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The Right’s Impeachment Trap: How Pundits Blame Obama for GOP Extremism

Somebody broke politics, but it wasn’t Barack Obama.

Every once in a while, those of us who were slow to board the magical Barack Obama 2008 Hope and Change Express get to say “We told you so,” and then go back to work. This is one of those times. Forgive me.

As Ezra Klein insists  Obama has achieved success only by “breaking American politics,” and Ron Fournier tells us “the fundamental reason he became president was he was promising there’s no red state, there’s no blue state, I’m going to bring the country together,” people who resisted candidate Obama’s wispy, post-partisan rhetoric back then shake our heads and feel a little bit vindicated.

Personally, I have to say: I hate being vindicated (on this, anyway). It would feel so much better to have been wrong.

Somebody broke politics, but it wasn’t Barack Obama — and yet he gave his enemies plenty of evidence to frame him.

Even President Obama has to regret some of his 2008 rhetoric, which partly blamed the Clintons for the right’s vengeful crusade against them, as pundits use it to claim that he not only broke politics, but that he will actually deserve the blame if Republicans impeach him for doing his job. Journalists still blame Democratic presidents for the unhinged behavior of Republicans.

Exhibit A is an allegedly “balanced” Wednesday Fox News panel where the nominal non-right-wingers – journalists Fournier and A.B. Stoddard – joined conservative Charles Krauthammer in suggesting Obama could be responsible for his own impeachment, if he goes ahead with an executive order deferring deportation action on the parents of children who already enjoy deferred status. (Krauthammer called the move “impeachment bait”  in Thursday’s Washington Post column.)

But the reaction of Stoddard and Fournier is worth breaking down in detail. (Thanks,  Daily Caller, for capturing it.)

“If President Obama goes too far on this — whether it’s within his legal right or not — the outrage will be so incredible on the Republican side, it will probably bring more Democratic losses this fall,” the Hill’s Stoddard began. “Because I don’t know that Latinos are going to turn out this fall as a result of this issue. But it also could become a constitutional crisis.”

So it’s a bad move, “whether it’s within his legal right or not,” because a) it might not work politically; and b) “it could also become a constitutional crisis.”

Fournier quickly agreed.

Let’s assume for a second that legally he can do this — just stipulate that, just for a second. Should he do it?  Even if you agree, like I do, that we really need to do something about these 12 million people who are in the shadows, even if you agree that it is legal, I still think there is an argument to be made that he should not do it.

OK, let’s stop there. The president shouldn’t do something to ease the immigration crisis, “even if you agree that it is legal.” Why is that? Fournier has a quick answer:

“Because the fundamental reason he became president was he was promising ‘there’s no red state, there’s no blue state, I’m going to bring the country together.’ He’s been a polarizing president.”

I’m not sure what qualifies Fournier to pronounce “the fundamental reason” Obama was elected, either in 2008 or 2012. Some people may have indeed admired his post-partisan rhetoric. But speaking as a two-time Obama voter, many of us wanted to see healthcare reform and less income inequality. Many members of the Obama coalition, who make less than $50,000, wanted economic relief from the Bush recession and the 30-year downward economic spiral that began under Ronald Reagan. Many of the Latinos who voted for Obama very much wanted immigration reform.