Political enemies of President Obama have pretty much been calling for his impeachment since shortly after he took the oath of office in 2009.
But this month, the volume of impeachment chatter rose a few notches, goosed by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who was so incensed by the influx of Central American children at the Texas border that she compared the border to a battered wife and declared "no mas."
FOR THE RECORD
July 29, 12:46 p.m.: An earlier version of this post stated that Wisconsin Rep. James Sensenbrenner raised the specter of impeaching President Obama over the botched gun running program known as Fast and Furious. In 2011, Sensenbrenner raised the idea that Obama administration officials could be impeached.
I suspect that Palin, who has willfully drifted to the fringes of the American political conversation, had a double goal in mind. The first was to kick up some attention by posing as the only conservative courageous enough to call Obama on his law-breaking ways. The second was to capitalize on that attention in order to lure subscribers to her new Internet television channel, which she announced on Sunday.
"But like freedom," tweeted my colleague Michael Memoli, "it isn't free." Indeed. Subscriptions will run $9.95 a month or $99.95 a year. Will meaningful numbers of Palin fans shell out money to learn about Palin's mother's word of the day (Monday: "rectitude"), Palin's meandering kitchen tips or her thoughts on how to foil Vladimir Putin?
Remains to be seen.
In the meantime, by harping on "impeachment," she has delivered a political gift to Democrats. Mindful of their success framing Republican positions on social issues as the "war on women," Democrats have seized on the impeachment idea because it helps them make Republicans in Congress look crazy. Well, crazier than usual.
You remember what happened the last time Republicans impeached a Democratic president, right? The president not only survived, but became more popular than ever.
Among the questions in a CNN/ORC poll released Friday, was whether President Obama should be "impeached and removed from office." The poll, of more than 1,000 mostly registered voters, was conducted by telephone July 18 to 20.
Sixty-five percent of respondents the president should not be indicted and kicked out of office, while only 33% said he should.
The poll also asked respondents whether Obama had "gone too far, has been about right, or has not gone far enough in expanding the power of the presidency and the executive branch." Only 45% said he'd gone too far, while 52% said he'd gone "about right" or "not far enough."
The president and Michelle Obama have warned about impeachment fever recently in speeches. White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer and White House spokesman Josh Earnest have also raised the specter with reporters, wrote the Wall Street Journal's James Taranto. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which raises money for House races, has issued dire warnings about impeachment (and claims to have generated some $2 million toward the midterm elections as a result).
Republicans, who now see the folly of threatening impeachment, are accusing Democrats of making it all up.
This position is perhaps best embodied in a post called "Obama's Impeachment Canard" by Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin. She calls talk of impeachment "the latest gambit from the Obama machine's evolving and increasingly desperate midterm election strategy."
She adds, "Mind you, no elected Republican, Republican candidate or responsible commentator from the right is suggesting impeachment."
That's a breathtaking falsehood.
In May, Oklahoma Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe said Obama could be impeached over Benghazi. In 2011, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich suggested that the president could be impeached for failing to enforce the federal Defense of Marriage Act which was overturned in 2013 by the Supreme Court.
In 2012, anti-tax activist Grover Norquist suggested that Republicans would have enough votes in the Senate to impeach Obama in 2014 if he refused to extend the Bush tax cuts. In 2013, Texas Republican Rep. Steve Stockman threatened to introduce articles of impeachment over the gun control measures that Obama introduced after the slaughter of first-graders in Newtown, Conn. And Rep. Michele Bachmann, the Minnesota Republican who ran for president in 2012, also endorsed the idea of impeaching the president.
By my count, people who have called for the president's impeachment include numerous elected officials, plus at least two Republicans who have sought the GOP presidential nomination (Gingrich, Bachmann) and one actual Republican vice presidential nominee (Palin).
Considering where the American public stands on the idea of impeachment, it's not surprising Republicans are backpedaling. Democrats, once again, can thank Sarah Palin for giving them something to talk about.