There has been much consternation expressed about President Obama’s extralegal actions, especially suspending deportation of certain classes of undocumented aliens. Impeachment legally and politically would be completely unwarranted. There are other ways for the GOP to impose consequences.
The president’s dereliction of duty, although infuriating, does not rise to the level of high crimes or even misdemeanors, the Constitutional standard for impeachment and removal from office. Moreover removal would conjure from the realm of Nightmare into reality the three scariest words in the English language: “President. Joe. Biden.”
Thankfully there is zero chance of gaining enough votes in the Senate to effect the president’s removal and no real risk of the House pursuing such a reckless course. An attempt at impeachment and removal would subject the GOP to being painted as a persecuting force. Speaker Boehner and Leader McConnell fully grasp this and will not permit it.
Impeachment would be very much against the GOP’s, and America’s, political interests. Moreover, weaponizing the Constitution — by lowering the standards for the removal of a duly elected president — would set a dreadful precedent, pushing the United States another step closer to the political status of a banana republic.
So, what, then, is to be done? John Fund, at The National Review astutely suggests censure, for failure faithfully to execute the laws, by the Congress of the president. Censure was a recipe, Fund shrewdly notes, advocated for President Clinton by no less than Nancy Pelosi. She, Fund reports, backed a resolution stating that President Clinton “fully deserves the censure and condemnation of the American people and the Congress.”
Let us not forget that the magnificent MoveOn.org drew its very name from its original petition stating that “Congress must Immediately Censure President Clinton and Move On to pressing issues facing the country.” Censure of Mr. Obama seems perfectly apt.
Censure President Obama and Move On.
Should censure prove insufficient to restrain this autocratically disposed president other steps are available. The White House and its Progressive echo chamber keep raising the bogeyman of a government shutdown. This is risible. Speaker Boehner and Leader McConnell definitively have ruled this out.
Firebrands such as Sen. Ted Cruz have called for a “scorched earth” policy of refusing to ratify any presidential appointments other than those required for national security reasons. That is a tactic that would give the mainstream media, which leans left, a predicate to paint the GOP as vindictive and obstructionist. It would hand the Democrats a propaganda victory.
No. Finesse is to be desired.
One can imagine, for example, the Congress protesting the president’s shunning of the law by … shunning this president. This could begin by boycotting the State of the Union address — or, even more dramatically, quietly rising to exit after his introduction.
This president has shown himself possessed of an odd form of passive aggression. He repeatedly calls (and may even believe) the Republicans’ refusal to move left a perverse unwillingness to “get stuff (his stuff) done.” Obama holds his own recalcitrance, even in the face of electoral humiliation by his party, as nobly standing on principle. The president presents as mildly fanatical. (He gets a bye for this from an only slightly less fanatical mainstream media.)
Censuring and shunning would be an excellent starting point. That said, fanatics by definition are unreasonable. These consequences might prove insufficient. There is more that can be done by the Congress instead of a counterproductive Cruzian scorched earth tactic or getting tied up into Gordian knots attempting to defund portions of the Department of Homeland Security.
The iconic consequence imposed by parents on an unruly teenager … one who, like this president, stubbornly refuses to honor the House Rules … is grounding. Grounding has much to recommend it.
The imperial trappings of the presidency are simply preposterous. These trappings are well-calculated to reinforce any president’s narcissism (apparently verging, with this president, on solipsism).
I previously called into question the absurd perquisite of Air Force One (technically a code name assigned to whatever aircraft on which the president may be flying; in practice, a fleet of private jets):
Do we really need to maintain two private 747s, a Gulfstream III painted with presidential colors, a fleet of helicopters and, effectively, a private airport so that … our president can go on junkets to Rio while freedom fighters risk their lives in Libya? $181,000 per hour of flight time says the Air Force. Really, do we need, as is planned, to spend billions to acquire three new Air Force Ones? Let him fly coach!
The disgraceful profligacy of this again was again highlighted recently in news reports about the discovery by Judicial Watch of the cost of transporting the president and his entourage, over Labor Day weekend, exceeded $1.5 million … underwritten by us taxpayers:
$527,192 for the president’s fundraising ventures in Westchester, N.Y., and Providence, R.I.; $358,490 to ferry Mr. Obama from Washington, D.C., to Westchester for a wedding; and another $653,718 to fly him to Milwaukee to speak at “Laborfest 2014,” Judicial Watch reported in a press release.
