- - Tuesday, July 29, 2014

House Speaker John A. Boehner made exactly the right call Tuesday, rejecting impeachment talk and dismissing the Democratic fundraising scheme based on impeachment talk. Mr. Boehner understands that merely talking about the idea damages the prospects of a big November for his party.

“We have no plans to impeach the president,” he said. “We have no future plans. Listen, it’s all a scam started by Democrats at the White House.”

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s fundraising machine has stoked the middle-of-the-night terror of liberals that crazy House Republicans are determined to impeach their hero. The committee is dispatching fundraising letters written in manufactured panic that only a Senate controlled by the Democrats can save Barack Obama, so send your generous contribution. Now! A stamped envelope is enclosed for your convenience.

Simple arithmetic shows impeachment talk to be preposterous. If the House impeaches the president, the Senate must then cast 67 votes for conviction and removal from office. Only 45 Republicans are currently seated in the Senate. Twenty-one of the 55 Democratic caucus members in the Senate are up for re-election in November, and even if all are defeated in November, which is highly unlikely, it would still be mathematically impossible for Republicans to cast 67 votes.

The latest outburst of impeachment talk was started by Dan Pfeiffer, a senior adviser at the White House, at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast for political correspondents last Friday. He figured, correctly, that this would invite impeachment speculation through the weekend. The Sunday newspapers and Sunday-morning television jabberwocky thrive on such gruel.

The late-night television comedians thrive on it, too. Their joke writers figure that if impeachment succeeds and Joe Biden succeeds Mr. Obama as president, they’ll have a guarantee of full employment through January 2017.

In a world where facts were king, Mr. Obama might well need a battery of Philadelphia lawyers to save him from conviction and a legacy of ignominy. Who’s to say he doesn’t deserve impeachment? Certainly not us. Many questions about Benghazi, the Internal Revenue Service targeting of conservatives and the Justice Department’s running of guns to Mexican drug cartels are still waiting for answers that could lead to “high crimes and misdemeanors.” The president’s adamant refusal to enforce immigration law, bypassing Congress to rewrite Obamacare and enact gun-control schemes, mock the oath of office he took twice.

Presidential overreach is not new. The nation in decades past has dealt with such outrages without resort to impeachment, the most serious and far-reaching of all acts of state. On April 8, 1952, President Truman issued an executive order seizing the nation’s steel mills to avert a labor strike in the midst of the Korean War. Mill owners sued, arguing the president was making law through executive order. (That sounds familiar.)

By a vote of 6 to 3, the Supreme Court held that the president had neither a clear power under the Constitution nor under the nation’s laws to take the mills. “The Founders of this Nation entrusted the lawmaking power to the Congress alone in both good and bad times,” Justice Hugo Black wrote for the court majority. “It would do no good to recall the historical events, the fears of power, and the hopes for freedom that lay behind their choice. Such a review would but confirm our holding that this seizure order cannot stand.”

This was no right-wing court. Justice Black was a dedicated New Deal Democrat, and he and his colleagues were all put on the court by Franklin D. Roosevelt and Mr. Truman. They found the case against seizure was solid, and they had no other choice. Mr. Truman’s seizure failed.

Mr. Boehner will file a lawsuit on behalf of the House of Representatives asking the courts to scale back Mr. Obama’s overreach. If the speaker were as bold as the president, he would lead the House to use the power of the purse, refuse to fund administration folly and firmly establish a needed precedent.

But he’s not a bold man, and the rescue of the Constitution is in the hands of the people to effectively rebuke the president and his party in November. With majorities in both House and Senate, the Republicans can restrain the president’s abuse of the Constitution. The foolish Republican pursuit of impeachment is a distraction that Mr. Obama needs and warmly welcomes. Distraction is his hope of avoiding being rebuked — and disarmed.