The Case for Impeaching Obama

Conservative activists across the country are more obsessed than ever with removing the president from office. What do they think he's done to deserve it?
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Senator Ted Cruz is among the Republican lawmakers whose constituents have recently pressured them to impeach President Obama. He said it was "a good question." (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

There’s a hot new idea sweeping the conservative grassroots: impeaching the president.

Republican members of Congress home for the August recess have been pressured by their constituents on the subject at town halls across the country. Indeed, if Democrats thought that President Obama, having produced his original birth certificate and gotten himself easily reelected, might have finally put to rest the right-wing conviction of his illegitimacy, the opposite seems to have occurred: In certain conservative precincts, the determination to oust him is stronger than ever.

At a meeting of a local Republican club in Michigan last week, a woman asked Rep. Kerry Bentivolio, “Who is going to stop Obama from everything that he’s doing against our Constitution?”, while a man chimed in, “Articles of impeachment!” Bentivolio responded, “If I could write that bill and submit it, it would be a dream come true. I feel your pain.” But, he said, he didn’t have the evidence.

At a town hall in Texas, Rep. Blake Farenthold was confronted by a constituent with a dossier she said proved Obama’s birth certificate was fraudulent. Farenthold said it’s “a question that I get a lot: If everybody’s so unhappy with what the president’s done, why don’t you impeach him?” The congressman said there were probably enough votes in the House, but impeachment would die in the Senate.

In Muskogee, Oklahoma, the question was posed to Senator Tom Coburn, who said that while he called Obama a “personal friend,” he considered the administration to be lawless and incompetent, and “getting perilously close” to impeachability. In Conroe, Texas, Senator Ted Cruz said a query about impeachment was “a good question,” but just not realistic; he later told National Review, “That’s not a fight we have a prospect of winning.”

The impeachment activists are undeterred by the lawmakers’ reluctance, however. The website overpasses.org records impeachment “rallies” -- often a few people with posters waving at highway traffic from above -- in 17 states.

This week, the movement stands to get a shot in the arm with the release of a new book, Impeachable Offenses: The Case for Removing Barack Obama From Office. Co-author Aaron Klein, a reporter for the website WorldNetDaily, says preorders of the book by retailers and book clubs were “approaching six figures” prior to its release Tuesday, and the publisher plans to deliver copies to the offices of members of Congress shortly after they return to Washington on September 9.

WND is known for its pursuit of the birth-certificate non-issue, but Klein, a radio host whose other books include The Manchurian President: Barack Obama's Ties to Communists, Socialists and Other Anti-American Extremists, said no space is devoted to birtherism in his book. Its aim, despite the title, is not to advocate impeachment, he claims, but to dispassionately lay out the potential grounds. “I’m trying to present the case journalistically and allow the public to decide,” he said in an interview. “I personally think, yes, there is a strong case for impeachment proceedings on multiple fronts.”

Klein insists this is not a partisan endeavor -- he calls himself an independent and quotes the ACLU and the lefty antiwar group Code Pink in his book, which focuses on alleged overreaches of executive authority. “This is about individual liberty. It’s about the rule of law,” he said. “It’s about whether the separation of powers means anything or not.” While Klein wasn’t on the case when George W. Bush was in office, he says many of the Obama Administration’s alleged national-security offenses might have applied then, too.

For now, the impeachment movement is too fringe even for the likes of Cruz, the capitol's chief boat-rocker. But I was curious: What does Klein’s case for impeachment consist of? There’s a lot in the book, he told me, but he gave a few examples. The constitutional standard for impeachment is "Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors." Klein's claims fall under the second two categories.

* Obamacare: Klein describes a number of arguments involving the health-care legislation, with the crux being that Obama committed a crime against his office by bypassing Congress in some way. "An obvious response is that the healthcare legislation was upheld by the Supreme Court," he noted. "But the book reports the White House has been hard at work changing the implementation of key sections of Obamacare without Congressional oversight."

* Immigration: Did Obama’s executive orders and interagency directives usurp Congress’s legislative authority? “President Obama has bypassed Congress, which has legislative authority for setting immigration policy in America,” Klein says. Last summer’s temporary reprieve for young undocumented immigrants, for example, “seems to be de facto amnesty without congressional approval.”

* Benghazi: In the attack last fall that killed four diplomatic workers, Klein sees a new version of the Iran-Contra scandal, claiming his original reporting has uncovered arms trafficking that wound up in the hands of al-Qaeda fighters.

* Fast and Furious: “I would think it would be very easy to argue that sending weapons deliberately with the intention of getting them in the hands of the drug cartels is a very clear violation [of the law], especially since it resulted in the murder of a U.S. border agent.”

* Surveillance: Klein claims to have uncovered much of the expansive surveillance regime that’s now coming to light; his book went to press before NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden went public.

* The Libya campaign: “There’s a chapter that questions whether the entire campaign was unconstitutional. We don’t conclude it was or wasn’t; we present both sides of the debate.”

 * Bribery: “There are a lot of questions about stimulus-bill money that went to campaign donors. There’s money that went to different green companies that some of the top leaders then popped up as members of the Obama administration.”

Klein says its careful, investigative, nonpartisan approach distinguishes his book from the various Tea Party email forwards and impeachment petitions that offer a laundry list of conspiracy theories. His book even debunks some claims, such as the allegation that the Department of Homeland Security is buying ammunition in bulk.

To the Obama Administration, such claims are simply further proof of the wild-eyed intransigence the president faces. To Republican lawmakers who’d like to present a constructive face for the party, they’re a nuisance. But Klein’s book is only likely to bolster the conviction of the impeachment-seeking conservative grassroots. The passion for ousting Obama may be here to stay.

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Molly Ball is a staff writer covering national politics at The Atlantic.

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