The New York Times' Bill Keller suggests we should "Bring Back Ken Starr" to get to the bottom of the IRS scandal, because "the scandal circus on Capitol Hill is a terrible distraction." The resulting Twitter jokes compelled Keller to tweet a follow-up: "Guess when my tongue is in my cheek I should add an emoticon. Special counsel, yes, seriously. Ken Starr? ;-)." Why the wink? We could bring the whole 1998 impeachment gang back together. A starring member, former Rep. Bob Barr, is running for Congress in Georgia again, and he's describing himself as an "impeachment manager." Barr told an Atlanta radio station on Tuesday that if elected, he would pursue the scandals "like a bulldog."
Like Barr, many of the impeachment all stars have left office. Dan Burton, who infamously shot a large piece of produce to prove Vince Foster as murdered (accounts differ as to whether it was a pumpkin, a watermelon, or another melon), must be kicking himself -- he left office in January of this year. Of the 13 House Republicans who served as impeachment managers, only three are still in office: Reps. Jim Sensenbrenner (at left, in 1998) and Steve Chabot, plus Lindsey Graham, who's now in the Senate. They are not among the small but cable news-friendly group who've called for impeachment of President Obama. But there are hints they think this time around, things will go better for them. Sensenbrenner posted an editorial on his website about the IRS scandal, saying he wanted to see severe consequences: "I want those responsible held accountable, and I want to know who is going to jail," he writes. He thinks high-ranking politicians are involved: "It appears Senate Democrats also played a role in the scandal," he says, noting that two had called on the IRS to investigate abuses of tax-exempt status.
Best of all, Sensenbrenner sees Nixon: "The targeting of 'political enemies' by this agency is Nixonian. It was wrong when Nixon did it, and it’s wrong now."Graham has focused more on Benghazi, but he calls it "Obama's Watergate." And on his campaign site, Chabot suggests Obama's got it worse than Nixon and Bill Clinton combined.
An Administration can usually survive one scandal, no matter how problematic. Ronald Reagan weathered the Iran Contra imbroglio, although his second term was sidetracked to a considerable degree by the necessity of its handling. Bill Clinton was impeached in his second term (although ultimately not removed from office) due to his lying under oath (perjury) related to the Lewinski scandal.
Perhaps an Administration could even survive two scandals at the same time. But three?
Note that Chabot doesn't mention that the failure of impeachment can be partially blamed on him. Will Chabot get a chance to try again? We'll see.