Interview: Andrew McCarthy Builds the Case for Obama's Impeachment
The Washington Times reported on Tuesday that:
Talk of impeachment was cooked up by a White House desperate for something to rally Democrats ahead of November’s elections, House Speaker John A. Boehner said Tuesday, flatly ruling out any action on the controversial suggestion.
“We have no plans to impeach the president. We have no future plans,” Mr. Beohner said. “Listen, it’s all a scam started by Democrats at the White House.”
But PJM's own Andrew McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor, has a very different take, both in terms of Mr. Obama, and of the general concept of impeachment itself.
During our interview, Andrew will discuss his latest book, Faithless Execution: Building the Political Case for Obama's Impeachment. Andrew tells me, "As Madison put it, impeachment was indispensable in the minds of the framers, as a mechanism for Congress to be able to prevent one of the things that they were extremely worried about during the drafting of the Constitution. Which was the possibility that this incredibly powerful new office that they were creating, the President of the United States, where all of the executive power would be reposed in one official. [The founders worried] that that official could become like a monarch; could become basically what the Revolution had fought against in the first place."
And there's little doubt that President Obama thinks of himself of having king-like powers, far removed from the controls of Congress.
During our interview, Andrew will discuss:
● How the Founding Fathers thought of impeachment.
● Is he worried about Democrats fundraising off his new book?
● What does McCarthy think of John Boehner’s plan to sue Obama?
● His thoughts on Congress's investigations of Benghazi and the IRS scandal.
● If McCarthy was drafting the articles of impeachment for Barack Obama, what would they include?
And much more. Click below to listen:
(16 minutes, 41 seconds long; 15.3 MB file size. Want to download instead of streaming? Right click here to download this interview to your hard drive. Or right click here to download the 4.78 MB lo-fi edition.)
If the above Flash audio player is not be compatible with your browser, click on the video player below, or click here to be taken directly to YouTube, for an audio-only YouTube clip. Between one of those versions, you should find a format that plays on your system.
Transcript of our interview begins on the following page; for our many previous podcasts, start here and keep scrolling.
MR. DRISCOLL: This is Ed Driscoll, and we’re talking today with fellow PJ Media.com columnist Andrew McCarthy, whose newest book is Faithless Execution: Building the Political Case for Obama's Impeachment. It’s published by Encounter Books, and available from Amazon.com. And Andrew, thanks for stopping by today.
MR. MCCARTHY: Ed, it's my pleasure. Thanks for having me.
MR. DRISCOLL: Andrew, according to CNN on the day we’re recording this interview, 35 percent of the American public want to see Barack Obama impeached. And while that’s higher than the 30 percent that wanted to see George W. Bush impeached in 2006, it sort of sounds like it’s a non-starter, particularly with memories of Bill Clinton’s impeachment still relatively fresh in everyone’s mind. How do you make the case that it should happen?
MR. MCCARTHY: Well, you know, I don't make the case that it should happen under circumstances where a conviction in the Senate is not possible. In fact, what I argue in the book is that the best thing for the country would be for the president not to be impeached, but to create the political conditions where he has a strong inducement and in fact does begin to honor his oath to faithfully execute the law. I think we'd much rather see him finish his term in a lawful manner than impeach him, because we shouldn't underestimate how much that would be traumatic for the country.
On the other hand, if he's going to continue being rampantly lawless, obviously impeachment is something that ought to be on the table, because it's, in our system, one of very few ways that we have to rein in a lawless executive.
But really, I think the priority is not so much impeachment, it's to try to create the conditions politically where the president has a strong inducement to conduct himself lawfully. And that's the main thrust of the book.
MR. DRISCOLL: Because impeachment only happened once in the 19th century with Andrew Johnson, and once in the 20th century with Bill Clinton, and President Nixon resigned before near-certain impeachment, the American public tend to think of a president being impeached as a once-in-a-lifetime event, at the most. Is that what the founding fathers intended?
MR. MCCARTHY: I think they would have expected impeachment to be used more often, although, you know, it's hard to play that out as a regular event, because one would think if it was used a little more often, and it had some teeth, you wouldn't have to use it very often.
But I do think, as Madison put it, impeachment was indispensable in the minds of the framers, as a mechanism for Congress to be able to prevent one of the things that they were extremely worried about during the drafting of the Constitution. Which was the possibility that this incredibly powerful new office that they were creating, the President of the United States, where all of the executive power would be reposed in one official. [The founders worried] that that official could become like a monarch; could become basically what the Revolution had fought against in the first place.
So they were obviously very concerned about it, and they certainly thought impeachment was ‑‑ was essential to have in the Constitution.
