Who is Jeh Johnson?

Jeh Johnson is likely to be the next Secretary of Homeland Security.  And no, I don’t know much about him either except that he gave the Obama Administration legal advice that basically approved drone strikes and he made a speech at Oxford University in 2012 saying that the war on terror had to end at some point because no country could be perpetually at war.  Johnson has also criticized the lack of transparency about drone strikes.  The New York Times reports

…In a speech at Oxford, he looked ahead to a day when Al Qaeda was so diminished that the United States could relax its posture and end the military’s legal authority to kill and detain terrorism suspects.

“I do believe that on the present course, there will come a tipping point — a tipping point at which so many of the leaders and operatives of Al Qaeda and its affiliates have been killed or captured and the group is no longer able to attempt or launch a strategic attack against the United States,” Mr. Johnson said at the time.

But he emphasized that he was not declaring the struggle to be over, stressing the danger of Qaeda affiliates in Yemen and in North and West Africa. He also suggested that even after the armed struggle ended, there could be a need to hold some detainees legally without trial for a period of time, as happened after World War II.

Earlier in 2012, Mr. Johnson delivered a speech at Yale Law School defending the proposition that American citizens who join Al Qaeda may be lawfully targeted for killing under certain circumstances.

But he has also criticized the Obama administration for being too secretive about matters like targeted killings using drone strikes.

“The problem is that the American public is suspicious of executive power shrouded in secrecy,” Mr. Johnson said in a speech at Fordham University this year. “In the absence of an official picture of what our government is doing, and by what authority, many in the public fill the void by imagining the worst.”

During his tenure at the Defense Department, Jeh C. Johnson helped shape the Obama administration's national security policies.

During his tenure at the Defense Department, Jeh C. Johnson helped shape the Obama administration’s national security policies.

But Emily Heil has the best information on Johnson.  She reported this morning in the Washington Post “Eight Fact you didn’t know about Jeh Johnson.

– His name is pronounced “Jay.”

– He and his wife, Susan DiMarco, met as children, but started dating only after Johnson visited her dental practice. He “endured three years of dental work before she agreed to a date with him,” according to their wedding announcement in the New York Times.

– His uncle, 2d Lt Robert B. Johnson, was one of the famed Tuskegee airmen.

-During his freshman year at Morehouse College, his grade-point average was a “dismal 1.8.”

– His grandfather, Charles S. Johnson, a prominent sociologist and participant in the Harlem Renaissance, was the president of Fisk University.

– He was once a law partner of the late Ted Sorensen,  John F. Kennedy’s speechwriter. Johnson called him “one of my personal heroes.”

– He once said in an interview that in his next life, he’d like to be an “NYC subway motorman, preferably the #7 Flushing line.”

And now you can amaze your friends with what you know about Mr. Johnson.

Photograph:  Alex Wong/Getty Images

The government shutdown: a letter from Congressman Capuano

I am posting the entire weekly email newsletter I just got from my Congressman, Mike Capuano.    I am proud to say that he was my boss for several years when he was the Mayor of Somerville.

Dear Friends,

The government shutdown is in its fourth day. Speaker Boehner still refuses to bring up a clean Continuing Resolution (CR), even though it would pass Congress and be signed by the President, reopening the government.

The House has spent most of this week considering bills to partially fund the government. This process is more about appearances than responsible legislating. That’s why you’ve seen attempts to fund the National Park Service so tourist attractions can reopen but not the Transportation Department. The Senate and President have both rejected this path. I’m not sure where or when this all ends. It’s certainly true that this battle is about the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the obsession many Republicans have with sabotaging it. I think there’s more to it though.

This is also about one of the fundamental principles of our government, the idea of majority rule. The importance of that principle is vividly on display here and it’s one worth protecting.

The ACA was signed into law in 2010 after months and months of substantive and at times contentious debate. Since Republicans regained control of the House in 2010, there have been 42 attempts to repeal, defund or gut the law. Each time the effort has accomplished essentially nothing. As I noted earlier this week, Mitt Romney ran on a promise to repeal “Obamacare”. He lost the election. House Democrats got more votes than House Republicans and Democrats retained control of the Senate. The ACA was even declared constitutional by the Supreme Court.

Despite all of that, a small percentage of the House Republican Caucus refuses to accept the will of the majority, democratically expressed. They shut the government down because they can’t accept it. The ACA is the law of the land, affirmed by the results of a national election and a Supreme Court ruling. More and more moderate Republicans are speaking out on the need for a clean CR. Unfortunately there aren’t enough of those moderate voices and the extremists in the House continue to drown them out.

