By Joe Conason
Less than four months after Barack Obama’s inauguration, the right-wing propaganda machine is already promoting the only imaginable conclusion to a Democratic administration that dares to achieve a second term: impeachment.
Once confined to the ranks of the birthers, the fantasy of removing President Obama from office is starting to fester in supposedly saner minds. Certainly impeachment is on the mind ofMike Huckabee, the Fox News commentator who — as a former governor of Arkansas and political antagonist of Bill Clinton — can be expected to know something about the subject. On Monday, he predicted that the president will be forced from office before the end of his term by the controversy over the Benghazi consulate attack last September.
According to Huckabee, while the Watergate scandal was “bad,” Benghazi is worse because four Americans died there, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens. The proximate cause for impeaching Obama, he suggested, is the “cover-up” of the facts concerning Benghazi. Moreover, he said, if the Democrats “try to protect the president and their party, and do so at the expense of the truth, they will go down.” When “the facts come out,” predicted Huckabee, “something will start” and ultimately the Democrats will lose “the right to govern.” Presumably Huckabee believes impeachment would be easier than winning a national election.
He isn’t alone in ruminating on the removal of a president who just won re-election last November — not on Fox News, anyway. (The ever-crafty Huck hedged by noting, however, that none of this will come to pass if Democrats win the midterm elections next year.) Meanwhile, former U.N. ambassador John Bolton, whose cranky pronouncements continue to embarrass responsible conservatives, upped the ante by confiding what Huckabee left out — namely, that like every desperate Republican, he yearns for a Benghazi scandal that will stick. If there was no cover-up, Bolton insisted with characteristically twisted logic that would prove Obama (the president who dispatched Osama bin Laden) simply doesn’t understand the ongoing threat from al-Qaida. “If it was merely a political cover-up,” he noted with satisfaction, “then there can be a political cost to pay.” No doubt both Bolton and Huckabee — not to mention Rep. Darrell Issa, whose House Government Reform Committee maintains an ongoing Benghazi probe — plan to charge that cost not only to Obama but to a certain woman who now leads every 2016 presidential poll.
The meager substance of the “cover-up” canard was debunked months ago —and to date nothing has emerged to change those facts. (Indeed, even some of the most gullible denizens of Fox Nation have rejected the attempted frame-up lately.) Were the Republicans interested in constructive change rather than invented conspiracies, they might consult the Benghazi testimony of former general David Petraeus and former Secretary of StateHillary Clinton, as well as the unvarnished report by former ambassador Thomas Pickering and Admiral Mike Mullen. But defending American diplomats and promoting American prestige are both foreign to the Republican agenda, which is concerned with nothing more elevated than partisan power.
With his far-fetched comparison to Richard Nixon’s disgrace, Huckabee helpfully unveiled a flashing neon clue to GOP psychopathology. The desire for revenge over Watergate, a Republican obsession for decades, was the underlying motivation for the outlandish Whitewater investigations that targeted the Clintons almost 20 years ago.
Now, as the Obama presidency continues, America’s political predicament increasingly resembles the worst moments of that era, when the furious derangement that grips the opposition began to emerge in full. For years we have seen the same campaign to demonize the president, the same systematic obstruction, the same refusal to accept a democratic verdict — and now the same urge to invent high crimes and misdemeanors. The only difference is that the timetable for impeachment — which didn’t commence for Clinton until the end of 1997 — appears to be accelerating.