There's a brewing conservative media war over whether to impeach President Obama.
Largely relegated to the fringe for years, the prospect of impeachment has been invigorated thanks to conservative media figures like Fox News contributors Sarah Palin and Allen West, who have spent recent weeks loudly demanding Obama's removal from office. But not everyone in conservative media is on board, with several prominent figures arguing that impeachment is ill-fated, politically toxic, and could severely damage Republicans' chances in the upcoming 2014 midterm elections.
Last week, Fox News polled on the question, finding that while a strong majority of Americans (61 percent) oppose impeachment, 56 percent of Republicans are in favor of it.
Over the weekend, impeachment got another boost thanks to Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), the incoming House Majority Whip, appearing on Fox News Sunday and refusing "to take impeaching President Barack Obama off the table if Obama takes executive action to limit deportations." On Saturday, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) announced on Breitbart News Saturday that if the president uses more executive actions on illegal immigration, "we need to bring impeachment hearings immediately before the House of Representatives."
In June, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) introduced a plan to sue the president over the delayed implementation of the employer mandate in the Affordable Care Act. While Boehner has repeatedly dismissed impeachment talk, reporters like the New Republic's Brian Beutler have speculated that the lawsuit was designed to "serve as a relief valve for the building pressure to draw up articles of impeachment."
If Boehner's lawsuit was designed to cool impeachment fever, it's not working. Several conservative media figures have lashed out over his "political stunt" and continue to bang the impeachment drum. As November approaches, the fight over impeachment among conservative media is getting increasingly acrimonious with each side convinced the other is hurting the country.
Media Matters looks at where various conservative commentators currently stand on impeachment.
In a piece for Breitbart published July 8, Palin wrote that Obama's "unsecured border crisis is the last straw that makes the battered wife say, 'no mas,'" adding, "The many impeachable offenses of Barack Obama can no longer be ignored."
She has repeated the call for impeachment during an appearance on Sean Hannity's Fox News program (where she announced the GOP should "get going" on impeachment), in a column for FoxNews.com, and at a July 19 speech addressing the Western Conservative Summit in Colorado.
In her FoxNews.com column, addressing people who argue impeachment is either bad politics or doomed to fail in the Senate, Palin pointed to a list of supposed abuses by the president and concluded, "if you're comfortable with all that, then by all means sit back and hope for the best. Those concerned about America want change. That comes with healing the injuries done to society by an unchecked president; that starts with impeachment."
Allen West: "I Call Upon The Leadership Of The U.S. House of Representatives...To Draft Articles Of Impeachment"
Allen West, the Fox News contributor and former Republican congressman, has repeatedly called for Obama's impeachment. In a June post on his website, West posited that the release of Taliban prisoners in exchange for captured American Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl amounted to "high crimes and misdemeanors, an impeachable offense." In the post, he called on the House to "draft articles of impeachment as no one is above the law in America."
West has also used the impeachment movement to solicit money for his PAC, the Allen West Guardian Fund. Pushing a survey asking respondents whether the House should draft impeachment articles, West has repeatedly implored subscribers to make an "emergency contribution of $5 or more right away, so we can get this survey into the hands of as many conservatives as possible."
WND founder Joseph Farah has been calling for Obama's impeachment since at least 2010. Along with fellow conspiracy theorist and activist Floyd Brown, Farah recently launched Takeover Super PAC. In a recent fundraising appeal to supporters, Farah touted the group as "the first Federal PAC to pursue the impeachment of President Obama."
In a July 22 column, Farah lashed out at conservatives who consider impeachment a "distraction," likening the talking point to "a mantra or the soothing words of the hypnotist." He continued, "I would suggest to you that focusing on anything but impeaching this president is a distraction from solving our nation's problems."
Alan Keyes, a conservative columnist and activist who was clobbered by Obama in the 2004 Illinois Senate election, has been demanding Obama's impeachment for several years.
