us “the fundamental reason he became president was he was promising there’s no red state, there’s no blue state, I’m going to bring the country together,” people who resisted candidate Obama’s wispy, post-partisan rhetoric back then shake our heads and feel a little bit vindicated. Personally, I have to say: I hate being vindicated (on this, anyway). It would feel so much better to have been wrong.

Somebody broke politics, but it wasn’t Barack Obama — and yet he gave his enemies plenty of evidence to frame him.

Even President Obama has to regret some of his 2008 rhetoric, which partly blamed the Clintons for the right’s vengeful crusade against them, as pundits use it to claim that he not only broke politics, but that he will actually deserve the blame if Republicans impeach him for doing his job. Journalists still blame Democratic presidents for the unhinged behavior of Republicans.

Exhibit A is an allegedly “balanced” Wednesday Fox News panel where the non-right-wingers – journalists Fournier and A.B. Stoddard – joined conservative Charles Krauthammer in suggesting Obama could be responsible for his own impeachment, if he goes ahead with an executive order deferring deportation action on the parents of children who already enjoy deferred status. (Krauthammer called the move “impeachment bait” in Thursday’s Washington Post column.)

But the reaction of Stoddard and Fournier is worth breaking down in detail. (Thanks, Daily Caller, for capturing it.)

“If President Obama goes too far on this — whether it’s within his legal right or not — the outrage will be so incredible on the Republican side, it will probably bring more Democratic losses this fall,” the Hill’s Stoddard began. “Because I don’t know that Latinos are going to turn out this fall as a result of this issue. But it also could become a constitutional crisis.”

So it’s a bad move, “whether it’s within his legal right or not,” because a) it might not work politically and b) “it could also become a constitutional crisis.”

Fournier quickly agreed.

Let’s assume for a second that legally he can do this — just stipulate that, just for a second. Should he do it?  Even if you agree, like I do, that we really need to do something about these 12 million people who are in the shadows, even if you agree that it is legal, I still think there is an argument to be made that he should not do it.

OK, let’s stop there. The president shouldn’t do something to ease the immigration crisis, “even if you agree that it is legal.” Why is that? Fournier has a quick answer:

“Because the fundamental reason he became president was he was promising ‘there’s no red state, there’s no blue state, I’m going to bring the country together.’ He’s been a polarizing president.”

I’m not sure what qualifies Fournier to pronounce “the fundamental reason” Obama was elected, either in 2008 or 2012. Some people may have indeed admired his post-partisan rhetoric. But speaking as a two-time Obama voter, many of us wanted to see healthcare reform and less income inequality. Many members of the Obama coalition, who make less than $50,000, wanted economic relief from the Bush recession and the 30-year downward economic spiral that began under Ronald Reagan. Many of the Latinos who voted for Obama very much wanted immigration reform.

The political desires of the Obama coalition don’t much concern Fournier. “This would be a nuclear bomb that would blow open and make this country even more divided,” he warned. “In a way that most Americans just don’t want.”

In case you missed his point, Fournier followed up his Fox appearance with a whole column elaborating on it. The headline sums up the wrong-headed argument: “Even if reform is needed and legal, endowing the presidency with new, unilateral powers is a dangerous precedent.”

Obviously if reform is “legal,” then it wouldn’t endow the presidency with “new, unilateral powers.”

Kevin Drum boils the argument down to this: “President Obama shouldn’t do anything that might make Republicans mad.”

It really is that simple. If you grant, as Fournier seems to, that the president can legally change deportation priorities, but you think he shouldn’t, because it will further divide the country and Republicans will use it as an excuse to impeach him, you’re granting irrational people control of the nation. This is largely what happened during the debt ceiling crisis of 2011, but that time, Obama was listening to the Fourniers and Stoddards of the world, and trying to both be bipartisan, and also to appease the crazy Tea Partyers who would blow up the global economy rather than raise the debt limit.

That only enabled the crazies, who were being coddled by supposed moderates like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who crowed approvingly that his party’s right flank proved the debt ceiling was “a hostage worth ransoming.”

So we know Republican leaders aren’t going to stand up to the party’s far-right base. And we know Krauthammer is going to accuse the president of creating a constitutional crisis to turn out his base for the midterm elections, because that’s Krauthammer’s job. But it would be nice if writers who don’t identify themselves with conservatism could describe this dynamic, maybe even critique it — not become part of it.

For the record, I can’t say conclusively whether the executive action the president is pondering is “legal,” and neither can Fournier or Krauthammer. (They both rely on Obama’s own previous statements denying that he has such powers; so he was right then, but he’s wrong now?) Anyway, it’s a perfectly legitimate point to debate. But I feel confident in saying that the enormously cautious Obama, who is sometimes too cautious for my taste, won’t do it cavalierly – not to turn out his base in November, and certainly not as “impeachment bait.”

