Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Impeachment And You: The Long Game On The Border

Associated Press reporter Erica Werner has a pretty sharp analysis on President Obama's anticipated immigration move, and its effects both short and long term.

Even as they grapple with an immigration crisis at the border, White House officials are making plans to act before November's mid-term elections to grant work permits to potentially millions of immigrants who are in this country illegally, allowing them to stay in the United States without threat of deportation, according to advocates and lawmakers in touch with the administration.

Such a large-scale move on immigration could scramble election-year politics and lead some conservative Republicans to push for impeachment proceedings against President Barack Obama, a prospect White House officials have openly discussed.

That's the first two paragraphs, and so far that's the smartest, most accurate response I've seen on this subject.  The scope of this immigration order is large, and the urge by the bonkers right to push "the big I button" will be, I think, too much for them to resist.

Advocates and lawmakers who were in separate meetings Friday said that administration officials are weighing a range of options including reforms to the deportation system and ways to grant relief from deportation to targeted populations in the country, likely by expanding Obama's two-year-old directive that granted work permits to certain immigrants brought here illegally as youths. That program, called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, has been extended to more than 500,000 immigrants so far. 
Advocates would like to see deferred action made available to anyone who would have been eligible for eventual citizenship under a comprehensive immigration bill the Senate passed last year, which would be around 9 million people. But Obama told them in a meeting a month ago to "right-size" expectations, even as he pledged to be aggressive in steps he does take. 
That's led advocates to focus on other populations Obama might address, including parents or legal guardians of U.S. citizen children (around 3.8 million people as of 2009, according to an analysis by Pew Research's Hispanic Trends Project) and parents or legal guardians of DACA recipients (perhaps 500,000 to 1 million people, according to the Fair Immigration Reform Movement).

Expanding the reach of DACA to even one additional undocumented immigrant would be enough for impeachment for some, let alone another 500k or million, let alone 9 million.  On top of all that, Americans really, really want to treat the tens of thousands of kids coming over the border as refugees, and not as instantly deportable time bombs.

The Republican party might favor rushing to deport the tens of thousands of migrant children that have been apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border since the fall of last year, but the American populace does not. In fact, the vast majority—nearly three quarters—of people in the U.S. feel quite the opposite, according to a new survey released Tuesday by the Public Religion Research Institute. 
When asked what the U.S. government should do about all the children arriving alone at the U.S. border, some 70 percent of Americans said they favor offering the minors shelter and support while determining whether they were eligible to stay in the country. The results varied widely by age—82 percent of 18 to 29 year olds felt that way, but only 50 percent of those 65 years and older did. "The generational differences on these questions were enormous," Dan Cox, research director at the Public Religion Research Institute said in an interview. "No differences of opinion were more divergent than those along generational lines."

The GOP still has this tiny perception problem with Latino voters, and video of angry white people yelling at 8-year old brown kids trying to come to America and calling them "terrorists" and "disease carriers" isn't exactly helping to fix the problem.  Republicans have to get rid of this border problem and fast, and the best way for them to do it might be to turn the OUTRAAAAAAAAAGE into impeachment. 

So what's the long game here?  Is President Obama setting an impeachment trap?  Even Johnny Volcano says that the votes to impeach aren't there, so that would mean impeachment would come across as a petty, petulant move by the GOP and would ultimately go nowhere. Having said that, 25 months after Clinton's impeachment in December 1998, the GOP controlled both Congress and the White House by January 2001.  It's not like Republicans paid a price for going after Clinton.  Sure, Clinton's popularity recovered nicely, but voters didn't punish the GOP at all.

That brings us to Orange Julius, who says impeachment talk is a fundraising "scam" by Democrats, mind you, and that it's "off the table."

It's all a scam started by Democrats at the White House,” Boehner said at the weekly House GOP leadership press conference.

“This whole talk about impeachment is coming from the president's own staff and coming from Democrats on Capitol Hill. Why? Because they're trying to rally their own people to give money and show up in this year's elections,” Boehner said.

Boehner said the GOP does not intend to begin impeachment proceedings against Obama.