Imagine what our government would look like if more Members refused to respect the principle of majority rule and insisted on getting their way without regard for the consequences. It wouldn’t be 17 years between government shutdowns, that’s for sure.

I believe that this battle is also about the role that government should play in our lives. Do we want to provide some help to those less fortunate in the form of nutrition assistance or home heating aid? Do we want to help our states build world class roads, bridges and subway systems? Do we want to attract cutting edge research that results in medical advances? All of that takes an investment of federal dollars.

What has been happening over the past couple years is a steady and steep reduction in federal spending. That often gets lost in the din but numbers don’t lie. In two years, a total deficit reduction of almost $2.4 trillion has been achieved. In 2011, the Budget Control Act placed a cap on discretionary spending at $1.066 trillion for fiscal year 2014. That cap has been ignored by the House, with much deeper cuts going into effect as a result of sequestration.

Here are just a couple examples of how those cuts have impacted some important programs. In the past year, funding for the National Institutes of Health has been cut by $1.6 billion. Funding for Head Start has been cut by $400 million.

Earlier this year, the Senate passed a budget that proposed spending $1.058 trillion for fiscal year 2014. Under the clean CR proposed in the Senate in order to reopen the government, that spending is cut to $986 billion. This is much closer to the Republican proposal than the Senate’s.

In terms of cutting spending, Republicans don’t seem to recognize that they are gaining significant ground. The CR that many of them say they won’t support includes deep cuts to discretionary programming.

More votes are expected in the House tomorrow and the schedule for next week is unclear. Thanks for your calls and emails of support. I appreciate all of them.

Best,

Mike

English: Official Congressional portrait for C...

English: Official Congressional portrait for Congressman Mike Capuano. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Trying to made sense of it all

I think I may be ready to retreat to my cocoon to read trashy books and watch baseball and reruns of NCIS before my head explodes from trying to make sense of what is going on out there.

Yesterday, Boston Globe columnist Adrian Walker had a little anecdote from my Congressperson, Mike Capuano.

…Capuano said he was in an airport last weekend flying home from Washington when a TSA screener stopped him and said, “You really need to cut our taxes!” Capuano was incredulous to hear that from a federal employee, though he probably shouldn’t have been.

“I asked him, ‘Do you know taxes pay your salary?’ ” Capuano said with a laugh.

I wish I knew what the silly TSA screener said then.  It is an example of how divorced from reality so many people are.  Maybe we should expand the shut down to include furloughs for half of the screeners.  This would cut flights so many of the members of Congress would have trouble getting home.  I don’t think this would be a bad thing.  Maybe if they stayed in Washington more, they would figure out how to talk to each other informally over a beer.  That could only help.  Maybe some of them would get a grip on reality.

As I was getting ready to write this, I Googled  both “Republican Alternate Reality” and “Republican Alternate Universe”.  Turns out people have been writing about the topic for a number of years now.  It is one thing to talk sans facts, but another to act.  And what is happening now is the action that they have all wanted:  a government shutdown.  I think they are hoping that a few weeks without government will show people they can live without it.  Maybe a good plan except that there are already Republicans complaining that monuments in Washington are closed so veterans can’t visit them.  Duh!

Back in August 2012 (2012 not 2013), Michael Cohen wrote a piece in the Guardian about the Presidential campaign.  If you recall, they had a slogan “You didn’t build that”.

On 17 July, President Barack Obama spoke at a campaign rally in Roanoke, Virginia. It was a typical event for an incumbent president who is seeking a second term. In his remarks, he offered his vision of government’s role in spurring entrepreneurship and creating jobs in the United States:

“If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business – you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the internet so that all the companies could make money off the internet.”

This is all fairly boilerplate rhetoric – a basic recitation of how Democrats view the role of government and its interplay with the private sector. But in this statement, there was one phrase that Republicans have grabbed on to like a famished dog with a new bone:

“You didn’t build that.”

That single phrase, taken out of context by Republicans, has become the GOP’s symbol of Obama’s supposed contempt for the free market and entrepreneurship, and for his socialist assault on America.

The Affordable Care Act is a prime example of government overreach and socialism even though it is built on private insurance companies.

