Gone Fishin'

[ Posted Thursday, December 14th, 2023 – 16:59 UTC ]

The United States House of Representatives has gone fishing. They've already been fishing in the same waters for months, but they've now done the equivalent of putting up an official "Gone Fishin' !!" sign on their door. They have yet to catch anything even remotely edible, but they remain ever hopeful.

For the first time in American history, an impeachment inquiry into a sitting president has been approved by the House without any actual "high crimes and misdemeanors" specified. Oh, they have their suspicions about what crimes President Joe Biden may have committed, but no actual evidence of anything. Hence the fishing expedition. Every single House Republican voted to authorize an impeachment inquiry, while every single Democrat voted against it.

House Republicans know what crimes and misdemeanors they'd like to uncover the proof of, but after months and months of searching they still haven't a single shred of evidence to back any of it up. They are pretty free and loose with their accusations against Biden, accusing him of bribery and profiting off of official actions he took when he was Barack Obama's vice president. Again, no evidence of this has ever been shown. On the one concrete thing they repeatedly accuse Biden of doing (getting a Ukrainian prosecutor fired), their facts are 180-degrees from the truth of what actually happened. They have even taken to accusing Biden of somehow being bribed while he was out of office and a private citizen, even though this doesn't make any sense whatsoever. There can't be a quid pro quo if there is no earthly way for Biden to provide any quo, to put it another way. And they have no proof of any bribe ever reaching Joe Biden at all, for anything.

The Republican insinuations of what Biden has done have been refuted time and time again. This makes no difference to the House Republicans, of course. They are convinced that if they just fish long enough and deep enough, they'll reel in something other than the old boots and tin cans they've pulled up so far. So they put the official imprimatur on their ongoing investigation, as a Christmas present to the MAGA maniacs in their ranks.

This is all going to come to a head early next year, from all accounts. They'll cobble together whatever they've got -- which is mostly accusations of nefarious behavior by Biden family members -- and hold a vote on whether to impeach the president or not. As we saw with this week's vote, most Republicans will indeed vote to impeach, even without any actual proof of wrongdoing by Joe Biden. A few of the saner members of the GOP may balk at doing this, but the herd mentality in the House Republicans is pretty strong these days. The Republicans only have a razor-thin margin in the House (which will be even smaller after Kevin McCarthy steps down from his seat), so it wouldn't take a lot of holdouts to derail the impeachment effort.

This is all a political hit job, of course. Donald Trump still seethes over being the only U.S. president impeached twice and has reportedly been pressuring the House Republicans to somehow "expunge" these impeachments. And he's also pushing the "impeach Biden" effort as well, to be able to claim some sort of false equivalence during his presidential campaign. But even with this pressure, the House Republicans may not even be able to pass articles of impeachment if a handful of them hold out due to lack of any evidence of any wrongdoing.

There are only a few realistic scenarios as to how this will all play out. Republicans could hold an impeachment vote as early as January, or possibly later. Or they could drag their investigations on all year without ever holding an actual impeachment vote. If they do move articles of impeachment to the floor, they could either pass or they could fail. Failure would be a huge embarrassment for them, since they would be proving that they can't even convince the members of their own party to impeach. If it does pass, there will be a trial in the Senate with an iron-clad outcome: Joe Biden will not be convicted or removed from office and will finish his first term (no matter what happens in the election). The practical outcome of the fishing expedition is not in doubt. Biden will still be president in January of 2025, no matter what.

Then there's the scenario the Republicans have been fantasizing about -- they actually uncover some evidence of criminal or unethical behavior by Biden. It doesn't have to be even tangentially related to anything they've been investigating so far -- at this point, they'll take anything. Just as the Whitewater investigation into Bill Clinton eventually wound up with an impeachment for lying about sex, the Republicans don't really care where the trail leads, as long as there is some sort of evidence of wrongdoing at the end of that trail. However, they've been investigating Biden for quite some time now and have not come up with anything at all, so this has to be seen as pretty farfetched.

My personal guess is that this is all going to end with a whimper, not a bang. At some point -- just as Kevin McCarthy did to start this ball rolling -- Speaker Mike Johnson is going to bow to the wishes of the MAGA hotheads in his caucus and allow a floor vote on impeachment articles. This may come in response (as it did for McCarthy) to Johnson having to agree to some sort of compromise with Democrats on the federal budget. Which is why the House may rush to an impeachment vote as early as January (when the brass-tacks budgetary negotiations are scheduled to happen).

I have no real idea how it will all play out. I would bet, at this point, that the impeachment vote actually fails, as the Republicans in moderate districts (such as those Joe Biden won last time around) balk at voting for an impeachment without any evidence of wrongdoing. I could see either Johnson abruptly cancelling the floor vote (after realizing they don't have enough votes to win), or him allowing it to happen anyway just to prove to the MAGA hotheads that it's not going to work. And to allow Donald Trump to vent his spleen on all the Republicans who vote against it, of course.

The other thing that seems fairly certain is that the Republicans will make as much political hay over the issue as possible. Just as they've been doing, every time they fish one of those boots or tin cans out of the water, they will proudly display it to America and swear up and down that it is a tasty "bootfish" or "tincanfish" and that everyone should take a juicy bite of it. This hasn't notably worked up until now, except among the rightwing media echo chamber (where they'll believe anything, evidence-free).

But for the rest of us, the impeachment inquiry into Joe Biden will likely end with an epitaph written by Gertrude Stein (about her hometown of Oakland, California): "There is no there there."

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


One Comment on “Gone Fishin'”

  1. [1] 
    Mezzomamma wrote:

    Surely there's a lot of projection in this as well; people who have less than ethical financial dealings themselves like to believe that 'everybody does it'.

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