The right is setting an impeachment trap for the president, and the media are starting to play along.


By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, August 8, 2014

August 13, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Impeachment, Media | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Sunlight Is The Best Disinfectant”: In 2014, You Can Still Buy A Senate Seat

Leaving aside for the moment the debate over whether or not individuals, corporations or nonprofits should be able to give an unlimited amount of money to a political candidates, shouldn’t we at least know who they are and when they do it?

Our federal representatives are so controlled by the money they receive that they have not been able to pass legislation requiring simple disclosure of contributions from outside groups.

So, as is the case with many other issues these days, the states are stepping in when the federal government demonstrates no capability to lead. Which is pretty much all the time, on every issue.

Last week, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed a reasonable disclosure law requiring all groups making independent expenditures—that is, money for campaign ads and the like—to disclose their donors within seven days, or within 24 hours if it is 10 days or less before an election. Additionally, the top five donors of more than $5,000 must be listed in advertisements.

Let’s take a look at the kind of problem the lack of any federal action encourages.

Recently, a candidate for the U.S. Senate in Georgia, David Perdue, came from behind and won a tightly contested runoff against a former congressman, Jack Kingston. And it turns out he did so with the help of more than $2 million in advertising attacking his opponent that came from a couple of political organizations based in Ohio, one of which was formed in 2011 with the express purpose of “promoting a stronger economic climate in Ohio.”

Would it surprise you to learn there is a loophole in federal disclosure requirements? Technically, a political action committee is supposed to disclose its donors. But tax-exempt “social welfare” nonprofits do not. And, guess what? Nearly all the money that was dumped into the PACs that funded the George Senate race came from two nonprofits.

So we now have a candidate for the U.S. Senate in Georgia whose margin of victory was absolutely supplied by, um, we have no idea.

For all we know, Perdue may be a terrific guy and a potentially great U.S. senator. But it sure doesn’t instill faith in our system, or encourage voters to participate, when unknown special interests from outside a state can swoop in and affect the outcome of an election.

And believe me, this is not just happening in Georgia. It’s happening in most high-profile political races, with the rare exception of those where the candidates have engaged in agreements to ban outside funding, or are considering pledges to disclose all “dark money” funding.

So, as the Georgia race just proved, you really can buy a U.S. Senate seat. And, while buying a Senate seat may be constitutionally protected thanks to the Citizens United decision, there are no similar protections for doing so anonymously.

So thank you, Massachusetts, for invoking in action the words of the former Supreme Court Justice Luis D. Brandeis: “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.”


By: Mort McKinnon, The Daily Beast, August 11, 2014



August 13, 2014 Posted by | Campaign Financing, Citizens United | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“We Need More Voting, Not Less”: Republicans Are Gaming The Electoral System By Suppressing The Vote

For decades, we in America have lamented our voter turnout. There has been widespread concern about not only the 60 percent participation in presidential elections, but the drop-off to about 40 percent in off years and the miserable turnout for local elections and primaries that often doesn’t reach 20 percent. So why do Republicans in key states seem intent on preventing certain citizens from voting?

The critics of our system cite European countries that continuously have turnout numbers between 70 percent and 80 percent. (Austria, Sweden and Italy usually hit the 80 percent mark.) They point to how hard we make it for citizens to register, the problem with requiring additional documents at polling places and the recent passage of laws to combat so-called “voter fraud.”

We can go one of two directions in this country: We can make voting easier or we can make it harder. It is difficult to understand why some Republicans desire to make it harder. It is even more difficult to understand their desire to stop African-Americans, Hispanics and young people from voting, unless, of course, you take the view that Republicans have cynically decided to suppress the vote of these more Democratic-leaning groups.

The New York Times editorial board today pointed to those who are trying to make voting easier and those who are trying to make it harder. It cited six states that have recently created online registration systems and four that have either allowed voters under 18 to pre-register or put in place election day registration or expanded early voting.

Sadly, the Times also pointed to the 15 states that have passed new restrictions on voting that are mostly controlled by Republicans. 11 states have put in place restrictive voter ID laws, reduced time for early voting was passed in eight states, and some students are being prevented from voting where they reside for college.

According to he Times, 10 states have made it more difficult to even register to vote. A total of 34 states now have restrictive voter ID laws.

One of the most outrageous aspects of this movement by Republican operatives is that it is combating a problem that doesn’t exist. Voter fraud is not a serious problem in our elections, but preventing key groups of minorities, poor people and the young from exercising their constitutional rights certainly is becoming one.