We have no plans to impeach the president. We have no future plans,” Boehner said.

Karl "Ham" Rove says President Obama should be ashamed for "starting" impeachment talk, because he's suffering from amnesia or something, and I'm worried about the guy.  Meanwhile, the "off the table" thing has got to be news to Boehner's far right flank, who are laughing their heads off remembering that he said a government shutdown was off the table too, right up until the point Boehner was bypassed and the shutdown happened in January.

Our Village betters say impeachment is just talk.  They consider it a "both sides are doing it" issue and they are quick to dismiss it as a threat.

All this impeachment bluster also may be laying down the terms of engagement for another battle, should Obama soon — as many expect — take executive action to protect millions of illegal immigrants from the threat of deportation. 
Republicans are saying that such a move would far exceed the president’s constitutional authority. But whether they will go so far as to begin impeachment proceedings remains to be seen.

But again, that implies Boehner has control over his caucus, and that the Tea Party nutjobs are savvy enough not to impeach.  Just like they were savvy enough not to fall for the shutdown trap, right? Brian Beutler gives three reasons why impeachment could happen:

1). Republicans are more reactionary than Democrats 
In the 1990s, the Republican establishment was skeptical about shutting down the government and impeaching President Clinton, but went ahead and did both of those things. Upon Obama’s election, we were assured that Republicans had learned their lessons and wouldn’t be repeating either mistake. But last year Republicans shut down the government once again in spite of themselves. And though House Speaker John Boehner hasn’t allowed conservative hardliners to walk him into a political cul de sac in the nine months since the shutdown, Obama will be president for two and a half more years. 
2). Obama will be president for two and a half more years 
For all their agonizing about Obama’s putative lawlessness, nothing he’s done so far has been tyrannical enough to invite impeachment, or so it seems. And if Obama never does anything again, it stands to reason he won’t be impeached. But Obama’s not planning on doing nothing. Most importantly, he intends to take more executive action to curtail deportations of low-priority unauthorized immigrants. When he announces his plan, the Republican appetite for impeachment will grow in proportion to the scope of the policy. If it’s a very broad action, more conservatives and Republicans will call for impeachment, testing Boehner’s control over his conference. 
3). Boehner doesn’t have a great deal of control over his conference 
There is no comparing Boehner’s influence over House Republicans to Nancy Pelosi’s influence over House Democrats. This has been evident for quite some time. It is evident, too, in their disparate responses to questions they’ve both faced about impeachment. On Tuesday, whether he intended to or not, Boehner left the door wide open, when he told reporters, "We have no plans to impeach the president. We have no future plans…. It's all a scam started by Democrats at the White House." That is…not entirely true. And it's remarkably less Shermanesque than Speaker-in-wait Pelosi’s statement after Dems won the House in 2006: “I have said it before and I will say it again: Impeachment is off the table.”
Reason #3 there I've addressed, and #1 is a given.  Reason #2 makes a lot of sense too.  Because of Reasons 1 and 3, time is not exactly on the GOP's side.  They'll want to strike on this in order to generate as much outrage as possible. 

Given all that, I think impeachment is definitely coming.  The only question is timing:  before or after the 2014 midterms?  Before would be too messy.  Given the August recess and then campaign season in the House, I don't think the House would have time, plus doing so right before the election would be risky.  Sure, it would fire up the base but it could very well turn away moderate voters.  They might be forced to go through with it due to inchoate Tea Party rage, however. 

Impeachment is much more likely to see a December timeframe as with 1998, unless the GOP wins control of the Senate in 2014.  That would mean that the GOP would wait until early 2015, with the new House and Senate in place, to pull the trigger.

But let's look ahead a few moves on the chessboard.  How does the White House respond to this?  They know President Obama won't be removed from office, but they can certainly make the case that Republicans are so crazy that they'll impeach any Democrat that wins re-election as President.  It'll be good for President Obama, but will it help Hillary?  Clinton's popularity certainly didn't pass over to Al Gore.

We'll see.  This is just one way this could all shake out.  But I'm betting impeachment is coming.

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