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The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground. —THOMAS JEFFERSON, 1788

Palin and the strategic impeachment question

Strategy versus defensive analysis.

Strategy versus defensive analysis.

Can you get anything political done if you don’t know for certain that you have public support marshaled for a specific measure, such as a bill of impeachment?  Should you even try?

For most right-wing commentators on the impeachment question – which has arisen because so much of what Barack Obama has done in office has in fact been impeachable – the argument turns on the answers to those questions.

Jeffrey Lord lays it out nicely in his 10 June review of Andrew McCarthy’s latest book, Faithless Execution: Building the Political Case for Obama’s Impeachment.  Lord summarizes the case McCarthy makes, and acknowledges its force.  (The summary is a good place to start if you want to remind yourself of how many counts there are in any proposed list of articles of impeachment.)

Politics

But then Lord points out that impeachment is a political process: it has to be undertaken by elected politicians in Congress.  And for them, the bottom line is whether the people are behind it.  If they don’t have a strong sense that the people are calling for it, they will be swayed instead by political calculations about the next election (read: the fear that an impeachment effort would galvanize voters against the Republican Party):

[Quoting Paul Bedard in the Washington Examiner]

“150 days out from a general election is not a realistic time to begin such a solemn and Constitutionally important process,” said one advisor to House GOP leaders.

“That would have the opposite effect of what we are planning for in November. We are planning for fewer Democrats in the House and fewer Democrats in the Senate and less power for President Obama in January. Impeachment, which would never pass the Senate, and would rally Obama’s currently demoralized base, would limit, if not eliminate possible GOP gains in the House and Senate,” added the advisor.

A top Republican aide added, “that is an accurate assessment. The Democrats are divided on so many issues right now there’s no reason to give them a reason to rally.”

[End quote]

So again there is the standard GOP Establishment approach. Don’t do anything to screw up the election — and then once won? Don’t do anything to screw up the next election after that. And in the meantime? Just keep a goin’ along to get along. Never use the victory to do what the party is supposed to believe in.

Other writers, from Allahpundit at Hot Air to Jonathan Tobin at Commentary, have developed essentially the same points.  Impeachment would cause Democrats to circle the wagons, so the American people would have to be overwhelmingly for it – to a level of obviousness equal with the people’s opposition to gun restrictions or amnesty – and it doesn’t look like they are.

That’s by no means a stupid case, as far as it goes.  It’s not actually a case about impeachment, per se.  It’s a political analysis of the prospects for an impeachment effort.  Such an analysis is undoubtedly important.

Situational analysis

But Sarah Palin’s call for impeachment (video below), far from being unserious, reframes the issue in a larger context.  If Andrew McCarthy has made the prosecutorial case for impeachment, Palin makes the strategic case for impeachment.  From her implied perspective, the prosecutorial case is a supporting effort.  The main effort is removing Obama from office.  The reason is that he is transforming America – fatally, unacceptably – in ways that are inconsistent with the provisions of our Constitution and our nation’s very founding purpose.

 

(For an illuminating contrast, compare the impeachment case against Obama to the one against Bill Clinton.  Bill Clinton may have lied under oath, and there may have been a prosecutorial case for impeaching him.  But was it necessary from a larger-context, “defense of the republic” standpoint to remove him from office?  Did he represent, through his executive actions, an existential threat to America’s future that increased with each day he remained in the White House?  The people didn’t think so – and the people were right, at least in the short run.  The articles of impeachment against Clinton are well described as prosecutorial, in that prosecutorial discretion, in the sense of its ordinary meaning, was reasonably at issue in bringing them.  Palin’s case, by contrast, is that exercising such discretion to refrain from impeaching Obama would be unreasonable, condemning America to an unthinkable fate.)

The burden of Palin’s case is actually found in just two sentences from her Facebook video.  Speaking of what Obama is likely to do in the next two years to expand executive overreach, she says:

We can’t let what we know is going to happen next happen.

