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“House Republicans Want To Impeach Someone, Anyone”: Republicans Get Serious About Impeachment, But Not Obama’s

Quick quiz: when was the last time the U.S. Congress actually impeached an appointed executive branch official? It was 1876 – 140 years ago – when the House impeached Ulysses S. Grant’s War Secretary, William Belknap, over corruption allegations.

Nearly a century and a half later, House Republicans appear eager to give Belknap some company. The Washington Post reported yesterday:

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) introduced a resolution on Wednesday to censure IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, raising the stakes in the GOP war against the tax collector days before a hearing on whether to impeach him.

The four-page resolution seeks Koskinen’s resignation or removal by President Obama and calls on the IRS chief to forfeit his federal pension.

Chaffetz, the far-right chairman of the House Oversight Committee, explained in a statement yesterday, “I view censure as a precursor to impeachment.” He added a few weeks ago, “My foremost goal is impeachment and I’m not letting go of it.”

No, of course not. That might be responsible.

By any sane metric, the idea of congressional impeachment against the IRS commissioner is bonkers. House Republicans are apparently still worked up about an IRS “scandal” that doesn’t exist, and though Koskinen wasn’t even at the agency at the time of the alleged wrongdoing, GOP lawmakers want to impeach him because they disapprove of his handling of the imaginary controversy.

Given that the year is half over, Koskinen won’t be in the job much longer – he’ll likely leave office when the Obama administration wraps up – and there’s no credible reason to believe the Senate will remove the IRS chief from office, why bother with impeachment? Politico reported something interesting yesterday:

Two weeks ago, in a closed-door meeting with Paul Ryan, Reps. Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows gave the speaker an ultimatum: They would force a House vote to impeach the IRS commissioner — unless he allowed the Judiciary Committee to take action against John Koskinen instead.

The two founding members of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus had been working behind the scenes for well over a year to take down Koskinen for accusations that he obstructed a congressional investigation. GOP leaders and senior republicans, however, had never been keen on the idea, fearing it was ultimately futile and that the spectacle would backfire on Republicans.

Right-wing lawmakers would not, however, take no for answer. Jordan and Meadows vowed to force an impeachment vote onto the floor unless House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) signed off an impeachment hearing in the Judiciary Committee, and the Republican leader relented. The hearing is scheduled for Tuesday.

But given the fact that Koskinen hasn’t actually committed any impeachable offenses, it’s hard not to get the impression that many House Republicans want to impeach someone, anyone, just for the sake of being able to say they impeached someone.

As we discussed last fall, congressional Republicans have spent years talking up the idea of impeaching President Obama. At various times, GOP lawmakers have also considered impeaching then-Attorney General Eric Holder, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. In October, one Republican congressman said he’s eager to impeach Hillary Clinton, and she hasn’t even been elected.

I continue to believe much of this is borne of partisan frustration: Republican investigations into Benghazi and other manufactured “scandals,” including the IRS matter itself, have effectively evaporated into nothing. That’s deeply unsatisfying to GOP hardliners, who remain convinced there’s Obama administration wrongdoing lurking right around the corner, even if they can’t see it, find it, prove it, or substantiate it any way.

Unwilling to move on empty handed, impeaching the IRS chief will, if nothing else, make Republican lawmakers feel better about themselves.

But that doesn’t change the fact that this partisan tantrum is indefensible. Koskinen took on the job of improving the IRS out of a sense of duty – the president asked this veteran public official to tackle a thankless task, and Koskinen reluctantly agreed. For his trouble, Republicans want to impeach him, for reasons even they’ve struggled to explain.

It’s ridiculous, even by the low standards of this Congress.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 19, 2016

May 20, 2016 Posted by | House Republicans, Impeachment, Internal Revenue Service, John Koskinen | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Let Us Help With You With That Non-Problem”: GOP Comes Up With A Non-Problem And We All Have To Drop Everything To Address It

It looks like Mitt Romney’s self-deportation immigration reform plan is working out better than anyone expected.

