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Red-Blue America: Is Obama about to be impeached?

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There may be valid reasons to impeach Obama, but don’t hold your breath

It’s true, impeaching Obama certainly would fulfill the fantasies of a small but vocal fraction of the conservative base. More importantly, impeachment would fulfill the devout wishes of the president and some of his most ardent supporters.

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Just talking about impeachment is great for fundraising — especially in a midterm election year shaping up to be a drubbing for Democrats. When Sarah Palin endorsed the idea, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee raked in $2.1 million over the course of a weekend. Not too shabby.

But why bother with impeachment at all? The president may be unpopular, but that’s no reason to impeach him. Obama’s policies, on the other hand, aren’t merely unpopular — they’re also destructive. Violating the oath of office? Usurping congressional authority? That’s nothing to scoff at.

Forty years ago, Congress was ready to impeach a president over his political misconduct. “The issue here is broader than criminality,” said William Hungate, the Missouri Democratic congressman who proposed the second of three articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon that included allegations he used the Internal Revenue Service to punish his enemies. Sound familiar?

Four decades after Nixon’s resignation, however, some liberal Democrats seem to have adopted the 37th president’s view that “when the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.” The reason? “Congressional gridlock.”

Two years ago, for example, the White House invoked “prosecutorial discretion” in choosing to exempt 1 million illegal immigrants from deportation because Congress hadn’t passed an immigration reform bill. Now the president is mulling an executive order that effectively would grant amnesty to 6 million illegal immigrants. The Constitution reserves the power of “naturalization” to Congress, not the president.

Would that be outrageous enough? Maybe. Or maybe the concept of “separation of powers” is passe. If so, Obama and his successors can rest easy knowing they may flout the oath of office with the full backing of their party and (in the case of Democrats) a sympathetic press.

Absent a critical mass of public support for the Constitution, talk of impeachment will remain just that — talk.

Ben Boychuk (bboychuk@city-journal.org) is associate editor of the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal.

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