Right near the end of the video, she concludes with the following:

We’re in a lot of trouble and things are only going to get worse until we send this message, that it is time to impeach.

Palin is warning that there is an emergency for the republic that overrides the prescriptive calculations of politics.  A natural follow-on question, from this perspective, would be whether we consider the conventions of politics to be a suicide pact.  Must political analysis about factions and the next election dictate our course of action?

Although Senator Ted Cruz hasn’t joined her in this call for impeachment, Palin’s action is reminiscent of Cruz’s in the budget standoff in September and October of 2013.  Cruz was roundly excoriated for breaking ranks with the party and forcibly exposing the Republican strategy for what it was: a tactical surrender.  Clearly, Cruz wasn’t onboard with the Republican strategy.  And that’s because he differed from the party leaders on the analysis of what the situation is.

That last sentence is the crux (or, if you will, the “Cruz”) of the matter.  It is glossed over in almost every discussion of filibusters or impeachment, in favor of things people feel more certain about, such as the point that Democrats will always circle the wagons for political reasons, no matter what.

But it is actually the most important proposition in this whole debate.  Is the republic in a crisis that ought to relegate the dynamics of electoral politics to a lower priority?  Because if it is, then we can’t let the conventions of electoral politics be a suicide pact.  We have to strategize as if there is no unbreachable game-theory context dictated to us.  We have to strategize as if we can change the circumstances in which we are operating, rather than as if there’s nothing we can do about them.

Manifestly, this does not mean bypassing the Constitution or the rule of law.  The Constitution provides a way to impeach and remove a president from office.  With due respect to some other commentators, the Framers took great care in putting this option into the Constitution.  They didn’t add it with the idea that trying to use it would only be a narrowly partisan or unserious endeavor.  Of course calls for impeachment can be unserious, but they are not inherently so.

What it does mean is that an impeachment effort should be prosecuted thoughtfully and deliberately, in the context of a larger vision for the future.  It isn’t enough to impeach Obama.  I think the people actually sense that, even if they can’t articulate it.  Obama isn’t the sole problem.

The larger, more basic problem is that our expectations about government and its role and functions have become badly corrupted.  The whole proposition about that need not be laid out as a platform for the 2014 election.  But correcting that problem should be our ultimate goal.  If it isn’t, it won’t matter in the end whether Obama is impeached or removed from office or not.

Strategy

In purely strategic terms, there’s another important point about this.  If conservatives don’t have a larger goal than impeaching Obama, then anything that comes along can knock us off course in the attempt.  Others who have prosecuted long-term strategies can vouch for this.  The “impeach Obama” effort can tack and trim, but the larger goal of correcting America’s overall political course has to remain a true north keeping us on base course.

The scariest part of the strategy – at least for the GOP establishment – is changing the coin of political dialogue: consciously ceasing to accept the terms framed by the last century’s media-approved, leftist-defined conventions.  Only some of our political and opinion leaders have the necessary facility with that to make headway – and headway will have to be made.  More and more of the American people realize something is very wrong in our polity, but most will have to hear someone else articulate compelling ideas about what it is in order to frame their own thoughts.

There are very few politicians who are doing that fearlessly already.  But I think we can learn from both Palin and Cruz on this matter, by looking at their approaches to the impeachment question.

Palin, whose political experience is executive, chose to make a categorical case for what must be done.  That’s actually what an executive leader does.  She didn’t hedge her case with a discussion of caveats and political obstacles.  She assuredly understood that she would come in for a lot of criticism, but it wasn’t her purpose to deflect criticism.  Her purpose was to make a case to the people for what needs to be done.

Cruz is an active legislator: no less a leader, but with a different perspective.  Notice that although he didn’t explicitly join Palin’s call, he didn’t repudiate it either.  He left the door open to impeachment (which has to start in the House, where he is not a factor) – and he wasn’t afraid to talk about it.  Contrast that with John Boehner’s negative response to Palin’s impeachment call.  It may not have been impolitic, from the standpoint of Beltway orthodoxy, but it was definitely astrategic.  It leaves Boehner in an optionless, self-limited stance, with no place to go.