Keyes has recently used his WND column to repeatedly encourage readers to visit "PledgetoImpeach.com." The site explains to visitors (emphasis in the original):
Impeachment is America's last remaining hope of blocking the dictatorial reign of the imposter and usurper in the White House, Barack Hussein Obama--along with Vice President Biden and other accomplices. And the window for doing so is closing fast upon us. The longer we wait, the more the man will continue to dismantle our constitutional republic, our national security, our electoral system, our economic strength, our rights and liberties--and we may be left to see the foolishness of our inaction from the hindsight of harsh reality.
In one of his many columns pushing impeachment, Keyes urged readers to consider impeachment as a "prayer to the Creator God" in the hopes that, "once again our nation may deserve to enjoy the blessings of that God-endowed liberty which has been, and by our faithfulness may yet continue to be, our common hope; our common life; our common good."
During a May monologue on her Fox News program, Judge Jeanine Pirro called Benghazi the "biggest cover up since Watergate" and declared that Obama's "dereliction of duty as commander-in-chief demands [his] impeachment."
In June, she again called for impeachment -- this time prompted by the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl -- asking viewers about the exchange, "Why didn't you send in those drones? Could it be, Mr. President, he was your excuse to release 5 Taliban terrorists from Gitmo?" She ended the segment by telling Obama he is "destroying this country" and asserting that his actions as president "demand impeachment."
Former federal prosecutor and National Review writer Andrew McCarthy is at least partially responsible for the recent impeachment fever that has gripped Republicans. In a book published in June, McCarthy laid out the Political Case for Obama's Impeachment. While McCarthy is strongly convinced of the legal case for impeachment -- a full half of the book is dedicated to his own Draft Articles of Impeachment -- he nonetheless repeatedly sounds a warning about moving forward with impeachment without first convincing the public it's a good idea.
In McCarthy's view, trying to impeach the president without public support would "look like partisan hackery. It would be worse than futile." His book was apparently written, at least in part, to try to close that gap.
McCarthy also got the ball rolling on the impeachment chatter following Sgt. Bergdahl's release, telling the Daily Mail that the "return of senior terrorists to the Taliban" amounted to a "high crime and misdemeanor."
During a July 17 Fox & Friends discussion, Fox News judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano said Boehner's lawsuit is a "political stunt." He added, "The president will laugh at this lawsuit ...impeachment will focus his attention immediately."
Napolitano has repeatedly invoked impeachment during Obama's time in office. Following the release of Sgt. Berdahl, Napolitano highlighted Andrew McCarthy's claim that Obama may have committed an impeachable offense and called impeachment a "very, very valid argument that people are going to start talking about." Napolitano had previously floated impeachment over the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and the sequester spending cuts.
Appearing on Sean Hannity's show the day after Palin used that platform to call for the president's impeachment, radio host Mark Levin lashed out at "disastrous speaker" John Boehner and his "out of left field" lawsuit. He continued, saying "Sarah Palin is right" about impeachment, though Levin doubted Republicans would do anything about it:
LEVIN: I was just going to say on impeachment, Sarah Palin is right. If we had a functioning constitutional republic with a president who violates separation of powers, who thumbs his nose at the court system and who says he's going to do more and more of it, she's exactly right. This would be an open and shut case. She stands with the framers. So what's Boehner's answer? What are the Republicans going to do? They're going to wait for the next election? That doesn't fix it. [Fox News, Hannity, 7/9/14, via Nexis]
Prior to endorsing Palin's call for impeachment, on his radio program in 2013, Levin responded to a caller talking about impeachment by asking listeners, "what is he, dreaming?" He continued, "It's not going to happen, and quite frankly, it's unfortunate because this president deserves to be impeached ... I could write the bill myself, all the specifics, but it's not going to happen."
Fox News contributor and RedState editor-in-chief Erick Erickson thinks impeachment is "crazy talk right now" because it would never get the votes to pass and would "most assuredly scuttle our chances of taking the Senate." From a July 9 post on RedState:
As I have written several times, impeachment would be crazy. I get the angst by some Republicans who want the President impeached. But it is crazy talk right now. There aren't the votes and even if there were the votes it'd never make it through the Senate and would most assuredly scuttle our chances of taking the Senate.
Impeachment is not an option. John Boehner is right to say so.
