In 1998, House Republicans voted to impeach Bill Clinton. He was acquitted the next year.
In 2019 and 2021, House Democrats twice impeached Donald Trump. He was acquitted both times.
Now Republican leaders are seriously considering impeaching President Biden.
And if that happens, he will be acquitted by the Democratic Senate.
So why is Kevin McCarthy now embracing the idea of an impeachment inquiry? Especially when he threw cold water on that very same idea last month when some of his most conservative members were demanding it?
Why not just beat the president, who is plagued with low poll numbers, at the ballot box?
That’s an awful lot of question marks, I know.
On one level, McCarthy is throwing some red meat at the most right-wing part of his base. Maybe it doesn’t matter if impeachment succeeds as long as they can flood the media zone with negative stories.
Perhaps this is some form of payback for the Trump impeachments: If they can drag our guy through the mud, we’ll just whip around and do it to their guy.
Impeachment used to be extremely rare. From the founding of the Republic until 1974, there was exactly one: Andrew Johnson, who succeeded Abraham Lincoln after the Civil War, and that was a battle over Reconstruction.
The House Judiciary Committee voted to impeach Richard Nixon over his Watergate crimes, but he resigned before the full House acted and the Senate was certain to convict.
But in the last quarter-century, it seems to have become just another political weapon.
Whatever the justification for impeachment, the president does have a serious problem. He has moved the goalposts in denying any involvement with Hunter Biden’s sleazy overseas buckraking. No involvement whatsoever.
But now that whistleblowers have said that the president joined Hunter on numerous calls with his benefactors – and that they themselves were blocked from fully investigating the role of Hunter’s father – the White House has softened its language to say the president did nothing to help his son’s business.
The credibility of one source working with the Republicans, Gal Luft, collapsed when we learned he had been indicted as a Chinese spy.
Now Hunter’s former friend and business partner, Devon Archer, is said to be ready to testify about many calls that included him, Hunter and the then-vice president. Joe Biden is said to have spoken in vague pleasantries, which may not be an impeachable offense, but is not “no involvement” either. Being able to put the Big Guy on the line is obviously a display of clout.
One problem: Archer has already been convicted in a $60-million bond fraud.
The Daily Mail cited a source in reporting Archer is in hiding after receiving threats but still plans to testify before Congress on Monday.
In the meantime, not all Republicans want to go down the impeachment road. If you’re a moderate conservative who won in a district carried by Biden, that’s a vote you’d rather not take.
The risk for Republicans is that an impeachment investigation consumes so much time that they would have little to show the country next year in terms of other accomplishments.
But that’s a risk Kevin McCarthy may be willing to take.