I believe conservatives need voices from both perspectives – Palin’s and Cruz’s – willingly but responsibly discussing impeachment as one option in a campaign to correct America’s course.  Impeachment isn’t going to self-popularize, any more than any other major, path-breaking political effort ever does.  If it is to be used, it will require clear, intelligent advocacy.

It may be that the optimal way to use it is to paralyze the Obama executive with it, even if Obama isn’t ultimately removed from office.  (It’s a valid and serious question whether Joe Biden would be a meaningful improvement over Obama in the Oval Office.)  Meanwhile, discussing impeachment hypothetically could have a salutary effect, depending on whether the discussion conveyed determination and confidence or not.

There are some good reasons to wait until after November 2014 to initiate an impeachment.  One is to see whether the Senate will change hands.  The other is to get closer to an official outcome from the congressional investigations into the IRS targeting scandal and the Benghazi debacle (among other things).

I think there is value, moreover, in simply being seen to take a deliberate and reluctant approach to impeachment.  There should be substantive discussion of it in public as a build-up to any actual motion: a period of defining terms and expectations.  That effort hasn’t really started; most of what we’re seeing today is partisan boilerplate and defensive yammering.

But here’s what we can’t wait for.  We can’t wait for something to come along and make it easy or cost-free to talk in a meaningful way about impeachment.  Such talk is warranted already, just based on what we do know about what Obama has done.  Each person has to make up his own mind about whether our political circumstances rise to the level of emergency.  The people and the denizens of the Beltway – with very different experiences of the pain inflicted by the unchecked Obama executive – have reason to be at odds on that evaluation.

Ultimately, it’s not the Democrats, the left-wing media, or an inescapable logic of electoral politics that holds Republicans or conservatives back in treating the impeachment case seriously.  It’s our own fear.  That, we can overcome today.

J.E. Dyer is a retired Naval Intelligence officer who lives in Southern California, blogging as The Optimistic Conservative for domestic tranquility and world peace. Her articles have appeared at Hot Air, Commentary’s Contentions, Patheos, The Daily Caller, The Jewish Press, and The Weekly Standard.

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  • Xavier

    Correct. We the people need to stand and speak as fearlessly as Palin, and we need to stop focusing on our personal political issues and think about what’s good for the future of the county. If that means letting the GOP wither and die, so be it. If that means an impeachment battle that could backfire, so what? It’s blindingly clear that Washington neither listens nor cares about the vast majority of citizens in this country or the laws that are supposed to govern it – and that won’t change in 2017 unless we force it to. People of good conscience have to act because it’s the right thing to do, whether or not we’re assured of success.

    And something for the trolls: Sarah Palin is one of the most intelligent, politically astute, and fearless women alive today. You have every right to panic.

    • Kenny

      What has Sarah Palin done for the nation? How has she improved the lives of women, children, men, minorities, poor, middle class, seniors? How many jobs has she created or saved for Americans? How many roads, bridges, railways has she helped to rebuild? I’m all ears.

      • Howard Portnoy

        Created or SAVED? In Poker, that’s known as a “tell.”

      • Xavier

        God I love the smell of liberal fear in the morning!

      • Kenny

        Good morning, Xavier. Why would anyone fear Sarah Palin?

      • Xavier

        She’s pretty clearly induced troll rage in you.

      • gary4205

        Hey, moron, you asked about jobs. As Governor, Palin had Alaska #2 in USA job creation. Good paying DURABLE job creation. Not part time jobs like Obama has.

      • Kenny

        $26,000,000,000 – amount of federal tax dollars spent by Palin on the “Road to Nowhere,” a road leading to a cliff where the bridge was originally intended to be built, but was canceled before construction of the road was started. According to the the Alaska Transportation Priorities Project, a group promoting “sensible transportation systems in the state,” the “Road to Nowhere” was an “irresponsible waste”

        $3,000 – amount of debt incurred by each resident of Wasilla during the time Palin was mayor

        $50,000 – amount of city funds Palin requested to redecorate Mayor’s office in Wasilla, including wallpaper that made in “look like a bordello” according to one Republican city council member

        $1,200,000,000 – amount of debt Wasilla had when Palin began as mayor.

