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Obama to Arch-Conservatives: Impeach Me, Please!

Obama to Arch-Conservatives: Impeach Me, Please!

By Carl M. Cannon - July 7, 2014

For Americans who’d prefer a less invasive federal government, and an executive branch with more modest views of its own authority, several events leading up to Independence Day offered a welcome respite. The big question, however, is whether small-government conservatives—beleaguered for so long—will know when they’re ahead of the game.

The recent winning streak for those who champion civil liberties over Big Brother started on June 25 when the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously rejected the Obama administration’s claim that law enforcement agencies can, without probable cause, scrutinize the cellphone data of anyone placed under arrest.

“Our answer to the question of what police must do before searching a cell phone seized incident to an arrest is accordingly simple,” Chief Justice John Roberts declared. “Get a warrant.”

The next day, on another 9-0 vote, the high court swatted away the administration’s imperial presidency impulses concerning President Obama’s “recess appointments” to the National Labor Relations Board. Sidestepping the Constitution’s “advice and consent” requirement, Obama made three such appointments in January 2012 without vetting them through the Senate, which he unilaterally proclaimed not to be in session. “We hold,” Bill Clinton appointee Stephen Breyer wrote pithily, “that the Senate is in session when it says it is.”

Consensus is a difficult thing to maintain these days, so the court’s next major ruling, the Hobby Lobby case, was decided on a 5-4 vote. But if you believe in limiting government’s coercive power, the court’s majority got it right. The case hinged on Obamacare’s requirement that every private company’s health insurance plan in this country pay for contraceptives, including those administered after the fact.

“Plan B” contraception, as it’s called by pharmaceutical companies and pro-choice policymakers, encompasses two methods, copper intrauterine devices or drug therapies known as “the morning-after pill.” To the owners of Hobby Lobby, devout Southern Baptists, these methods induced miscarriages that are morally the same as abortion.

“The government is forcing us to choose between following our faith and following the law,” Hobby Lobby CEO David Green said. “I say that’s a choice no American and no American business should have to make.”

A plurality of Green’s fellow citizens agree. A poll released on Wednesday showed that by 46 percent to 41 percent, Americans back the Supreme Court on this case. Other polls seemed to show that more and more Americans have grown skeptical of the entire Obama presidency. His job approval rating in the RealClearPolitics polling average is down to about 41 percent, with 53 percent of Americans disapproving of Obama’s performance in office.

And in a new survey assessing the popularity of modern presidents, Americans ranked Barack Obama below George W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, and even Richard Nixon. He came in last, the worst president since World War II, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll.

That finding is of limited validity as social science or history, but it is indicative of the public’s mood.

During the current election year, however, the question isn’t so much how Republican candidates can turn these attitudes to their advantage—that’s already happening organically—the question is how House Republicans and other true believers from conservatism’s right flank can manage not to screw it up. But some seem intent on doing just that.

House Speaker John Boehner’s as-yet unfiled lawsuit against the president on the grounds that he’s been asserting “king-like authority” is problematic enough. But one quickly could see after Boehner announced his intentions just what he’s up against inside his own conference.

“What we should do right now is defund the executive branch while we have the option,” Minnesota congresswoman and 2012 presidential candidate Michelle Bachmann told Fox News anchor Neil Cavuto. In an interview that devolved into a shouting match, she added, “What we can do further is impeach the elected official.”

“The elected official” is how Bachmann refers to the president of the United States. Other like-minded conservatives were less restrained.

“I submit,” former Republican Rep. Allen West wrote on his website, “that Barack Hussein Obama’s unilateral negotiations with terrorists and the ensuing release of their key leadership without consult – mandated by law – with the U.S. Congress represents high crimes and misdemeanors, an impeachable offense.”

Conservative writer Andrew C. McCarthy has been using the “I-word,” too, and in the title of a new book called “Faithless Execution: Building the Political Case for Obama’s Impeachment.” Citing a litany of scandals and abuses, ranging from the administration stonewalling on the Benghazi embassy invasion to the IRS targeting of conservative groups, McCarthy says “any serious discussion of these issues has to consider impeachment.”

Well, no, not really. Any serious discussion of what Republicans ought to do must take into account what the American people believe and what they would accept. Wasn’t that the lesson of the last impeachment adventure in Congress?

And let’s not forget Sioux Falls, S.D., chiropractor Allen Unruh. A leader in the local Tea Party, Unruh managed to persuade the South Dakota Republican Party to pass a resolution calling for the president’s impeachment for violating his oath of office “in numerous ways.”

“We wanted to have a shot across the bow to the president and Congress that nobody is above the law,” he explained. “Our goal is to embolden Congress.”

As I say, the last time Republicans in Congress were similarly emboldened to challenge the legitimacy of a president they viewed with contempt was during Bill Clinton’s second term in the Oval Office.

The upshot of that adventure was indeed impeachment—along with the failure to convict in the Senate, the subsequently loss of control of the House, and the eventual emergence of Bill Clinton as the most popular man in the world. So, yes, by all means, impeach “Barack Hussein Obama.” That’ll show ’em.

Carl M. Cannon is the Washington Bureau Chief for RealClearPolitics. Reach him on Twitter @CarlCannon.

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