“You didn’t build that” became “We built that”

And so, the Republicans made “We built that” the theme of Tuesday’s convention proceedings. Speaker after speaker hammered on this theme, accusing Obama of disrespecting small business. But they did so with almost a wilful sense of hypocrisy. For example, Delaware lieutenant governor candidate Sher Valenzuela attacked Obama for the line despite the fact that, just a few months ago, she gave a detailed speech to a business group about how they could do a better job getting government contracts.

Cohen goes on to detail a number of instances where the speakers at the Republican Convention ignored facts and concludes

But all of this is at pace with a conservative worldview that considers government to be nothing more than malevolent interference with the smooth operation of the private sector – except when it’s not. “Jobs don’t come from government,” said Texas Senate candidate Ted Cruz last night, a view that basically sums up GOP economic thinking. But if you listened to Republican governors on Tuesday, you might have found yourself surprised to discover that, in their states, the government has played an oddly integral role in spurring job creation. If you listened to Mary Fallin, governor of Oklahoma, extol the virtues of the energy industry in her state and bemoan “more government, bigger spending and more regulation”, you might never know that the oil and gas industry is deeply reliant on – and spends millions lobbying for – tax breaks from the federal government.

One can believe that government should play a less direct role in the workings of the private economy – clearly, this is a defensible notion. But to listen to Republicans harping on Obama’s “you didn’t build that” line is to hear a party that views “government” in the most simplistic imaginable terms. This isn’t a governing philosophy; it’s a caricature of how the economy actually works.

To be sure, it’s hardly unusual for political rhetoric to take liberties with the truth, or to stretch an argument to breaking-point, but with Republicans today, the issues runs much deeper. Very simply, the way they talk about what the federal government does or should do, and about the role of spending, taxation and regulation, is more than just a compendium of lies: it describes an alternate reality.

In the GOP’s defense: at least they can argue they built that.

So now they have shutdown the federal government which was a goal all along.  They built it.  And in their alternate universe, President Obama and the Democratic congressional leadership should negotiate with them.  Nancy Pelosi has tried to explain what she calls “regular order”:  The Senate passes a bill.  Then the House passes one.  Then there is a conference committee.  Budget bills were passed back in March, but the House declined to appoint members to a conference committee.  Contrary to what some members of Congress seem to believe there are rules and conventions as to how to proceed.

Gail Collins has a response in the New York Times.

On Wednesday, House Republicans pushed to refund bits and pieces of the government that the members particularly like, such as veterans and the National Guard. Also anything that lends itself to a dramatic press conference, such as national parks and cancer treatment for children. Since the House proposals are never going anywhere in the Senate, there’s a limit to what you want to know about what went on during the debate. Let’s summarize:

Democrats: “Meaningless political theater!”

Republicans: “Come to the table!”

Coming to the table has now replaced strangling Obamacare as the most popular G.O.P. war cry. There is a longstanding political rule that when all else fails, you demand more talking. If you’re running for office against a guy who’s got 70 percent in the polls, it’s time to call for a debate. If you’re already having four debates, it’s time to call for six.

“Why don’t we sit down and have a conference committee about how we’re going to fund the federal government?” demanded Representative Ander Crenshaw of Florida. Republicans have posed this question a lot, and it would be an excellent one if they were not the same folks who have spent the last half-year refusing to sit down and have a conference committee about the federal budget.

Representative John A. Boehner, the House speaker, arrived at the Capitol on Thursday with his security personnel on the third day of the government shutdown.

Representative John A. Boehner, the House speaker, arrived at the Capitol on Thursday with his security personnel on the third day of the government shutdown.

I’ll give the final word on reality to Elizabeth Kolbert in her New Yorker posted this morning.

…Shuttering the government is a dumb idea under pretty much any circumstances. Still, the objections that Republicans in Congress raise to the health-care law might be worth considering if they bore any relationship to the law in question. Rarely do they.

Some lawmakers’ comments have been so off the wall that they defy parody. A few months ago, for example, Representative Michele Bachmann announced on the House floor that Obamacare needed to be repealed “before it literally kills women, kills children, kills senior citizens.”

“Let’s not do that,” she added helpfully. “Let’s love people.”

“All of this would be funny,” President Obama noted the other day, after bringing up the Bachmann line, “if it weren’t so crazy.”