        $24,000,000,000 – amount of debt Wasilla had when Palin left as mayor.

        17 – number of months Palin failed to serve as Governor when she quit

      • Craig Phillips

        Wow; k k k Kenny has all the leftie troll ADN talking points too – ironically also often employed by the COB network in Alaska too…what; no mention of frivolous lawsuits or ACES?
        You’re dropping the ball dude…maybe slipped on your own puddle of dribble?
        you wanna watch that k k k Kenny!

      • Xavier

        Quick, Kenny: what’s 17 trillion divided by 57?

      • http://www.virginiaconservative.blogspot.com/ BobMbx

        Wasilla was $24 billion in debt? Wow. You either have a point, or you’re a toad.

      • LHW

        That amount of “debt” you’re saying Wasilla had when Palin left was SECURED debt paid for by a voter initiated sales tax increase to pay for a new sports arena the town had been wanting for years.

      • Perfectly Frank

        Kenny, obviously you suffer from “fat finger” syndrome. You touch the zero key and it just keeps adding zeros. Maybe you should revisit and edit your posting…..

      • lyndaaquarius

        read her record of amazing achievement for the Alaskan people. It really is extraordinary. It will open your eyes. It did mine.

      • gary4205

        As Mayor, Palin took a dirt road village in Alaska and turned it into the state’s fastest growing city. She not only built roads, she built the entire city’s infrastructure.

        Palin brought in major businesses and turned Wasilla into the trading hub for the entire Mat-Su Valley, an area roughly the size of the state of Delaware. 50,000 people a week shop in Wasilla, population 7500.

        Don’t even get me started on what she did for Alaska as Governor.

      • Kenny

        Provide facts of Sarah’s accomplishments as Governor of Alaska. Wasilla was $1.2 million in debt when Sarah began as mayor. When she left office Wasilla was $24 million in debt.

      • Craig Phillips

        Wow…k k k Kenny does it again – the “Fiscal Hawk” lol
        Nice one k k k Kenny!

      • http://www.virginiaconservative.blogspot.com/ BobMbx

        Now its $24 million. Make up your mind. Now tell us how much MIchelle Obama has spent on First Lady Vacations.

      • LHW

        Do you know what secured debt is?

      • section9

        But it wasn’t her JOB to do that for the Country, it was Obama’s job, and he failed miserably while trying to set up his own Pinochet Regime on the sly.

  • http://geoffreybritain.wordpress.com/ Geoffrey_Britain

    Palin is right that it is time for major political figures to speak out against Obama’s Constitutionally impeachable violations of law and his oath of office.

    “Is the republic in a crisis that ought to relegate the dynamics of electoral politics to a lower priority?”

    Yes.

    Unfortunately 1/2 the country are firmly in the sway of the democrats. That half along with the illegal behavior of the democrats is pushing this country toward abandonment of the Constitution and the adoption of a socialistic society governed by the rule of unscrupulous men. A slim majority, for a variety of reasons slowly increasing is literally voting to throw away our liberties and freedom. Replacing Obama with Biden won’t change that dynamic and upon that dynamic hinges the fate of the nation.

    As Abraham Lincoln observed, “A house divided against itself cannot stand”.

    • lyndaaquarius

      many of my Liberal friends who voted Obama are getting very nervous about everything they see happening.They’re worried about their kids.

      • http://www.virginiaconservative.blogspot.com/ BobMbx

        Maybe they, and their friends, can stage a sit in somewhere until Congress passes a law that allows post-birth abortions to age 18. Then they could abort their kids, and with that their worrys go away.

        What a burden.

      • Garym

        You get a sarcastic up-twinkles for that ………..

