In an almost farcical twist on the recent political debate, the Obama White House has joined the Democratic fundraising apparatus in what appears to be a campaign to encourage Republicans to impeach the president.
In the past 48 hours, first lady Michelle Obama, White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer, White House spokesman Josh Earnest, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and others have raised the specter of an Obama impeachment.
The first lady was first to broach the subject, in a Thursday evening fundraising speech in Chicago. "If we lose these midterm elections, it's going to be a whole lot harder to finish what we started," Obama said, "because we'll just see more of the same out in Washington -- more obstructions, more lawsuits, and talk about impeachment."
Top White House aide Pfeiffer really got the ball rolling Friday morning at a Christian Science Monitor reporters' breakfast. "I saw a poll today that had a huge portion of the Republican Party base saying they supported impeaching the president," Pfeiffer said. "A lot of people in this town laugh that off. I would not discount that possibility." Asked whether an impeachment battle might be a "good thing" for the president's popularity, Pfeiffer said, "We take it very seriously and I don't think it would be a good thing. But I think it would be foolish to discount the possibility that Republicans would at least consider going down that path."
A few hours later, at the White House briefing, Earnest spoke at length about the alleged impeachment threat. "Do you really believe that the president could be impeached?" Earnest was asked.
"Well, I think that there are senior members of the Republican political party or certainly prominent voices in the Republican Party who are calling for exactly that …" Earnest said. "There are some Republicans, including some Republicans who are running for office, hoping they can get into office so that they can impeach the president. That is apparently a view that they hold, because it’s one that they have repeatedly expressed publicly."
At another point in the briefing, Earnest noted that "there are some prominent members of the Republican Party who have articulated their support for articles of impeachment. That is the view that they've articulated. What we're focused on is the business of the American people."
A few hours later, Pelosi and the Democratic fundraising machine joined in. "Sorry to email you late on a Friday, but I need your urgent support," Pelosi emailed. "Yesterday, for the first time in history, Congress voted to sue a sitting president. Today, the White House alerted us that they believe 'Speaker [John] Boehner … has opened the door to impeachment …'"
"With everything happening right now, I'm a little disappointed to see that you haven't had a chance to chip in to defend President Obama," Pelosi continued. "We could use your support today. ALL GIFTS TODAY TRIPLE-MATCHED!"
A couple of hours later, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sent out another mass email. "The White House just announced that they believe John Boehner’s lawsuit could lead to the impeachment of President Barack Obama," the DCCC said. "We are now on full RED ALERT at Democratic Headquarters. We are scrambling to defend the President in every way we can at this critical moment."
"According to our records, you haven't chipped in to fight back," the email continued. "Can we count on you at this critical moment? ALL GIFTS TODAY TRIPLE-MATCHED!"
Another couple of hours later -- after 10pm in the East -- the DCCC tried again. "If you're wondering why you're getting all this email on a Friday night, it's simple," the email read. "THE IMPEACHMENT OF PRESIDENT OBAMA IS NOW A REAL POSSIBILITY."
"No other president in history has had to face the prospect of being taken to court by Congress. And the White House alerted us today that it could lead to impeachment. These historic (and totally unfounded) attacks require an historic response -- and that's exactly what you're doing right now. We are now in the range of $1,000,000 raised since Republicans voted to authorize the lawsuit (that was just since yesterday!). Midnight deadline: ALL GIFTS TODAY TRIPLE-MATCHED!"
There are some Republican backbenchers who would indeed like to impeach the president, just as there were (more senior and more organized) Democratic lawmakers who hoped to impeach George W. Bush after Democrats won control of Congress in the 2006 elections. Back then Pelosi, the new Speaker, said flatly, "Impeachment is off the table." Now, Boehner has said he "disagrees" with former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin's call for impeachment, and many observers see his lawsuit against the president as an effort to placate GOP lawmakers while stopping far short of impeaching the president. But Boehner has not made a far-reaching, definitive statement comparable to declaring impeachment "off the table." He might now be driven to do so, making the Democrats' impeachment fundraising festival appear even more ridiculous than it already does.