Editorial written by The Fresno Bee Editorial Board
Kevin McCarthy, the California Republican and speaker of the House, formally gave his blessing to an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden.
For McCarthy, it marked crossing a line he once said should not be breached, meaning launching impeachment investigations on a strictly political basis.
It also is a move carrying risk: At the end of however this plays out, Republicans could pay a price in next year’s elections for abusing the impeachment process.
It is difficult to imagine an “impeachment inquiry” is anything but a political exercise. Even some GOP House members, like Ken Buck of Colorado and Don Bacon of Nebraska, have said no evidence warranting impeachment proceedings has yet surfaced.
No matter. McCarthy is plunging forward, and his statements Tuesday made clear he thinks President Biden is guilty of corrupt dealings when it comes to his son Hunter’s former businesses.
“House Republicans have uncovered serious and credible allegations into President Biden’s conduct,” McCarthy told reporters in a brief press conference in the Capitol. “Taken together, these allegations paint a picture of a culture of corruption.”
Are there “high crimes and misdemeanors,” as required for impeachment? That remains to be seen.
For months some House GOP leaders have said that Hunter Biden traded on his father’s political stature to further his business interests, including when the elder Biden was vice president under Barack Obama.
The proof will be in the evidence, and so far, there is none truly tying President Biden to any real corruption.
McCarthy once noted that Americans have no appetite for goose chases when it comes to something as serious as impeaching a sitting president. His point is verified by history.
Democrat President Bill Clinton was impeached in 1998 by the GOP majority in the House over lying about his affair with a White House intern. But Republicans paid a price at the ballot box that fall and lost seats they expected to hold. Their majority was narrowed as a result.
To be sure, McCarthy had little choice in deciding to enter impeachment waters. The far-right members of the GOP’s Freedom Caucus have made it clear they will look to replace him as speaker if McCarthy does not meet their demands. Among them is impeaching Biden.
This again demonstrates the central weakness of McCarthy as speaker. He literally must jump to the tune of the most extreme members of his caucus or else. McCarthy is simply not strong enough to stop his most belligerent members from abusing an impeachment process that should be a last resort, not a tool, to settle political scores.
As much as Republicans want to be seen as the party of truth-seeking, an impeachment inquiry is as political as it gets. McCarthy and his GOP better bring the goods, or else voters will tell them in no uncertain terms that craven politics is unacceptable.