    • section9

      No they’re not. Once the checks stop coming, the Democrats’ hold on their client base will collapse faster than the Berlin Wall.

      Nothing is forever. Progressivism, like the Soviet Union, is a lie that will pass into History.

      • J.e. Dyer

        You tell ‘em, section9. I’d love to see it happen without firing a shot too. Let’s hope the collateral damage doesn’t have to be too high from those checks stopping.

  • stevethird

    Sarah Palin teaches us. We must be willing to learn.

    • Kenny

      She teaches people to hate!! She teaches people to whine, moan, groan, complain. God D*mn John McCain for unleashing her stupid a*s on the American people!

      • stevethird

        So I guess you won’t be votin’ for her, huh Ken??That’s too bad, I had you down as a Palinista!!

      • Kenny

        Quitters don’t run for public office. She’s too busy b*tching and moaning on her Facebook page to care about the county.

      • Kebert Xela

        Barack Obama quit on every public office he ever held. Including the Presidency.

        Sarah Palin on the other hand has fought tooth and nail against the corrupt political class her entire career. That she cut the Gordian knot, by resigning the Governorship, rather than go on bended knee to either party of the political class or see the roof taken from over the heads of her children just baffles conventional, establishment thinkers.

      • Kenny

        LOL

      • stevethird

        Ken…buddy… why don’t you just climb to top of the nearest mountain and shout “I AM KENNY!!! KING OF THE IDIOTS”!

      • Kenny

        I’m not the one kissing Sarah’s wrinkled a*s.

      • Xavier

        How like a liberal to blame others for their defects.

      • Kenny

        Sarah Palin is a gold plated Media Sl*t!!! Her lazy good for nothing daughter, Bristol is following in her mother’s footsteps.

        I have more respect for the Kardashian wh*res than I do for the two Palin wh*res.

      • Kebert Xela

        And that, ladies and gentleman, is what we call ‘psychological confession’. :P

      • Kebert Xela

        Project much?

      • Craig Phillips

        Hey k k k Kenny; your “ironic” slip is showing you old crossdresser you! lol

      • Kenny

        Last time I checked the KKK doesn’t have any black members. I’m supposed to be offended by you calling me a “crossdresser.” LMAO!

      • Kebert Xela
  • aez

    “The larger, more basic problem is that our expectations about government and its role and functions have become badly corrupted. The whole proposition about that need not be laid out as a platform for the 2014 election. But correcting that problem should be our ultimate goal. If it isn’t, it won’t matter in the end whether Obama is impeached or removed from office or not.” This is exactly right.

  • Kenny

    Sarah Palin is a drooling mumbling stumbling Village Idiot.

    • stevethird

      Specifics, please!!!

      • lyndaaquarius

        he cannot supply specifics.It’s pathetic. Best to completely ignore him.

      • Craig Phillips

        stevethird; k k k Kenny needs to search the web to find some specifics on simple to read sites, but he promises to get back to ya

    • cozmo

      You’re just jealous because nobody cares for your drooling mumbling stumbling idiocy.

    • Xavier

      I heard the Koch brothers were funding research to have multiple clones of Sarah created. You betcha!

  • tomlyn

    Sarah will be proven right again on impeachment ! She has been right all along on Obama and his administration !

  • Mike W

    Desperate times call for desperate measures. I stand with Ms. Palin. For all the doubting Thomas people, study her political track record. I rest my case.

    • lyndaaquarius

      If more Americans studied her political track record and her record as Governor,America would change pretty quickly.

  • richhahn

    Palin may well be the most astute political analyst around today. Obviously she sees something the rest of us don’t.

    She put the Republican Party in a box and, I think, plans to exploit it during the 2016 Presidential election. She has shown that there is little difference between big government Democrats and Republicans. Now to show the rest of America they are the ones being screwed and that by standing together, they have the power to change things.

  • Pete Petretich

    Run Sarah Run!!!

    • stevethird

      Yeah. Let’s just cut to the chase!!!

