Don’t make Obama a political martyr


It was probably inevitable that we’d get to this point. Barack Obama, now battered by a lackluster second term, repeatedly rebuffed by the Supreme Court and stagnating in the polls, is too ripe a target for conservative activists to ignore. The result: growing calls for the president’s impeachment.

We’ve long hesitated to give such views attention in these pages, as they have heretofore been voiced almost exclusively on the Right’s ideological fringes. When such exhortations come from a former vice presidential nominee (Sarah Palin) and a U.S. Senate candidate (Iowa’s Joni Ernst), however, they deserve a public rebuttal.

Make no mistake about it: we regard Mr. Obama’s abuse of his office’s powers — whether in unilaterally rewriting Obamacare, failing to enforce existing law, or indulging in breathtaking executive overreach — as grave and threatening to America’s constitutional order. We also believe, however, that the president can be brought to heel with something short of the political Armageddon proposed by his most vociferous critics.

Some of that work is already being done by the judiciary, as with the Supreme Court’s unanimous rejection of Mr. Obama’s indefensible attempt to make recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board while Congress was still in session. Other pressure is coming from the legislative branch, as with House Speaker John Boehner’s attempt to take Mr. Obama to court for overstepping the limits of his office. That suit need not be successful to put political pressure on an increasingly imperious chief executive.

Impeachment, it must be remembered, is always and everywhere an inherently political process. For all practical purposes, the only real impeachable offenses are those for which two-thirds of the members of the Senate would be willing to convict the president. By that standard, Mr. Obama isn’t going anywhere.

Conservatives are right to fret about the president’s extravagant interpretation of his own powers, but wrong to think of removal from office as a viable remedy. Such overreach would focus the nation not on Mr. Obama’s failings but, rather, on the intemperance of congressional Republicans. We’d like to think that the Clinton impeachment is not yet distant enough history for that lesson to go unheeded.

Mr. Obama is already on a steeply downward slope that is likely to endure for the rest of his presidency. His conservative critics should be vigilant for further abuses and resist them at every turn, both in the courts and in the halls of Congress. There’s no reason to arrest that trend by giving him the gift of political martyrdom.

— From the Orange County Register

 

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