MR. DRISCOLL: Andrew, I know you touched upon this when answering your first question, but Nixon and Clinton’s impeachment proceedings got as far as they did because in both cases, the opposite party had control over both houses of Congress. As long as Harry Reid has control over the Senate, isn’t the notion of impeachment a non-starter for Congress?
MR. MCCARTHY: Well, I don't think so. I mean, I guess it's fair enough to say that as long as Reid is in control of the Senate, that will mean the public is content to have Democrats running the Senate. And if that's a measure of what the public temperament is, the thought that there be enough public pressure that two-thirds of senators would be moved to impeach Obama, seems farfetched.
On the other hand, Nixon, won reelection in November of 1972, with one of the historical landslides in American history ‑‑ I think it's the second largest electoral victory by a president seeking reelection ‑‑ and within twenty months he was gone.
You know, his measure of re-electoral support was immensely larger than Obama's, and yet, you know, within twenty months, once the public was riveted to the issue of presidential lawlessness, he couldn't survive politically.
And it's interesting that Obama is dropping, under circumstances where the press has been his praetorian guard while it was Nixon's day-to-day prosecutor. So I think it's a real ‑‑ as you pointed out earlier in our conversation, that 35 percent doesn't seem like a lot. But it might seem like a lot more if you step back and think about the fact that the press has done everything they could for five-and-a-half years to prop Obama up, while the president who would surely have been impeached, Nixon, was someone they went after day after day.
MR. DRISCOLL: Are you worried that Democrats are fundraising off your book, with the notion of, “if you let the GOP take back the Senate, you know what’s going to happen next?”
MR. MCCARTHY: Yeah, well, I think the Democrats, as we've seen from the president, are pretty energetic fundraisers. And I kind of think that even if Andy didn't write a book, they'd probably think of ways to raise money.
MR. DRISCOLL: What do you make of John Boehner’s plan to sue Obama?
MR. MCCARTHY: I really think that that is…I've called it feckless. And I kind of respect the lawyers who are behind it, who I've known for a number of years and I know have given a lot of thought to this and are motivated to do what they can as attorneys in the legal process to try to hold the president's feet to the fire and make him obey the law.
But all that said, Congress has actually dispositive powers to rein in a runaway, lawless executive. And we're not just talking about impeachment; we're talking about the power of the purse. So the thought that one of the strongest branches goes to the weakest branch to plead with it, to do what the stronger branch, the Congress is not willing to do. That is to say, use its own power and plead with the court to do its heavy lifting, under circumstances where we all know that courts have no power to execute their rulings. So even if you got past the very considerable legal standing obstacles to this lawsuit, and even if you leave aside the fact that Obama has now put a couple of hundred judges on the court. There's no guarantee that a court that considers the case is going to find in favor of the lawsuit. But even if you put those problems aside, what happens if the court rules in favor of Boehner and the lawsuit?
As we've seen again and again over the last five-and-a-half years, Obama treats court decisions that don't go his way the same way he treats statutes that are inconvenient; he ignores them.
So I just don't see what they're hoping to accomplish, even assuming they could get a favorable decision, oh, I don't know, sometime in 2018 or so.
MR. DRISCOLL: Heh. In the meantime, what’s your take on Congress’s IRS investigation, and how do you see it ultimately playing out?
MR. MCCARTHY: Well, I think it should be ‑‑ much the way that Benghazi has gone to a select committee, I think the IRS investigation should long ago, also have gone to a select committee.
In fact, I think it should be in front of the same select committee. It would be an easy matter to just expand their jurisdiction to take on yet another investigation. And it doesn't hurt, by the way, that both Cummings and Trey Gowdy, who are running the investigation ‑‑ or Gowdy, the chairman, Cummings the minority guy who's been put on it, they've been on both investigations, the IRS and Benghazi.
So I think it would be an easy matter to put it all in front of a select committee.
You know, Ed, I think the problem with a Congressional investigation is always that a Congress doesn't have prosecutive powers. And it really can't, at least in the usual committee setup, it can't conduct an investigation like a grand jury, because they look at all the different issues that they conduct oversight on through the prism of whatever the narrow authority of the committee happens to be.
And the upside of a select committee is it can act more like a grand jury and get to the bottom or what happened, rather than try to do it, you know, through their authority as a judiciary committee or a ways and means committee or whatever.
So I think that would be the way to go. I know a lot of people are saying, let's have a special prosecutor or a special counsel, independent prosecutor. To me, that would be a terrible mistake. To begin with, there's no such thing as an independent prosecutor in our system. All prosecutive authority is an executive power. And ultimately, any prosecutor would have to answer to Holder and Obama. So you wouldn't really get independence.
