Washington’s political heavyweights are once again performing for your pleasure as pro wrestlers, flailing and flopping and pounding the mat in feigned pain.
They perform their act partly because they think you like it. But mainly because it always brings their campaigns big bucks donated by their easily fooled true believers.
If you look carefully at the slow-motion replays, you may even catch the combatants winking at each other. They’ve gotten pretty good at their little game.
But this year, one thing is different: As you are watching the latest faux-fighting by these World Wrestling Federation impersonators, you may wonder whether you are staring at your wide-screen TV or Alice’s Looking Glass. Because things do seem a mind-bogglingly backwards.
Example: The spectacle about impeaching the president. (No, we are not talking here about anything connected with this weekend’s 40th anniversary of the events of Aug. 9, 1974, when Richard Nixon became the only president ever to resign from office. Nixon’s departure came just after the House Judiciary Committee voted to impeach him for high crimes and misdemeanors in the Watergate scandal — and Senate Republican elders had told Nixon they would vote to convict him.)
This summer’s impeachment hoo-ha started with a few pols on the Republican Party’s far right fringe pushing for President Barack Obama’s impeachment. Private citizen Sarah Palin, always eager for a new way to attract attention, was one of the first. The tea party’s national website is pushing the impeach Obama cause.
But you may not have heard about any of that – and surely didn’t take it seriously – until you heard the wailings coming from Obama’s White House.
White House Press Secretary Josh Ernest and senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer seemed determined to promote this fringe effort into a bigger story than it was.
And the loudest wailings came from the Democrats’ congressional campaign fundraising committees. A Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee email reportedly said folks were “freaking out” over the impeachment effort – and urged party faithful to contribute generously to fight it.
Meanwhile, other prominent politicos jumped into the ring like tag-team wrestlers coming to rescue Obama from the impeachers!
But these weren’t Obama’s backers – they were top Republicans, including the Republican National Committee and House Speaker John Boehner. (Note: Please do not adjust your Looking Glass, Alice.)
Boehner called all this impeach Obama fear a Democratic fundraising “scam” (never mind that it was started by conservative Republicans).
Meanwhile, Boehner marched House Republicans in lockstep toward a combative course that only seems moderate if you compare it to impeachment. Boehner’s House has voted to sue the president for taking unilateral executive actions to change Obamacare rules without participation by Congress.
Then again, the House has only seemed eager to repeatedly pass meaningless measures to repeal Obamacare (a move that cannot win Senate approval or the president’s signature and won’t ever become law).
What’s really going on here? Boehner’s lawsuit plan is the Republican leadership’s way of mobilizing its conservative political base without pushing for impeachment, which polls show most American people find unsupportable and unacceptable.
The shame of all the above is that congressional Republican should have volunteered to hold their August vacations at Camp David – working with Obama to finally solve the problems all sides know exist in Obamacare (which also has worked out far better in some respects than critics expected).
And do the same with immigration. (Pardon that dreamland digression.)
Still, that brings us to the crisis that’s coming next: Obama vowed to take unilateral actions to ease the pathetic situation in which the United States will ship back to Central America thousands of children who arrived in the USA unaccompanied by adults.
Obama’s advisers say he must act alone because House Republicans refused to fix the immigration crisis. But if Obama does that, some top Republicans will file another lawsuit; others may move to censure the president.
And Republicans will recycle a 2011 town meeting snippet where Obama declared:
“With respect to the notion that I can just suspend deportations through executive order, that’s just not the case, because there are laws on the books that Congress has passed … that are very clear in terms of how we have to enforce our immigration system.”
Obama added that “for me to simply through executive order ignore those congressional mandates would not conform with my appropriate role as president.”
Cue the wrestlers, one more time.
Note to readers: Martin Schram, an op-ed columnist for McClatchy-Tribune, is a veteran Washington journalist, author and TV documentary executive. Readers may send him email at firstname.lastname@example.org.