More Mexican immigrants have returned to Mexico from the U.S. than have migrated here since the end of the Great Recession, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of newly available government data from both countries. The same data sources also show the overall flow of Mexican immigrants between the two countries is at its smallest since the 1990s, mostly due to a drop in the number of Mexican immigrants coming to the U.S.

From 2009 to 2014, 1 million Mexicans and their families (including U.S.-born children) left the U.S. for Mexico, according to data from the 2014 Mexican National Survey of Demographic Dynamics (ENADID). U.S. census data for the same period show an estimated 870,000 Mexican nationals left Mexico to come to the U.S., a smaller number than the flow of families from the U.S. to Mexico.

A few years ago there was a non-problem that really got Donald Trump energized. This was the question of whether the president of the United States had actually been born in the United States where his mother and father went to college or if he had been born for some inexplicable reason in Kenya, where neither of them lived. Of course, it didn’t matter either way since his mother was a U.S. citizen, but it was a non-problem that we all had to discuss nonetheless.

Around the same time a new political force came into existence that called itself the Tea Party. “Tea” was an acronym for “Taxed Enough Already.” You want to know what the most remarkable thing was about this movement? As CBS News reported at the time, “as a share of the nation’s economy, Uncle Sam’s take this year will be the lowest since 1950, when the Korean War was just getting under way.”

In other words, these anti-government activists chose the moment of lowest real federal taxation in more than a half century to launch a ferocious anti-tax campaign. Again, a non-problem that suddenly became something we all had to discuss and reckon with.

We’ve had a lot of these non-problems if you think about it. There was the non-problem with Fast & Furious, which was an ill-advised program begun by the Bush administration. There was the non-problem of professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Shirley Sherrod and Solyndra and ACORN and in-person voter fraud and the IRS and the so-called Benghazi cover-up and the Ebola panic and now Syrian refugees.

We seem to be living in a political world that is driven less by problems than non-problems that the Republicans have dreamed up or trumped up.

Our biggest immediate problems are probably climate change and a crumbling infrastructure, which the Republicans seem incapable of doing anything about. Or, if you think our biggest problem is the rise of a new virulent terrorist organization in the Middle East that is now looking to strike the West, the Republicans are focused on the non-problem of 10,000 highly vetted refugees rather than the millions of lightly vetted tourists who come here each year. In other words, they want us to focus our attention and resources on something that won’t help and that will do nothing to address the actual threat.

But that’s the pattern here. That’s basically all we get with these people. They come up with a non-problem and we all have to drop everything to address it.

It’s not just Hillary’s damn emails that I’m sick of hearing about.

 

By: Martin Longman, Web Editor, Ten Miles Square, The Washington Monthly, November 20, 2015

November 22, 2015 Posted by | GOP, Immigration Reform, Mitt Romney | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Pursuing An All-Purpose Teflon Uniform”: Rubio Assaults The MSM, Which Loves Him

Speaking of Marco Rubio… a big part of his boffo performance at the CNBC debate the other night was his claim that the MSM had become a “Democratic Super-PAC,” with the supposed evidence being its cover-up of HRC “lies” about her behavior after Benghazi! “exposed” by Trey Gowdy’s committee. Yea, verily, the MSM went “around saying it was the greatest week in Hillary Clinton’s campaign.”

Now before you even unpack this pack of–well, mischaracterizations–it’s worth noting in passing that it wasn’t just the MSM that adjudged HRC’s appearance before the Benghazi! Committee as a triumph for her over her inquisitors; conservative commentators generally agreed.

Beyond that, as WaPo fact-checker Glenn Kessler concluded, Rubio, not HRC, is the one with the Pinnochios on this subject.

After untangling and refuting Rubio’s claims, Greg Sargent has a pungent interpretation of what Rubio is trying to accomplish here:

It’s important to understand that the claim that the hearing is what unmasked Clinton’s “lie” is crucial to the story Rubio is trying to tell, a tale told to the GOP base…. The narrative that the media deliberately obscured this on Clinton’s behalf helps discredit media scrutiny of Rubio’s own distortions, and that scrutiny will in turn likely be converted into evidence that Rubio poses a dire threat to Clinton — the liberal media perceives this threat, and thus wants to tear him down. But the highest-profile foundational claim Rubio has thus far offered to support this narrative structure just doesn’t hold up.