Responding to Palin's impeachment calls in an editorial headlined "The Impeachment Delusion," the Wall Street Journal editorial board ripped Palin, suggesting she spoke out on the issue because she "has been feeling neglected." The editorial posited that impeachment would embolden progressives and Democratic voters and that it "fails to address any of the problems that Republicans are upset about." It concluded:
Republicans aiming to rebuild a governing majority should be making a systematic case about the failures of Democratic governance that include slow growth and stagnant incomes, fewer health-care choices and higher costs, growing world disorder, and more. Trying to impeach Mr. Obama now is firing at the wrong target at the wrong time with the wrong ammunition.
Wall Street Journal editorial board member Kimberley Strassel echoed the Journal editorial during a July appearance on Fox News' Journal Editorial Report, saying that impeachment is "giving the left everything they could possibly hope for":
STRASSEL: A miss to Sarah Palin and others who are now calling on Republicans to impeach President Obama. I feel their frustration, [host] Paul [Gigot]. I really do. But talk about giving the left everything they could possibly hope for, I mean, politicize this thorny question of whether or not the president's behavior, bad as it has been, rises to the level of high crimes. This is going to energize the Democratic base. It's going to allow the left to claim this really is a personal issue between Republicans and the president and, thereby, get the Democrat Party off the hook for all of their terrible governance and policies. If they really want to send a stinging rebuke to the White House, Republicans will focus on taking back the Senate this fall. [Fox News,Journal Editorial Report, 7/12/14, via Nexis]
During an appearance on The O'Reilly Factor, Fox News contributor Bernie Goldberg weighed in on the recent flurry of impeachment discussion by praising John Boehner's dismissal of the movement. According to Goldberg, "I say good for John Boehner and good for any other politician that rejects this crazy idea."
Goldberg added that the "hard left" is thrilled with the idea of impeachment because "they know it will destroy the Republican Party and any hopes they have in November. The good news is that no serious politician is gonna take this idea seriously." He concluded, "It is not just a terrible idea. It is beyond terrible."
Fox News contributor Karl Rove weighed in on Boehner's lawsuit during a July 15 appearance on America's Newsroom, saying "the politics of it is murky, but the policy of it is sound." Asked if the lawsuit should lead to impeachment, Rove flatly stated, "This should not lead to impeachment."
Likening it to conspiracies about the president "being born in Kenya," Rove posited that Obama is "happy to have Republicans talk about impeachment." He added, "Bad thing to do -- the politics of that are all wrong."
On The O'Reilly Factor on July 24, host Bill O'Reilly told viewers that he had asked Fox News' polling outfit to poll whether the president should be impeached (36 percent said yes, 61 percent said no, despite a question seemingly crafted to elicit "yes" responses).
Noting that "some are calling for the president to be impeached," O'Reilly pointed to the results of the poll as evidence that "a majority of Americans reject an impeachment spectacle because they know it hurts the country." He continued, saying "there is no compelling evidence to support" impeachment, that Obama would "never be convicted," and that impeachment should serve as a "last resort mechanism."
Writing for WND, conservative pundit Pat Buchanan counseled Republicans to "drop the talk of impeachment" because "the GOP would gain nothing and risk everything if the people began to take seriously their threats to do to Barack Obama what Newt Gingrich's House did to Bill Clinton."
Arguing that impeachment is doomed because it would be going "up against a stacked deck" of a pro-Obama media and bureaucracy, Buchanan claimed, "If the nation is led to believe Republicans seek to gain the Senate so they can remove Barack Obama from office after a GOP-led impeachment, then Republicans are not likely to win the Senate."
Syndicated conservative columnist and Hoover Institution senior fellow Thomas Sowell blasted Boehner's lawsuit and the impeachment talk as "Mickey Mouse politics" and "irresponsible self-indulgence." According to Sowell, though Obama clearly deserves to be both sued and impeached, doing so might cause Republicans to "blow their chances of taking control of the Senate." He concluded, "When the country is at a historic crossroads is not the time for futile gestures like this, which can create bigger disasters than we already have."