WASHINGTON — On the 50th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, “I Have a Dream” speech, Kerry Bentivolio, a southeast Michigan congressman, has a dream, too: to impeach the nation’s first black President.
“If I could write that bill and submit it, it would be a dream come true,” the freshman Republican told a local GOP club meeting last week in Birmingham, Mich., in a video posted on YouTube and reported by BuzzFeed.
Mr. Bentivolio graciously conceded that he’d have to come up with some grounds first. “I went back to my office and I have had lawyers come in,” he said. “And these are lawyers, well — Ph.D.’s in history — I said: ‘Tell me how I can impeach the President of the United States. What evidence do you have?’ You’ve got to have the evidence.”
The Tea Party congressman, a member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, hopes to find emails linking the White House to the Internal Revenue Service examination of groups with a “Tea Party” label seeking tax-exempt status.
“I stood 12 feet away from the guy and listened to him, and I couldn’t stand being there,” he said of President Obama. “But because he is President, I have to respect the office.”
Mr. Bentivolio is the perfect avatar of the impeachment fever gripping a GOP that’s unmoored from reality. He once admitted in a court deposition: “I have a problem figuring out which one I really am, Santa Claus or Kerry Bentivolio.” That’s why he sometimes used the pronoun “we.”
He’s been playing Santa Claus — as part of a business he started 19 years ago called Old Fashion Santa — with his own six reindeer. “To project authenticity, he’s even sought clearance from Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Mount Clemens to fly his sleigh in its airspace on Christmas Eve,” the Detroit Free Press reported.
He told National Review magazine that he takes being called crazy as a compliment, so “it didn’t really bother me when people were saying: ‘That guy’s kooky because he has reindeer.’ No, they’re kooky because they don’t have ’em.”
Mr. Bentivolio also had a small role “in a low-budget independent film that seemed to suggest that 9/11 was an inside job,” the magazine said.
The Free Press reported that Mr. Bentivolio, no Edmund Gwenn in Miracle on 34th Street, left a teaching job in 2011 “after complaints he bullied students, even telling one class on its first day that his goal was to make all the students cry once during the year.” How much more gratifying to bully the President.
Not content with fighting off a popular immigration overhaul or threatening to shut down the government and set off the first federal default, hard-core congressional Republicans want to nullify the election. Unlike when Republicans did their nutty impeachment of Bill Clinton, they don’t even control the Senate. And as political consultant David Axelrod told me, there isn’t a “scintilla of justification.”
It’s lucky the President got another dog if Tom Coburn is his friend. At a town hall last week in Muskogee, Okla., when an audience member called the administration “lawless,” the Republican senator said his buddy was “getting perilously close” to the standard of high crimes and misdemeanors.
“I wonder what Mr. Coburn is saying about his enemies,” Mr. Axelrod says dryly.
In Texas recently, another Republican congressman, Blake Farenthold, answered a birther at a town hall. “If we were to impeach the President tomorrow, we would probably get the votes in the House of Representatives to do it,” he said. He added that it would never pass in the Senate.
At another Texas session last week, someone asked Sen. Ted Cruz why lawmakers couldn’t impeach President Obama. “It’s a good question,” Mr. Cruz replied, before noting that Democrats control the Senate.
This month, the President’s motorcade pulled into the Orlando Hilton and was greeted by about 50 protesters holding signs saying “Kenyan Go Home,” “Impeach Obama,” and “Obama Lies.”
BuzzFeed had a pictorial on the “Overpasses for Obama’s Impeachment” fad, where people hold up homemade signs on overpasses. And they reported on 100,000 preorders for the book Impeachable Offenses: The Case for Removing Barack Obama from Office, covering sore points from Benghazi to Obamacare to Transportation Security Administration screenings.
Democrats never impeached George W. Bush, and they had real grounds: starting a war on false premises and sanctioning torture. “The Republican Party is in a constant struggle between its ego and its id,” Mr. Axelrod says, “and the id has mostly won out lately.”
It isn’t the President who should leave. It’s the misguided lawmakers who are trying to drive him out.
For some of the rodeo clowns clamoring for impeachment around the country, Mr. Obama’s real crime is presiding while black.
Maureen Dowd is a columnist for the New York Times.