In other words, Rubio’s pursuing an all-purpose teflon uniform against any slings and arrows that come his way from the MSM, which is obviously shilling for Hil. But here’s the thing: Best I can tell, at this very moment the MSM is busy all but crowning Rubio the Republican nominee. So why is he all but calling them Enemies of Freedom? It could be that GOP rank-and-file media hatred has assumed quasi-religious proportions, and he’s just exploiting it. Or maybe there really is some dirt on Rubio that could soon come out.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, October 30, 2015

November 2, 2015 Posted by | GOP Base, Mainstream Media, Marco Rubio | , , , , , | 3 Comments

“A Strategy With A Shelf Life”: Rubio Calls Clinton A ‘Liar’, But He Can’t Back Up The Attack

Stylistically, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) soared in this week’s debate for Republican presidential candidates. Substantively, however, it was a very different story.

Responding to questions about his messy personal finances, for example, Rubio simply denied reality. Pressed on the effects of his far-right tax plan, Rubio ran into similar problems.

But one of the more jarring moments of the debate came when the Florida senator went after Hillary Clinton, complaining about her recent appearance at his party’s Benghazi Committee hearing. From the transcript:

“She spent over a week telling the families of those victims and the American people that it was because of a video. And yet the mainstream media is going around saying it was the greatest week in Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

“It was the week she got exposed as a liar. It was the week that she got exposed as a liar.”

This is generally the kind of rhetoric one might expect from Louie Gohmert, Steve King, or some other House GOP extremist, not a senator seeking the nation’s highest office.

But more important is the fact when a national candidate goes after a rival with the word “liar,” he’d better be able to back it up – and in this case, Rubio can’t. The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler fact-checked the senator’s attack and found “he does not have enough evidence” to back up his attack.

The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent emphasized a key detail: “Early intelligence on what caused the attacks was conflicting and erroneous, with some intel concluding the attacks had occurred in the context of the protests, and other intel concluding they were terrorism. Clinton’s private statements about terrorism did not reflect certainty; they tracked with information that was coming in at the time; the administration’s public suggestions about the video also tracked with contradictory information. The Republican-led probes have also concluded this — including one signed by Rubio, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.”

But Rubio casually threw around the word “liar” anyway, probably because (a) he assumes far-right activists will enjoy the red meat; and (b) the senator figures he can get away with it.

The GOP candidate should realize, though, that throwing around false attacks, and counting on voters to ignore fact-checking pieces later, is a strategy with a shelf life. Mitt Romney tried the same thing, and it didn’t work out especially well for him.

For that matter, Rubio may think he can throw around falsehoods with impunity now, but I have a hunch Hillary Clinton might have some effective pushback should these two meet next fall.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 30, 2015

November 1, 2015 Posted by | GOP Primary Debates, Hillary Clinton, Marco Rubio | , , , , , | 4 Comments

“The Fundamental Attribution Error”: What Hillary’s Benghazi Hearing Revealed About Life Inside The Republican Bubble

You’ll be forgiven for not knowing who Sidney Blumenthal is. If you don’t, and you tuned in midway through Hillary Clinton’s testimony before the House Select Committee on Benghazi, you might have concluded that Blumenthal is either a high-ranking al Qaeda leader, a Soviet spy, or some combination of Bernie Madoff and Ted Bundy. In any case, you might have concluded that he’s a world-historical figure whose actions must be understood if America is to move forward into the future.

The ridiculously lengthy discussion about Blumenthal illustrates the problem Republicans have had with this entire investigation: They’re stuck in their own bubble, unable to see what things might look like from outside it.