We need to open up our electoral system, not close it. We need to have universal voter registration at 18. We need to have more early voting, not less, more vote by mail, not less, more consolidation of voting days, not less, and more use of technology to provide online registration. We need to explore weekend voting and also new ways to clean up voter lists and keep them current.

At the end of the day, it is time for Republicans to stop trying to game the system and win elections by denying citizens the right to vote. It will only come back to bite them – and bite them hard.


By: Peter Fenn, U. S. News and World Report, August 12, 2014

August 13, 2014 Posted by | Republicans, Voter Suppression, Voting Rights | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Paying For Bush’s 2003 Invasion Of Iraq”: Decision To Launch An Unwarranted Invasion Is Directly Responsible For The Chaos Today

As President Obama struggles to deal with the crisis in Iraq, it’s useful to remember who gave the world this cauldron of woe in the first place: George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.

Their decision to launch a foolish and unwarranted invasion in 2003, toppling Saddam Hussein and destroying any vestige of the Iraqi state, is directly responsible for the chaos we see today, including the rapid advance of the well-armed jihadist militia that calls itself the Islamic State.

Bush has maintained a circumspect silence about the legacy his administration’s adventurism bequeathed us. Cheney, however, has been predictably loud and wrong on the subject of, well, just about everything.

“Obama’s failure to provide for a stay-behind force is what created the havoc we see in Iraq today,” Cheney told CNN last month. “When we left, Iraq was a relatively stable place. We defeated al-Qaeda, we had a coalition government in place.”

Cheney predicted “the history books will show” that Obama bears much responsibility for squandering the peace and stability that the Bush administration left behind. If so, they will have to be books that don’t go back very far.

Let’s review what actually happened. The U.S. invasion toppled a Sunni dictatorship that had ruled brutally over Iraq’s other major groups — the Shiite majority and the ethnic Kurds — for decades. It seems not to have occurred to anyone planning the invasion that long-suppressed resentments and ambitions would inevitably surface.

The leader of that “coalition government” Cheney mentioned, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, turned out not to be a Jeffersonian democrat. Rather, his regime acted quickly and shamelessly to advance a Shiite sectarian agenda — and to marginalize Sunnis and Kurds.

What followed, predictably, was anger and alienation among the disaffected groups. The Kurds focused largely on fortifying their semi-autonomy in the northeast part of the country. Sunni tribal leaders twice cast their lot with violent Sunni jihadist forces that stood in opposition to the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad — first with al-Qaeda in Iraq and now with the Islamic State.

Obama opposed the U.S. invasion and occupation from the beginning. He was nominated and elected president largely because of his pledge to end the war. He withdrew all U.S. troops only after Maliki refused to negotiate a viable agreement to leave a residual force in place.

Could Obama have found a way to keep more of our soldiers in Iraq if he really wanted to? Perhaps. But this would have required trusting Maliki, who has proved himself a far more reliable ally to the terrorist-sponsoring government of Iran than to the United States. And anyway, why would U.S. forces be needed to keep the peace in the “relatively stable” democratic Iraq of Cheney’s hazy recollection?

As I write, Maliki has barricaded himself inside Baghdad’s Green Zone and is refusing to leave office, despite that Iraq’s president has named a new prime minister. The United States has joined with respected Iraqi leaders to try to force Maliki out, but he holds enormous power — he is not only prime minister but also heads the Iraqi armed forces and national police.

Rewind the clock. If there had been no U.S. invasion, Iraqis surely would have suffered grievously under Saddam’s sadistic rule. But at least 110,000 Iraqis — and perhaps several times that many — died violently in the war and its aftermath. Is it likely that even the bloodthirsty Saddam would have matched that toll? Is it conceivable that the Islamic State’s ad hoc army would have even been able to cross the Syria-Iraq border, much less seize huge tracts of territory and threaten religious minorities with genocide?

Even after the invasion, if the U.S. occupation force had worked to reform the Iraqi military rather than disband it, there would have been a professional army in place to repel the Islamic State. If Maliki had truly acted as the leader of the “coalition government” that Cheney describes, and not as a glorified sectarian warlord, Sunnis likely would have fought the Islamic State extremists rather than welcome them.

Why is Obama intervening with airstrikes in Iraq and not in Syria, where the carnage is much worse? My answer would be that the United States has a special responsibility to protect innocent civilians in Iraq — because, ultimately, it was our nation’s irresponsibility that put their lives at risk.

Obama’s cautious approach — ask questions first, shoot later — may or may not work. But thanks to Bush and Cheney, we know that doing things the other way around leads to disaster.


By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, August 11, 2014

August 13, 2014 Posted by | Dick Cheney, George W Bush, Iraq War | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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