Republicans Want Obama Impeached — And John Boehner Is Trying To Stop Them

Apparently, Sarah Palin still has some influence after all: Shortly after the former half-term Alaska Governor called for President Obama’s impeachment, over two-thirds of Republicans said Obama should be impeached in a new poll. That’s an increase since a similar survey was taken in early 2013, wherein “only” half of Republicans supported removing Obama from office.

Of course, this isn’t exactly a surprise. Republican vitriol toward Obama knowns no bounds — remember when a third of Louisiana Republicans blamed Obama, nonsensically, for Hurricane Katrina? — and fringe elements in the GOP have been calling for his impeachment since at least 2010. It’s also not unusual for the opposition party to get impeachment cravings around this time during a presidency: In 2007, almost 60 percent of Democrats said they’d support giving George W. Bush the boot.

Nevertheless, this poll does allow us to make a bit more sense of House Speaker John Boehner’s seemingly bizarre decision to file a lawsuit against Obama over his use of executive orders. For one, Bush issued far more executive orders during his presidency than has Obama. Second of all, it’s unclear whether Boehner even has the legal standing to sue the president. Third, Boehner is ostensibly suing Obama for delaying Obamacare’s employer mandate — even though Boehner himself opposes the employer mandate. It’s all very strange.

Except it’s not so strange when two-thirds of Republicans want to impeach the president.

While House Republicans in general are a frothy bunch, Boehner himself is considerably more pragmatic and grounded in reality. He opposes extreme obstructionist tactics, such as the government shutdown. Also, he was in congress the last time Republicans tried to impeach a Democratic president, and saw how badly it backfired. As such, he doesn’t support impeachment, and has said as much.

But as the de facto leader of the entire Republican Party, he can’t entirely ignore the wishes of his constituency: If the majority of the GOP wants impeachment, there are only so many things Boehner can do to hold back the floodgates. So, he’s decided to buy himself some time by suing the president. It’s Boehner’s way of placating the hyperconservative Republicans in his caucus without having to pursue impeachment, and it’s actually kind of brilliant.

The crucial piece of this puzzle is the lawsuit will take a very long time to unfold: House committees will hold hearings, witnesses will be called, the lawsuit will be debated on the House floor and the courts will scrutinize the merits of the case. Tea Partiers in Congress will get to brag to their constituents back home that they’ve finally taken action against Obama; meanwhile, it’s quite possible that by the time the lawsuit reaches a conclusion, Obama won’t even be president anymore.

The always astute Jonathan Chait predicted in 2010 that if Obama won a second term, Republicans would try and impeach him for some reason or another. That’s now a very real possibility; Boehner is, in a circuitous but clever way, attempting to prevent that prediction from becoming a reality.