- - Friday, July 25, 2014

President Obama insists on flirting with impeachment even as House Republican leaders insist there’s no such possibility.

Obama uses a passive-aggressive strategy that can be judged as a political maneuver, a personality disorder, or both.

Secure in the knowledge that impeachment is not the same as removal from office, Mr. Obama brings up the topic on his own and with bold defiance. Martyrdom goes well with a Messiah complex and Mr. Obama’s speeches are a non-stop litany of depicting himself as a victim of Republicans.

Already operating beyond the constitutional bounds of presidential power, Mr. Obama’s strategy is to push the bounds further rather than pulling back. He dares political foes to make his day.


Impeachment would be his crowning badge of victimhood, the ultimate symbol to rally his base, asking that they protect him by guaranteeing a Democrat majority in the U.S. Senate. A simple Republican majority would lack the necessary two-thirds required to remove an impeached president from office, but that nicety of arithmetic would get lost in the political rhetoric.

Barack Obama Bill Clinton illustration
Barack Obama Bill Clinton illustration more >

As the president told his always-handpicked audience in Austin, Texas, “You hear some of them: ‘Sue him! Impeach him!’ ” He paused to mime incredulity. “Really? For what, doing my job?”

His every speech aims to mock Republicans while he projects serenity in the face of adversity, such a calm that he need not engage personally with any crisis, not even the human flood he created on our southern border. He pretends to watch neither polls nor television even as he claims he learns about scandals only from TV. He golfs. His upcoming 16 days in Martha’s Vineyard will bring his vacation days to 141 during his time in office. That rate is almost a full month’s vacation each year.

His behavior matches the American Psychiatric Association’s definition of passive-aggressive behavior, “a habitual pattern of passive resistance to expected work requirements, opposition, stubbornness, and negativistic attitudes in response to requirements for normal performance levels expected of others.” Often, such persons see themselves as blameless victims, projecting fault onto others. Commonly, they follow erratic paths and cause constant conflicts.

But if not a personality disorder, such behavior can also be deliberately used to assert power, as described in one Psychology Today article, “By denying feelings of anger, withdrawing from direct communication, casting themselves in the role of victim, and sabotaging others’ success, passive aggressive persons create feelings in others of being on an emotional roller coaster. Through intentional inefficiency, procrastination, allowing problems to escalate, … makes the passive aggressive person feel powerful. He/she becomes the puppeteer—the master of someone else’s universe and the controller of their behavior.”

Compare this with Mr. Obama’s words this week to an audience of political donors:

“[A]ll we hear about is gridlock, and all we hear about is posturing, and all we hear about are phony scandals. … because the Republican Party has been taken over by people who just don’t believe in government; people who think that the existing arrangements where just a few folks who are doing well, and companies that pollute should be able to pollute, and companies that want to cheat you on your credit card should be able to do that, and that anything goes — that’s their philosophy  … they obfuscate, and they bamboozle, and they sometimes don’t tell exactly what’s true. And people grow cynical, and people grow discouraged.”

By setting himself up as a victim, Mr. Obama attempts to rally his base to rescue him by voting for Democrats. White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer told reporters the White House takes the prospect of impeachment seriously, linking it to the House lawsuit against Mr. Obama. But White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, when asked, was unable to identify any major GOP leaders other than Sarah Palin who publicly support impeachment. Republican leaders recognize the downside all too well, but are resisting pressure from their own base.

CNN’s pollsters find that 57 percent of Republicans support impeachment, compared with 33 percent of Americans overall. The border crisis undoubtedly will cause those strong GOP numbers to increase further.

Mr. Obama’s actions and inactions definitely merit impeachment, but that does not make it prudent to pursue impeachment. The backlash would embolden Mr. Obama all the more and produce other negative consequences but certainly he would not be removed from office. There is no scenario for a two-thirds removal vote in the Senate.

The tarnish of the process certainly is weighed by Mr. Obama against the gains of keeping the Senate in Harry Reid’s hands. And is impeachment truly a disgrace in progressive circles? Certainly Bill Clinton has sought to convert his impeachment into a badge of honor. The rising generation knows only the glowing press coverage given to Mr. Clinton now and not the story of his scandals. Mr. Obama would claim the charges against him were based solely on his efforts to help people, not personal failings as with Mr. Clinton.

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