Want to know why Americans are so fed up with their government? The "Impeach Obama" drama that is consuming the nation's capital this week is instructive.
It would almost be amusing if it wasn't for the fact that the world is in chaos (see Jay Solomon and Carol Lee's excellent piece in the Wall Street Journal where they argue that the world hasn't seen this level of instability since the late 1970s). And things aren't much better at home where, among other things, we've got a humanitarian crisis at the border. As opposed to addressing any of these issues, however, our elected officials are devoting this week - the last before their 5 week summer vacation - to the impeachment/"impeachment light" (AKA Boehner's lawsuit) fiasco.
And I'm not only talking about Republicans, Democrats are equally guilty of talking up impeachment for their own political purposes. If you missed it, here's a brief overview of the latest installment in the "Impeach Obama" drama.
In early July former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin wrote an op-ed in Breitbart aptly entitled, "It's Time to Impeach President Obama".
"Enough is enough of the years of abuse from this president... His unsecured border crisis is the last straw that makes the battered wife say, 'no mas.'" -- Sarah Palin
Her call resonated with many on the far right, including talk radio host Mark Levine, the Restore America PAC, some 'Tea Party' activists, and at least a few members of Congress.
Speaker of the House John Boehner, however, was not moved. In fact he wasted little time in making it clear that he was opposed to the idea. This isn't a surprise, after all, here is a man who witnessed the impact of the Clinton impeachment on the GOP first-hand. He not only saw his party lose five seats in the midterm that year (a feat that is difficult to accomplish during the 6th year of a president from the other party), but he watched as then Speaker Newt Gingrich was forced to step aside.
Boehner was right to dismiss the absurd call for impeachment. But instead of acting like the adult in the room and moving forward to exercise real leadership, he attempted to appease conservatives by announcing he is going to sue the president. The grounds? Abuse of executive authority -- specifically Obama's use of executive orders to delay parts of the Affordable Care Act. A skeptic might find this somewhat odd given that (a) Obama has used fewer executive orders than either of his predecessors, (b) the GOP wants to overturn the ACA entirely so it's hard to understand why they'd be upset if the president delays parts of it and (c) Republicans have berated Obama for not taking decisive action and using his power as president to fix problems such as immigration.
Regardless, Boehner decided to plow ahead with the lawsuit. While Boehner saw this as a win-win (namely appease conservatives and protect the party from the negative impact of a sham impeachment) he didn't consider what happens if the lawsuit fails -- and in all likelihood it probably will? It's not far-fetched to imagine that if this happens conservatives will push hard for impeachment. While Boehner insists that is not in the cards, it's important to remember he said the same thing about the government shut down and the debt ceiling battle.
One thing Boehner is right about is that that no one has been more excited about all the impeachment talk than the Democrats. Since it was first raised, everyone from Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, to Congresswoman/DNC Boss Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Senior White House Aide Dan Pfeiffer and even the president have been looking for ways to let their base know that the GOP is at it again. It's not dissimilar to what happened during the birther controversy or the government shutdown when Democrats were quick to make the most of their opponents march to extremist abyss.
"You hear some of them -- sue him, impeach him. Really? Really? For what? You're going to sue me to do -- for doing my job? OK. I mean, think about that. You use taxpayer money to sue me for doing my job, while you don't do your job." -- Barack Obama
Democrats defend their actions by saying that the Republicans started it (if you're a parent or have spent any time with young children this probably sounds vaguely familiar). While they are right, this doesn't alleviate them of responsibility for perpetuating this nonsense. As opposed to acting like the adult in the room, denouncing the call for impeachment once, and then moving on to address the myriad of serious issues facing the country, they have chosen to exploit this absurdity for purely political, monetary, and electoral gains.
When Mercutio lay dying at the end of Romeo and Juliet he famously said "[a] plague on both your houses." It is a phrase that is often repeated when the fighting between two warring factions is so intense that it leads to the demise of innocents. As we look at the state of our government today Mercutio's final words seem sadly appropriate.