In case you don’t know, Sid Blumenthal is a former journalist and longtime friend (and sometime employee) of the Clintons. For a variety of reasons, some more legitimate than others, Republicans regard him as a singularly sinister character. When it emerged that he had sent Hillary Clinton lots of emails about Libya (and other matters), they could barely contain their glee, going so far as to subpoena him to testify privately. He apparently failed to give them what they wanted, because up until now committee Chair Trey Gowdy has refused to release his testimony to the public. This is a replay of what happened in 1998 during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, when independent counsel Ken Starr forced Blumenthal to testify about what he knew in that case (if you want a lengthy explanation of Blumenthal and his relationship to the Clintons, go here).

The point is that, from within the Republican bubble, Blumenthal’s connection to Benghazi, even if it consisted only of sending Hillary Clinton emails about Libya in general, proves that something fishy was going on. So naturally they’ll waste an hour or two of her testimony talking about the fact that he sent her lots of emails, which proves that…he sent her lots of emails.

This is what happens when you start an investigation that you’re sure will uncover evidence of nefarious goings-on. When you can’t find any malfeasance, you convince yourself that even mundane things are nefarious, like the fact that Hillary Clinton has a friend you don’t like.

Consider another topic of discussion at the hearing: the different stories that came out in the immediate aftermath of the attack explaining why the attack had occurred. The situation was chaotic, in large part because there were nearly simultaneous incidents at other American diplomatic outposts in the Middle East, growing out of protests of an anti-Muslim video that appeared online. At first, the administration said the Benghazi attack was like those in Cairo and Tunis, but it later became clear that it was more organized and planned (though the perpetrators may have opportunistically launched the attack precisely because so many protests were going on in so many places).

How should we understand the administration’s changing explanation? Was it mere spin? A reflection of the information that was available? Or was it scandalous? Throughout, Republicans have treated the Obama administration’s response as though it were not just scandalous, but possibly criminal. For instance, in May of last year, we learned of a memo that a White House communication official wrote at the time, encouraging staffers not to say Benghazi represented a failure of administration policy. In other words, a guy whose job it is to craft spin crafted some spin. But Republicans reacted as though they had caught Barack Obama personally killing those four Americans. “We now have the smoking gun,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham. “It’s the equivalent of what was discovered with the Nixon tapes,” said Charles Krauthammer.

A similarly enlightening discussion was brought up in Clinton’s hearing, with Republicans expressing such faux-outrage you’d think they were talking about one of the most diabolical propaganda campaigns in human history, and not a few comments that a few administration officials made to a few television shows. At another point in the hearing, a Republican congressman spent nearly 15 minutes aggressively interrogating Clinton over whether — brace yourself — her press secretary tried to make her look good to reporters. Only a truly diabolical figure could contemplate such a thing.

We’re all tempted to assume the worst about our political opponents. They can’t be just people we disagree with or even people whose values are different from ours. If we’re partisan enough, we end up thinking that everything our opponents do is for the worst motives. Those people on the other side don’t even make mistakes; when they screw up, it just shows how venomous their very hearts are. It’s the political version of what psychologists call the “fundamental attribution error,” in which we attribute our own actions to circumstance, but we attribute other people’s actions to their inherent nature. If I cut you off in traffic, it’s because I didn’t realize you were in my blind spot; if you cut me off, it’s because you’re a jerk.

And if Americans died at Benghazi, well it just had to be an outgrowth of Hillary Clinton’s infinite capacity for evil. She got emails from a guy we don’t like? Proof of just how wicked the whole thing was! Somebody in the administration described the events in a way that turned out to be inaccurate? Yet more proof!

Many conservatives watching the hearing no doubt concluded that it reinforced everything they think about Clinton: that she’s dishonest and untrustworthy, that she’s surrounded by unsavory characters, and that she is utterly at fault for the deaths of those four Americans in Benghazi. They also probably thought the Republicans on the committee were heroic in their efforts to pin her down.

But it’s hard to imagine lots of Americans who would agree, unless they are already committed Republicans. It wouldn’t be the first time Republicans thought they were doing great, while the rest of America saw the situation a little differently.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Week, October 23, 2015

October 24, 2015 Posted by | Benghazi, Hillary Clinton, House Select Committee on Benghazi, Trey Gowdy | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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