  • Craig Phillips

    Thank you for posting these thoughts J.E!

  • 56Survivor

    In the 2008 campaign, Sarah tried to warn us of just what kind of man Obama is. She was right about him then and she is correct about how we can rid the Republic of him and the threat he poses for America.

  • qtdb7

    John Boehner is a WUSS.

    Impeachment is still too lenient for POS ‘Walking DEBT’ Obama.
    He should be in jail for TREASON just for that prisoner
    exchange. He helped and replenished ENEMIES of the U.S.
    by prisoner trading/exchanging 5 high ranking
    Taliban/Al Qaeda terrorists for a
    DESERTER/TRAITOR Bowe Bergdahl.
    It is a RAW deal.

    POS ‘Walking DEBT’ Obama and democrats/liberals use and hide
    behind those ILLEGAL immigrant children for their political
    benefits. They don’t give a CRAP about those children.
    This reminds me of the communist countries (China, Russia,
    North Korea, Cuba, … etc.) using children for their political
    propagandas. But I digress.

    If those ILLEGAL immigrants would come to America and vote for
    Republicans, POS ‘Walking DEBT’ Obama and democrats/liberals
    would have built not only a simple barb wire fence, but also
    10 “Great Wall of China” between U.S. and Mexico border.

  • qtdb7

    Article 2, Section 4 of The U.S. Constitution:


    The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the
    United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for,
    and Conviction of, Teason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and
    Misdemeanors.

    .
    .

    High Crimes and Misdemeanors
    http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/High+Crimes+and+Misdemeanors


    The generally accepted viewpoint is much broader. It defines high
    crimes and misdemeanors as any serious abuse of power—including
    both legal and illegal activities. Supporters of this reading
    believe that because impeachment is a public inquiry, first and
    fore-most, it is appropriate to read the phrase broadly in order
    to provide the most thorough inquiry possible. Thus, a civil
    officer may face impeachment for misconduct, violations of oath
    of office, serious incompetence, or, in the case of judges,
    activities that undermine public confidence or damage the
    integrity of the judiciary.


    .
    .

    So let me get this straight.
    If a cop lies/cheats/steals, then that cop goes to JAIL or
    gets FIRED.
    If ‘Walking DEBT’ Obama, Hillary ‘Benghazi’ Clinton,
    Joe ‘plagiarist/THIEF’ Biden,and other politicians in U.S. Congress
    lie/cheat/steal, then those CROOKS get a pay raise and other
    benefits.

    Am I living in a TWILIGHT zone?

  • qtdb7

    After Osama Bin-Laden’s death, ‘DEBT man walking’ Obama,
    Hillary ‘Benghazi’ Clinton, Joe ‘plagiarist/THIEF’ Biden,
    JACKASS donkey democrats/liberals were quick to take credits.
    The day after Benghazi’s attack on 09/11/12 right before the
    election, ‘Walking DEBT’ Obama went to Las Vegas for
    FUNDRAISING. WTF were Obama/Clinton doing during the 8 HOURS
    firefight at Benghazi? WTF were there NO rescue teams? WTF did
    Obama/Clinton ABANDON 4 DEAD Americans (U.S. Ambassador Chris
    Stevens and 3 other CIA and Navy SEALs)? WTF did Clinton
    apologize to the Muslim world on Pakistan TV? WTF did
    Obama/Clinton blame on some non-existing anti-Muslim
    video, not terrorists, for the Benghazi attack? WTF are
    Obama/Clinton not bragging about Benghazi? What’s the
    matter? Are they AFRAID of the TRUTH?

    These people are NOT leaders. They are LIARS and COWARDS.

    America, is this the ‘hope/change’ you can believe in?

  • Engineer 100

    “There is only one duty, only one safe course, and that is to try to be right.”

    — Winston Churchill, and as true as it ever was.

  • AdobeCoyote

    Palin has lost it. She wears unprofessional garb on camera and screeches when speaking — just like Hillary. This renders her ineffective in delivering the message (though the content is still valid).