Another day, another Republican pandering to the right-wing base of the party. Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) said at a town hall meeting in Muskogee, Oklahoma on Wednesday that the president is “getting perilously close” to impeachment. It’s a move that puts him in what former Pennsylvania Democratic governor Ed Rendell calls the “wacko faction” of the Republican Party.
When words like “impeachment” get thrown around, it’s important to take a step back and really understand what the Constitution says about the grounds for the action. What does a president have to do to prompt an impeachment trial? The standard is laid out in Article II, Section IV of the U.S. Constitution, which states,”The President, Vice President and all Civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”
What are Obama’s crimes that meet this standard? For Republicans, there may be a few — most notably, NSA surveillance, the Benghazi “scandal,” or the IRS probe.
Of course, there’s absolutely no evidence that Obama has committed an impeachable offense. For many Republicans, however, doubt remains. Tom Coburn, for example, admits he doesn’t even have the legal knowledge to determine if impeachment is suitable, but nonetheless thinks Obama is getting close. “I think those are serious things, but we’re in serious times,” Coburn said at the meeting. “And I don’t have the legal background to know if that rises to ‘high crimes and misdemeanors,’ but I think you’re getting perilously close.”
Moreover, Coburn thinks that the Obama administration is breaking the law purposefully. “I think there’s some intended violation of law in this administration, but I also think there’s a ton of incompetence,” Coburn said, adding: “I am fed up. I am frustrated. I am happy to raise an issue at every point.”
By joining the impeachment crusade, Coburn is in league with other Republicans like Texas senator Ted Cruz and congressman Blake Farenhold, and Rep. Kerry Bentivolio (R-MI).
Bentivolio said in a recent town hall meeting that “it would be a dream come true” to impeach Obama. But, he continued, Republicans just don’t have the evidence yet. “Until we have the evidence, you’re going to become a laughingstock if you’ve submitted a bill to impeach the president, because number one, you’ve got to convince the press.”
Farenhold thinks impeachment would fall flat in the Senate: “If we were to impeach the president tomorrow, you could probably get the votes in the House of Representatives to do it,” he told a group of Texas Republicans. “But it would go to the Senate and he wouldn’t be convicted.” On Monday, Sen. Ted Cruz offered more or less the same analysis. When asked about impeachment at a town hall meeting, Cruz replied: “It’s a good question. And I’ll tell you the simplest answer: To successfully impeach a president you need the votes in the U.S. Senate.”
So Coburn has plenty of company in the impeachment camp.
But Coburn’s words are perhaps surprising because he has previously butted heads with this so-called “wacko faction” of the Republican Party. In the midst of the 2011 debt limit debate, Coburn broke from the right wing of the GOP by accepting the compromise reached by the “Gang of Six.” The compromise included raising revenues, which put him at odds with Grover Norquist and every Republican congressman who signed the anti-tax pledge. Back then, Coburn said Norquist “represents the silliness of our political situation today.”
Additionally, Senator Coburn likes to refer to the president as his “good personal friend.” With friends like these, who needs enemies?