Douglas Wilson’s Letter From Moscow

Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys

Douglas Wilson
July 30, 2014
The Dems are talking up the prospect of impeachment for the president right now because they know what a loser issue that would be for the Republicans, and the Democrats desperately need for the Republicans to obtain for themselves a loser issue that can be wrapped around their necks. They are able to talk it up because even though the Republican leadership is (wisely) dismissing such talk with contempt, there is a high level of frustration with the president’s behavior in the Republican base. The leadership is attempting to vent this frustration with their lawsuit, seeking to head off any talk of impeachment. The last go round with all this, when Clinton was impeached, was disastrous for the Republicans, because they treated ordinary politics as though it were something else. When you start killing ants with a baseball bat, the rest of the story will not go well for you.

For our foreign readers, in our system a president is impeached when the House of Representatives brings articles of impeachment. It is like being indicted — the trial is yet to happen. The House prosecutes the case, and the Senate serves as the jury. Thus when a president is impeached by the House, he will then be convicted (or not) by the Senate.

As St. Augustine once succinctly put it in his treatise on just war, don’t start what you can’t finish.

Up to this point in our history, impeachment has only been on the table three times.
The first was when Andrew Johnson was impeached, and barely escaped being removed from office. But this was in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War, when something like impeachment was comparatively small beer. The second time was when Richard Nixon saw the handwriting on the wall, and resigned rather than face removal from office. He knew that if his case went before the Senate, there was a high likelihood that he would be convicted. The third time happened with Bill Clinton. He was impeached, but not convicted, and the Republicans had to deal with significant blowback for making the attempt.

In the modern era, the only way impeachment could possibly obtain a conviction would be if the entire country were overwhelmingly united behind the effort. This would have to include both the House and Senate being ready to convict, and it would also be necessary to have the mainstream media — The Washington Post, The New York Times, the major networks, etc. — all calling for the president’s head as well. And let us be honest, you and I. The only way the mainstream media would be at all behind the impeachment of President Obama would be if, at the State of the Union address, the president pulled off his rubber mask and announced that he was an alien creepizoid from the Planet Kenya. And even then, it would be touch and go.

So the reason Republicans (whether in the leadership or in the base) ought not to be talking about impeachment right now is that they don’t have the resources (Luke 14:31). As St. Augustine once succinctly put it in his treatise on just war, don’t start what you can’t finish.

This is quite a separate issue from whether the president deserves to be impeached. Of course he does. And if he actually does what he is now considering — amnesty for millions of illegals via executive order — it would be an example of the very kind of high lawlessness that the provision for impeachment in the Constitution seeks to address. It really would be high crimes and misdemeanors. But the fact that the president is acting lawlessly does not mean that his opposition has the resources — moral, intellectual, or electoral — to deal with it. His behavior is simply a kind of high profile lawlessness that Congress has been complicit in themselves for decades. Obama is only doing in broad daylight what the ruling elite from both parties have been skulking around in — soft despotism — for many years.

This is quite a separate issue from whether the president deserves to be impeached. Of course he does.

In the meantime, unless there is a bloodbath in the midterms that goes against the president in both the House and Senate races, such that conviction if impeached would be a foregone conclusion, the whole discussion ought to be tabled. To eke out articles of impeachment would be disastrous. Lawful indignation over the president’s exercises in the royal prerogative needs to be channeled into the elections 96 days from now. If you cannot succesfully muster your troops, you are unlikely to be successful in the war itself. Failing an election that goes down in history as the Sheet of Flame Midterms, all this talk in Washington about reining Obama in via impeachment is summed up nicely by that apt Polish proverb: “Not my circus, not my monkeys.”
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