But the other thing ‑‑ I'm frankly shocked that Holder hasn't already appointed a special prosecutor or special counsel for the IRS case, because the second that happens, what all the witnesses then say is, gee whiz, very serious criminal investigation now. Can't talk about it anymore. Can't cooperate with Congress. Can't do anything. Have to go silent.
And I think that's exactly what would happen. We would stop hearing anything about the story, and any hope of getting political accountability would be lost.
MR. DRISCOLL: Andrew, I know this is the core of your book, but in a nutshell, if you were drafting the articles of impeachment for Barack Obama, what would they include?
MR. MCCARTHY: Well, the second half of the book, as you point out, is an actual effort to draft articles of impeachment. And I start out with the failure to execute the laws faithfully, not because that's necessarily the one that grabs you by the throat. I mean, the one that really grabs me is all the acts that involve Benghazi, more than anything else.
But as an old prosecutor, I like to have a slam-dunk count in an indictment. You know, you always want the jury to get used to saying "guilty," because then they'll say it again and again. And I think even the president's most ardent admirers would have to admit that he does not follow federal law, he does not execute laws faithfully.
And a president, as I point out in the book, does have the right and the power, under our system, to refrain from enforcing a law that he's got a good-faith belief is unconstitutional. But that is not Obama's objection. He's objecting to and not enforcing laws on the basis of policy disagreements.
So I think the failure to enforce the law is a big one, because it's one of the president's most important jobs in our system. The president is the only official who's required by the Constitution to take an oath to faithfully uphold the laws and preserve the Constitution.
As I said, I think that Benghazi, to me -- and there are many different acts that are laid out in the book -- but I think the Benghazi transaction, to me, is the most offensive.
I take that back to the unauthorized war that Obama instigated against Libya and the Gaddafi regime at a time that Libya was being underwritten by our government as an important counterterrorism ally, precisely because it was giving us intelligence about the Jihadists in Eastern Libya.
Obama had no authority to commence that war. It was done under circumstances where it was clear that it would empower anti-American Jihadists. They follow it up by this really recklessly irresponsible failure to provide protection for the personnel who are mysteriously assigned to Benghazi, which is one of the most dangerous places on the planet.
Every other country, including the Brits, had the good sense to yank their people out. We not only keep our people in, we reduce the security that's there.
That leads, inevitably, to the September 11, 2012 atrocity in which four Americans, including our representative in the country, our ambassador, are killed under circumstances where Obama apparently doesn't lift a finger to do anything to come to the rescue of Americans under siege.
And they top all that off with a trumped up prosecution against the video producer in connection with this. You know, this fraudulent, the video did it excuse, or attribution of the cause of the attack to this anti-Muslim video, and this prosecution of the producer who was engaged ‑‑ whether you like the film or not (and I'm not carrying a brief of the film) but it was First Amendment-protected activity. And yet that prosecution is held out to the American people to bolster the fraud that the video caused the murders, and it's held out to Islamic countries as an indication that the United States government defers to Sharia blasphemy standards.
So I think in the Benghazi transaction, you see all the deception, all the lawlessness, and all the notorious type of activity that we've become familiar with, unfortunately, in the last five-and-a-half years with this administration.
MR. DRISCOLL: Andrew, last question. After Richard Nixon resigned, Congressional Democrats drafted a series of legislation designed to reign in what they called “The Imperial Presidency.” Assuming the GOP keeps control over Congress after 2014 and 2016, do you see them taking any steps to reign in future quote-unquote “imperial presidencies?”
MR. MCCARTHY: No. If they wanted to do something like that, they should do it now. I'd be delighted to think that the Republicans would come together to do something about abuse of power. But I would not hold my breath waiting to see them do it.
And I really, to tell you the truth, wouldn't care much if they did it after the rogue president is out of office.
You know, the thing about this ‑‑ and this is a theme, I think, that cuts across not only the things covered in my book but a lot of different areas. Rogues are always going to be rogues no matter what the rules are. So when you enact new hamstringing regulations, the only people you're hamstringing are the lawful people, who you don't have to worry about in the first place.
The problem is Obama. And that's a problem that's in the here and now. So if they're going to be of a mind to actually do something to crack down on the imperial presidency, I wish they'd do it while the emperor's still with us.
MR. DRISCOLL: Fair enough. This is Ed Driscoll, and we’ve been talking today with fellow PJ Media.com columnist Andrew McCarthy, whose newest book is Faithless Execution: Building the Political Case for Obama's Impeachment. published by Encounter Books, and available from Amazon.com. And Andrew, thanks once again for stopping by today.
MR. MCCARTHY: Thanks so much, Ed.
(End of recording; for our many previous podcasts, start here and keep scrolling.)
Transcribed by eScribers.net, with minor revisions (including hyperlinks) by Ed Driscoll. Artwork created using elements from Shutterstock.com.