Back in 2010, Jonathan Chait predicted that by the end of Obama's second term, the House of Representatives would vote to impeach him. "Wait, you say. What will they impeach him over?" Chait wrote. "You can always find something. Mini-scandals break out regularly in Washington."
The Bergdahl affair (and West's assertion that it's an impeachable offense) is the latest iteration of these "mini-scandals." The difference is that, unlike the scandal surrounding Benghazi and the IRS's perceived political targeting, this presents an ongoing threat. If one of the released Taliban operatives were to become involved in a future terrorist attack, that's when it evolves into a full-grown, adult scandal.
Here's a short rundown of other White House scandals (or "scandals") that have led Republicans to call for Obama's impeachment (and for the full list, Wikipedia has you covered):
- In 2010, Rep. Darrell Issa said Obama could face impeachment after Rep. Joe Sestak claimed the White House offered him a job to prevent him from challenging Arlen Specter in a primary.
- In 2011, Rep. Michael Burgess told a local Tea Party group that Obama's impeachment "needs to happen," without specifying why.
- In 2012, Sen. Jon Kyl said "impeachment is always a possibility" over Obama's immigration policies.
- Last May, Rep. Jason Chaffetz said he was not pushing for impeachment, but didn't rule out that Obama could be kicked out of office over the Benghazi affair.
- In 2013, Sen. Tom Coburn told the audience at a town-hall meeting that Obama was getting "perilously close" to qualifying for impeachment. Coburn's fellow Oklahoma senator, James Inhofe, agreed.
- In 2013, Rep. Kerry Bentivolio said his legislative dream would be to impeach Obama.
- During the debt-ceiling crisis, Rep. Louie Gohmert told an interviewer that defaulting on the U.S. government's debt would be an "impeachable offense."
- While Sen. Ted Cruz has demurred on calls for Obama's impeachment in the past, but has called it "a good question" and "a question for the House to assess."
Few things get tea-party conservatives' blood boiling faster than Benghazi, the IRS scandal, and the Affordable Care Act. But it's not just middle-class Joes at tea-party rallies who get exercised about the idea of impeaching the president. Last week, McKay Coppins wrote about upper-crust conservatives' efforts to join the Impeach Obama movement. At a tony event at the Harvard Club in Manhattan, elite conservatives celebrated the release of a new book titled Faithless Execution: Building the Political Case For Obama's Impeachment.
The book's author, Andrew McCarthy (a former federal prosecutor), does not directly argue for actually impeaching Obama. Instead, Coppins wrote, he "makes a more subdued argument; that Obama has abused his office, and that actively threatening impeachment is the best way for Congress to reign in the powers of the executive branch."
In this way, Republicans can concede that impeaching Obama is an unlikely scenario — but they're good at staying on message nonetheless.