The crazy list goes on and on. As the economist Paul Krugman has repeatedly pointed out in his Times column, congressional Republicans these days seem to think that they can override not just the laws of physics but also the rules of arithmetic. They insist that the federal budget is so bloated it could easily be cut by hundreds of billions of dollars. But when a transportation bill was drafted this summer that would have actually reduced spending, they refused to vote for it. (The bill had to be pulled from the floor.) It’s hard to cut the federal budget if you’re not willing to reduce the amount of money the government spends. “What Republicans really want to do,” Krugman wrote recently, is “repeal reality.”

It’s been so long since reality has made much of a difference on Capitol Hill that it sometimes seems it genuinely has been repealed. But the thing you can always count on with reality is that it has staying power.

I hope I can hold out until reality and fact make a comeback.

Photograph: Doug Mills/The New York Times

President Obama and leadership

Like many of his supporters I am frustrated at times by what appears to be indecision on the President’s part.  You have to admit that he can take a long time to make a decision while speculation dominates the media and the blogs as to what he will do.  Look at the still to be announced appointment to be Chair of the Federal Reserve.  But when I get frustrated I tell myself that he is playing a long game.  Farah Stockman had an interesting op-ed in the Boston Globe today explaining better than I could the Obama style of leadership.

I am going to quote most of it because I can’t figure out where to cut it (and because one can’t read it from the link without a Globe subscription) and it isn’t that long..

Before we start hand-wringing over the gridlock in our domestic affairs, let’s savor the good news on the international front: Last week, after years of paralysis, the UN Security Council mandated the destruction of chemical weapons in Syria and endorsed a political transition plan that might finally sweep Syrian President Bashar Assad aside.

And after years of Iran’s refusal to talk seriously about its nuclear program, Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, announced that he wants to resolve the issue in 12 months. He and President Obama even spoke on the phone, the first such contact since the 1970s.

Of course, we’re still a long way from solving those two problems. But we’re on a far better path than we were three weeks ago. Back then, we were on the verge of launching a unilateral military strike that would have inflamed the situation in Syria and hurt our chances of getting a nuclear deal with Iran. So how did that no-win situation in Syria turn into something positive? And what does this bizarre chapter in US diplomacy tell us about the nature of leadership itself?

Recall that Obama announced that he had made a decision to strike. Then he asked Congress to give its blessing. Those moves allowed time for Americans to debate, with the whole world watching. Moscow, Tehran, and Damascus were forced to contemplate the possibility of a US strike. The uncertainty of what would happen next weighed on them more heavily than a knee-jerk cruise missile. In the end, the threat of US military action proved more powerful than the action itself. Our adversaries finally agreed to a diplomatic solution that they had refused in the past.

Of course, Obama got called a lot of names for the delay that made that outcome possible: “weakling,” “ditherer-in-chief,” and— nastiest of all, in some corners —  “community organizer.” I must admit that I thought he was crazy for going to Congress, which often seems more eager to tar and feather him than to approve of anything he wants.

But political theorist Dennis Thompson, co-author of the book “Why Deliberative Democracy?” says Obama’s moves mirrored a style of leadership Thompson taught at Harvard. Thompson believes that, in a true democracy, a leader ought to explain the reasoning behind the course of action he or she wants to take. But in the end, wherever possible, the group itself should debate it and have the final word.

It stands to reason that a country that believes in democracy should have faith that a decision debated openly by a group will usually produce a better outcome than a decision one man makes alone. So, why then were some Americans so infuriated that Obama took the issue to Congress?

“It is as if we expect decisions of war and peace to be made by the president rather than society as a whole,” said Archon Fung, another Harvard professor who has studied the virtues of “deliberative democracy.” “Decisions about when to use military force . . . involve killing as a state act. If any decision should be made democratically, it’s this one.”

Peter Levine, a professor at Tufts University, sees the public reaction as a sign of the times. Americans have grown less interested in the public deliberations that that make democracies work. Participation on juries and PTA meetings are at an all-time low, he said. Voters expect their elected leaders to solve their problems. Debates over the best way to go about it are seen as a sign of failure or weakness.

“Our system is supposed to be deliberative,” Levine said. “But we live in a profoundly anti-deliberative moment.”

So maybe this episode says as much about us as it does about our leader. We like John Wayne presidents, saviors who rescue us with their quick trigger fingers. We don’t like leaders who admit uncertainty, who ask us to help choose between imperfect options. But, at the end of the day, the Syria debate taught us that when Americans deliberate as a people, we can come up with a better outcome. It’s a lesson we shouldn’t forget.

President Obama is certainly not John Wayne, but he is the leader of a democracy.  We need to remember this when we get frustrated.