Government waste progresses from tragedy to farce. Oddly we hear nary a peep from progressives who — in theory — seemingly should rather this money be spent on providing shelter to the homeless and food to the hungry in preference to decadent splendor for a president.
And what of the president’s fleet of helicopters, those Chariots of the Gods, which I here wrote:
In reporting on the Navy’s reported new acquisition of helicopters for the president to be delivered in 2020, The Washington Post opens:
“The last time the Pentagon tried to upgrade the president’s coolest ride — the fleet of helicopters that drop him at his doorstep on the South Lawn of the White House — it didn’t go well. Costs doubled. Delays sparked ridicule, then outrage. And President Obama, then just a few weeks in office, said it was “an example of the procurement process gone amok” before defense officials killed the program outright.
“It was an embarrassing debacle that cost $3.2 billion and produced no usable helicopter, turning an iconic symbol of presidential power into an illustration of government waste and incompetence.”
Grounding the president (or, rather, letting him fly coach) is not meant to be vindictive. It is meant to be humbling, not humiliating.
I recall, from my time at Boston University Law School, encountering then Massachusetts governor (later presidential nominee) Michael Dukakis riding, along with me, on the MTA. Then-governor of Alaska Sarah Palin sold Alaska’s equivalent of Air Force One, a Westwind II, 10-seater jet, as a gesture of frugality. Reportedly, the president of Switzerland typically takes public transportation to work.
We need not go quite so far. I have no objection to picking up the president’s Uber tab.
Grounding the president might, in addition to bringing him down to Earth with us mere taxpayers, chasten some of his grandiose autocratic instincts. Whether or not it achieved that purpose it would serve the wonderful objective — a “teachable moment” as the president might say — as a marvelous example of government frugality.
(And as a gesture of decent Republican generosity toward President Obama, I now say… let him fly Business Class … and let him bring along a companion to carry the nuclear launch code football for him. A few further aides, if really needed, could fly … coach.)
If mere grounding proves insufficient to bring this president’s ego back to Earth let’s cut the White House staff. Currently, the Executive Office of the President employs around 500, many of whom get up to mischief. Another 1500 to 2000 people are paid by cabinet agencies and detailed to work on White House staff (as I was, briefly, under President Reagan). Surely a message can be sent, through the “power of the purse,” by cutting the White House staff in, say, half.
Reduce the number of aides, thereby reducing this (and, one submits, future) president’s leverage for concocting extralegal schemes. Will this disable the government? Not at all!
Consider, as nicely summarized by Wikipedia:
Thomas Jefferson had one messenger and one secretary at his disposal, both of whose salaries were paid by the president personally. It was not until 1857 that Congress appropriated money ($2,500) for the hiring of one clerk. By Ulysses S. Grant’s presidency (1869–1877), the staff had grown to three. By 1900, the White House staff included one “secretary to the president” (then the title of the president’s chief aide), two assistant secretaries, two executive clerks, a stenographer, and seven other office personnel. Under Warren G. Harding, the size of the staff expanded to thirty-one, although most were clerical positions. During Herbert Hoover’s presidency, two additional secretaries to the president were added by Congress, one of whom Hoover designated as his Press Secretary. From 1933 to 1939, even as he greatly expanded the scope of the federal government’s policies and powers in response to the Great Depression, Roosevelt muddled through….”
Political scientist Matthew J. Dickinson, in Bitter Harvest: FDR, Presidential Power and the Growth of the Presidential Branch observes that “On balance … the political harvest from increasing White House staff size, hierarchy and functional specialization has proved harmful to presidents and the body politic.”
Pomp, under the circumstances, really has gotten out control. Such pomposity feeds any president’s very worst instincts. By deeply cutting the “Pomp Budget” just perhaps President Obama will decide that it behooves him to show due respect to the Congress. If not, however, a strong statement will have been made and a good precedent set by Congress.
Ignoring the laws one constitutionally is charged, and sworn, to uphold really is reprehensible. The Congress may not have the means to prevent his dereliction of duty. It does have means to speak truth to power and hold the president accountable.
Censure President Obama and Move On.
(And cut the Pomp budget.)