Opinion | Judiciary

Feehery: Impeachment fever bad for Democratic governing vision

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If you can't beat them, impeach them.

The Democrats, and their friends in the left-leaning media, have settled on impeachment as a political strategy to motivate their base, raise money for their campaigns, and, if all breaks the ways they hope it will, remove their adversaries from office.

I say adversaries in the plural, because Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and Attorney General William Barr have been added to the Democratic hit-list.

Misery loves company, I guess.

Impeachment as a political strategy is risky, of course. 

I worked for the House Republican leadership when they decided to pursue former President Clinton in a similar effort in the late 1990s. For those millennials who view the 1990s as ancient history, let me just remind you of the eerie parallels between the Clinton years and the Trump years.

Both Clinton and Trump won unexpectedly. Both presided over booming economies. Both had some issues with some paramours, although Clinton's exploits occurred while he was actually working in the Oval Office. Both instilled great fear and loathing among the base of their political opposition. Both were political centrists at heart but were pushed to the extremes by their party's bases. Both did an exceptional job of seizing key issues of their opposition (crime for Clinton; trade for Trump), that confused and angered members of their own party.

Impeaching Clinton was a short-term disaster for the Republicans. They lost seats in the House, House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) was forced to resign, and Clinton's approval ratings went through the roof. The Republicans didn't face any long-term damage, as they were able to quickly pivot after the Senate acquitted Clinton, get some solid accomplishments in the president's final two years and then rally behind George W. Bush's campaign for the White House.

The Democrats' impeachment strategy, on the other hand, might prove to be more problematic, not just for their party but also for their governing vision.

Progressives, in their twin impeachment gambits, are seeking to delegitimize both presidential authority and the moral authority of the Supreme Court.

They don't believe - or so they tell their followers - that President Trump won the White House fair and square. They have spun a fanciful conspiracy theory (debunked by the Mueller report) that the president colluded with Russian President Vladimir Putin to steal the election and now must be removed from office to save the Republic.

There are already signs that this argument isn't working, so they are moving on to other arguments, namely that he paid off a woman he was having an affair with to keep quiet and that he is profiting from his time in the White House because so many people are staying at his various hotels.

Of course, the bottom line on all of this is pretty clear. Liberal Democrats don't like Trump and they want him removed from office.

The argument against Kavanaugh is more pernicious.

They believe that Kavanaugh will join a majority of the court to overturn Roe v. Wade. The purpose of attacking Kavanagh's reputation has nothing to do with what he might have done in high school. It has everything to do with how he might rule on abortion. As Debra Katz, the lawyer for Christine Blasey Ford, said at a feminist legal theory conference: "He will always have an asterisk next to his name. When he takes a scalpel to Roe v. Wade, we will know who he is, we know his character, and we know what motivates him, and that is important. It is important that we know, and that is part of what motivated Christine."

By delegitimizing Kavanaugh, progressives diminish the one branch of government that has done the most to protect so-called progressive ideals. And Kavanaugh, far from being an unhinged radical, is actually a moderating force on the court.

And that is the essential problem with the Democrat's twin impeachment strategies.

They are the ones who love government so much. They are the ones who have counted on the Supreme Court to expand government when they couldn't succeed through the political process.

Delegitimizing both the presidency and the Supreme Court is a dangerous gambit for a progressive movement that has lost all perspective in the age of Trump.

Feehery is a partner at EFB Advocacy and blogs at www.thefeeherytheory.com. He served as spokesman to former Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), as communications director to former Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) when he was majority whip and as a speechwriter to former House Minority Leader Bob Michel (R-Ill.).

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