Dorothy in Iraq…or is it Afganistan? Or maybe Syria or Lybia?

It may work out that because he needed to save face, President Putin is going to end up saving President Obama and the Congress from a collision that neither can win – and saving us from another war as a bonus.  As I write this, it appears that Putin’s proposal to put Syria’s chemical weapons under international control will be coming before the Security Council.  Our Congress is very good at stalling so waiting for the Security Council to act should not be a problem and we may actually get a peaceful resolution.

While we wait, we can enjoy Tom Tomorrow’s updated Dorothy back from Oz.

Tom and Dorothy

Thank you, Ruben Bolling.

(Click picture to enlarge.)

The war in Syria: a confused state of affairs

English: The United Nations Security Council C...

English: The United Nations Security Council Chamber in New York, also known as the Norwegian Room Français: La Salle de réunion du Conseil de sécurité des Nations Unies à New York Nederlands: De Zaal van de Veiligheidsraad van de Verenigde Naties in New York (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m probably like most Americans: confused.  On one hand, I look at the pictures of the victims in Syria, not only the dead and injured from the chemical weapons attack, but also those in refugee camps or living in caves and wonder why the world can’t do anything to help.  On the other hand, there is a seemingly intractable diplomatic stalemate and no one wants “boot on the ground”.  So what to do.

The British drafted a resolution that was discussed by the United Nations Security Council condemning use of chemical weapons but it didn’t get anywhere because of the threat of a Russian veto.  This morning, the Guardian reports on President Putin’s reaction

Vladimir Putin has rejected US intelligence claims that Bashar al-Assad’s regime used chemical weapons in Syria, saying it would be “utter nonsense” for government troops to use such tactics in a war it was already winning.

“That is why I am convinced that [the chemical attack] is nothing more than a provocation by those who want to drag other countries into the Syrian conflict, and who want to win the support of powerful members of the international arena, especially the United States,” Putin told journalists in Vladivostok.

The Russian president also challenged the US to present its case for military intervention to the UN security council, after suggesting that if Barack Obama was worthy of his Nobel peace prize, he should think about the possible victims of any intervention by foreign forces.

Is this a signal that the United States should wait to take action?  Is Putin ready to compromise – or at least to talk?

Meanwhile John Kerry, the hero of the anti-Vietnam War movement, is sounding more and more like Donald Rumsfeld – or maybe Colin Powell at the UN.  The New York Times reports

Again and again, some 24 times in all, he used the phrase “we know” as he described the intelligence that Syria’s government massacred more than 1,400 people with chemical weapons. And then, while saying no decision had been made, he left no doubt that the United States would respond with military power.

“We know that after a decade of conflict, the American people are tired of war — believe me, I am, too,” said Mr. Kerry, who opposed the Iraq war in his failed presidential bid in 2004. “But fatigue does not absolve us of our responsibility. Just longing for peace does not necessarily bring it about. And history would judge us all extraordinarily harshly if we turned a blind eye to a dictator’s wanton use of weapons of mass destruction against all warnings, against all common understanding of decency.”

Just seven months after being sworn in as secretary of state, Mr. Kerry has become President Obama’s frontman in the public argument for a military strike against the Syrian government. While the president sounds restrained in his language and even perhaps personally ambivalent about the operation he seems likely to order, Mr. Kerry came across on Friday as an unstinting advocate for action against what he called “a despot’s brutal and flagrant use of chemical weapons.”

The problem is that we were lied to once, told that there was intelligence that proved there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and even though some of us may want to trust Kerry, it is hard to do so even with the level of specificity in the summary report he released.

As to allies, the British Parliament has voted not to participate in any military action and French public opinion is also against.  The Arab League has said that while they think Assad used chemical weapons, they can’t support any military action.  The public here is lukewarm at best.

This is not Libya.  In Libya there was a recognized opposition which had actually established a shadow government with diplomats working with the European Union, Arab League and the United States.  We know that when she was Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton tried hard to get the opposition in Syria to form a similar government but was unable to do so.  The situation is that someone, most likely the Syrian government or someone fighting with the government, has used chemical weapons on the civilian population.  (I think we can trust Doctors Without Borders when they say they were used.)  This use goes against what 99% of the world’s people believe is right.

