Longtime Ohio State University
football coach Woody Hayes was once asked, back in the olden days, why he
didn’t call pass plays more often. “Only three things can happen when you
pass,” he said, “and two of them are bad.”
Well, I might say something similar about this bruited House Republican effort to impeach Joe Biden—similar, but worse. Only three things can happen if House Republicans impeach Biden, and from their perspective, all three of them are bad. So naturally I hope to God they’re bananas enough to do it.
Before we get to the heart of the matter—impeach him for what?—let’s run through the scenarios.
The first thing that can happen is that Speaker Kevin McCarthy could lose the vote on the House floor. That’s right. It seems, on the surface, inconceivable that a majority party in the House of Representatives could fail to win such a vote against a president of the other party. But it has happened before. It happened back in 1867, when the Republican Party overwhelmingly controlled the House and was split into two factions; their first effort to impeach Johnson failed, but eventually, the more moderate Republican faction came around and joined the Radical Republicans in impeaching Johnson (the Senate spared his scalp by one vote).
In modern history, enough Republicans opposed two of the four counts voted against Bill Clinton that those counts actually failed, so the House sent only two counts to the Senate (where Clinton was easily acquitted). So there is precedent for these votes failing, but that hardly softens what a mega-embarrassment such a vote would be for McCarthy.
Which House Republicans might oppose impeachment? There are 18 who represent districts Biden won. In some of them, Biden beat Trump by double digits. McCarthy, remember, has a 10-seat margin in the House, meaning he can lose only four votes and still get 218.
I would assume he has the sense to count noses and, if he lacks the votes, never bring such madness to the floor. But if his red-hots are so fuming that they demand he allow the vote or they’ll recall him as speaker, and he loses, he goes down in congressional history as one of the weakest speakers in history.
The second thing that can happen is that the House narrowly passes articles of impeachment along strict party lines. In this case, House Republicans will come across to your average voter as rabid. Obsessed. And petty—just doing it because Donald Trump was impeached. It would almost surely cost them their House majority.
The third thing is dependent on scenario two—the House passes impeachment and sends articles to the Senate. Then certain Republican senators who are up for reelection, as well as GOP candidates, will have a decision on their hands. Biden will never be convicted, as that requires a two-thirds vote. And there aren’t many states where Democrats have a realistic chance of a pickup. But the conventional wisdom today is that the Republicans will retake the Senate. That depends on them picking off, say, Sherrod Brown in Ohio. His GOP opponent (the leader right now is Secretary of State Frank LaRose) will be under heavy pressure in the primary to support impeachment. Good luck with that in the general. A crazy impeachment, as I’m sure Mitch McConnell well knows, gives the Democrats a fighting shot at holding the Senate.
All of which brings us to the central question I posed above. Impeach him for what?
On Fox News Monday night, McCarthy said something about the administration withholding information and compared Biden to Nixon. I’m not even sure what he’s talking about. There was a claim that Biden withheld 1,850 boxes of papers from his time as vice president. The AP judged that claim false. The FBI was refusing for a time to provide Republican Oversight Committee Chair James Comer with some information, but eventually Comer (and his entire committee) saw the material, which of course didn’t say what the Republicans claim it said. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s impeachment resolution, which she introduced back in January, is about “bribery” and doesn’t even mention withholding documents.
But anyway—withholding documents about what? Pertaining to what alleged crime? There is none.
If you tune in to right-wing media, of course, Biden is the most corrupt person on earth. Millions of people believe this. That doesn’t make it true. Comer and Jim Jordan’s committees have spent eight months pratfalling like Dick Van Dyke on his ottoman. They’ve produced no evidence of anything.
McCarthy knows this. On that same Fox appearance, Sean Hannity pressed him on whether Joe Biden can be charged with bribery, not because he allegedly benefited from anything in Ukraine but because of his son. McCarthy dodged the question. He also said something that could have come out of the mouth of his namesake Joe: “I think there’s enough proof out there that this Biden family needs to come forward and show there wasn’t a pay-to-play.” I see. That’s the modern version of prove you’re not a Communist.
Evidence doesn’t matter. They’ve already made up their minds. As the Queen said, “Sentence first, verdict afterwards.” I say let them do it. They will look insane to swing voters. Insane. Woody Hayes eventually came around on the forward pass, but fate ultimately brought him face to face with a very bad outcome indeed when, during a 1978 bowl game—after, true to his old worry, his quarterback threw an interception—he punched an opposing player. A college kid. He was fired instantly, because his act, to your average person, was insane. Go, Kevin, go. Throw that punch.