James Gill: Impeachment bandwagon stuck

Now that President Barack Obama has decided to seek congressional approval before raining missiles on Syria, the impeachment drive will surely lose much of its momentum.

Gov. Bobby Jindal had already rejected the idea anyway, presumably figuring it would not improve his chances of taking Obama’s place a couple of years hence. It cannot have been a tough call; impeachment appears to be the birthers’ latest cause, and it too will be a dead issue long before the election.

Not that Obama is beyond reproach. It may be that only a former professor of constitutional law could have found so many ways of circumventing it, and, on issues ranging from deadly drones to NSA surveillance, Obama has raised hackles on both left and right. But it would be a stretch to conclude that his policies constitute the requisite “high crimes and misdemeanors.” A Democratic Senate would never vote him out anyway.

It is no coincidence that the impeachment idea surfaced in high summer. Only in the “silly season” of the news business would the antics of a tiny unhinged minority attract so much attention. Press reports have named just three GOP members of Congress who have discussed impeachment, and they only did so in response to questions at town hall meetings.

Town hall meetings no doubt attract voters with an admirable sense of civic responsibility, but can also sometimes be hijacked by fruitcakes. So it was when Rep. Blake Farenthold of Texas was confronted by a woman clutching a folder that she claimed contained proof that Obama’s birth certificate was forged.

All you can do in such circumstances is smile weakly and change the subject. Farenthold allowed “a question I get a lot” is “why don’t you impeach him?” The House would probably go along, but the Senate would kill the idea, Farenthold said.

That was as close as we got to a sponteneous endorsement of impeachment from a member of Congress. Rep. Kerry Bentivolio, at a meeting in Michigan, said it would be “a dream come true” to file an impeachment bill, but there was a hitch: no evidence.

In Oklahoma, Sen. Tom Coburn said his “personal friend” Obama was running a “lawless and incompetent” administration which was coming “perilously close” to meeting the requirements for impeachment. Coburn conceded he was not lawyer enough to say for sure, and what he alleges sounds more like maladministration, which the framers expressly rejected as grounds for impeachment.

We do not normally look to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz for a restrained and measured response, but his was the voice of reason on impeachment. “That is not a fight we have a prospect of winning,” he declared. Jindal knows he is right.

Overpasses for Obama’s Impeachment is not giving up yet, however, and continues to urge supporters online to spread the word over the highways of the nation. Meanwhile, preorders for a book entitled “Impeachable Offenses: The Case for Removing Barack Obama from office,” approach 100,000, according to its co-author, Aaron Klein, who says copies will be delivered to members of Congress when they return Sept. 9.

More of them may read it than managed to get through, say, the Affordable Care Act, but Klein is not likely to change many minds. A dedicated birther, he is the author of an earlier book, “The Manchurian President: Barack Obama’s Ties to Communists, Socialists and Other Anti-American Extremists,” that was universally panned as scurrilous nonsense.

Still, when Obama still seemed intent on striking Damascus on his own initiative, the impeachment bandwagon seemed ready to roll. Jindal wisely declined to jump on it, for it was bound to crash sooner or later, and seized the opportunity to sound statesmanlike and above the fray. “I disagree with this president’s policies, but instead of talking about impeachment, let’s get out there and let’s have a legitimate debate,” he said on national TV.

Good line. Besides, impeaching presidents will never seem a good idea if you have ambitions to be one.

James Gill’s email address is jgill@theadvocate.com.