A large, but so far not a majority, of members of Congress think there should be a debate and resolution under the War Powers Act.  I know that Kerry and the President both believe they have already followed the Act by consulting with Congress.  It is up to John Boehner and Harry Reid to call Congress back for a debate and not just a consultation.  The question now is whether Obama will act before they can do so.  The summit for the G20 is next week.  Will the missiles fly before then?  The UN inspectors have left Syria.  Have they been told an attack is imminent?

I’m not sure that I agree with Bob Dreyfuss who called the President a “schoolyard bully” but there is a great deal of irony in seeing two men who made their reputations opposing war now trying to justify military action.

Let’s say the President waits a week.   He can talk to folks at the summit.  The UN Security Council can talk some more.  Congress gets back into town and holds a debate.  I don’t see that anything is lost.  The Syrians have all ready evacuated areas and moved military assets so maybe we don’t need an actual strike with the potential for civilian casulties.  Plus we don’t really know all the consequences of a strike.  More acts of terrorism in the United States?  More chemical attacks on civilians?  A wider conflict?  An excuse for the Republicans to try to impeach him?

There are a lot of negatives and unknowns to military action, but I haven’t heard a credible alternative either.  I can only hope that the President, who says he hasn’t made up his mind yet, thinks about this a bit longer.  Maybe he is actually like the rest of us – wanting to do something, but not sure what the something should be.  All the more reason to wait.

What’s next? Impeachment!

I sense there is a growing level of frustration among Republican members of Congress.  Their opposition to immigration reform is not playing well with either the public or Republican party elders.  Same for their desire to shut down government to prevent the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare from full implementation.  Some of them have been hammered at town hall meetings and the videos are posted all over YouTube.  The deficit is actually shrinking.  Republican governors like Rick Perry are reversing themselves and asking for Medicaid funds.  And the President and his administration are doing the best they can given that no proposal will pass the House.  So what is left for them.  Impeach Obama!

Steve Breen wrote on MaddowBlog

When fringe figures like Rep. Kerry Bentivolio (R-Mich.) talk about impeaching President Obama without cause, it’s a mild curiosity. When U.S. senators push the same idea, it’s more alarming.

“I think those are serious things, but we’re in serious times,” said Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn during a town hall in his home state. “And I don’t have the legal background to know if that rises to ‘high crimes and misdemeanors,’ but I think you’re getting perilously close.”

The remark came after an attendee called the Obama administration “lawless” and asked, “who is responsible for enforcing [Obama’s] constitutional responsibilities?”

Coburn apparently has given this a fair amount of thought, telling constituents, “What you have to do is you have to establish the criteria that would qualify for proceedings against the president, and that’s called impeachment. That’s not something you take lightly, and you have to use a historical precedent of what that means.” He added that he believes “there’s some intended violation of the law in this administration.”

Official portrait of Tom Coburn, U.S. Senator.

Official portrait of Tom Coburn, U.S. Senator. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But what violation?

And what, pray tell, has the president done that Coburn perceives as possible “high crimes”? In keeping with the recent trend, the Oklahoma Republican never got around to explaining what the grounds for impeachment would be. Coburn mentioned that he’d heard a rumor about the Department of Homeland Security choosing to “ignore” background checks for immigrants, but he did not elaborate.

Meanwhile Sam Stein tweeted David Axelrod’s reaction

“that was his considered legal opinion as an obstetrician”

Maybe it is just wishful thinking on my part, but I think that Americans still want government to fix roads and bridges, regulate our food, water, drugs and financial institutions, and help those you are in need.  Sure, we all wish for new, creative solutions to some of the problems that seem intractable, but on the whole I think Americans just wish that Congress would actually work with the President instead of just voting “no”.  But the fact that even Mitch McConnell has a challenger from the right in the Republican Primary does not make this seem possible.

I’ll give the last word to Steve Breen

And finally, for every Beltway pundit who proclaims with a tear in their eye, “Washington would be more effective if Obama showed leadership by reaching out to Republicans, schmoozing them, and offering to work cooperatively with his critics,” I hope they’re paying very close attention to current events. It is, as a practical matter, awfully difficult for a president to work constructively with radicalized lawmakers who refuse to compromise and cherish the idea of impeachment without cause.

Just so we’re clear, I don’t really expect Republicans to pursue this in a serious way, and my coverage on the issue is intended more as a “look how silly this is” than a “look at this threat to our constitutional system of government.” If for no other reason, GOP lawmakers wouldn’t try impeaching the president because they’d risk motivating the Democratic base to show up in the 2014 midterms.

That said, the recent talk about impeachment is nevertheless unnerving.