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Impeachment talk by Obama camp motivated by psychology as much as politics

President Barack Obama
Photo by David McNew/Getty Images

A Friday story in the Washington Times suggests that President Obama is trying to provoke Congress to impeach him, the theory being that he can rally his supporters against that effort, much as President Clinton did in the 1990s. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sent out a fund raising letter raising the impeachment issue as a reason to elect more Democrats. The letter links House Speaker John Boehner’s lawsuit against the president for failing to faithfully execute the laws of the United States to the potential impeachment effort.

Thus far the only prominent Republican who has actually called for the impeachment of the president has been Sarah Palin. Virtually every other Republican has demurred, no so much that there is no legal or moral case, but that politically it would be all but impossible to remove the president. Indeed, with his term in office just two and a half years left to run, there is likely to point in mounting such an effort.

Politico cites a CNN poll that indicates that fully a third of Americans support President Obama’s impeachment, while 65 percent do not. The numbers are somewhat split across party lines, with 57 percent of Republicans supporting impeachment, 35 percent of independent voters supporting, and just 13 percent of Democrats supporting. A 45 percent plurality agree that Obama has exceeded his executive authority. But 79 percent believe impeachment should be reserved for serious crimes, such as treason or bribery.

Besides the obvious political motives for crying impeachment, former Congressman Ernest Ishtook suggests that there may be some psychological motives in play. He suggess that the president of the United States may be dealing with deep seated personality issues, The congressman raises the ominous idea that Obama is being guided into reckless actions not out of policy, but from some kind of disorder.

“His behavior matches the American Psychiatric Association’s definition of passive-aggressive behavior, ‘a habitual pattern of passive resistance to expected work requirements, opposition, stubbornness, and negativistic attitudes in response to requirements for normal performance levels expected of others.’ Often, such persons see themselves as blameless victims, projecting fault onto others. Commonly, they follow erratic paths and cause constant conflicts.

“But if not a personality disorder, such behavior can also be deliberately used to assert power, as described in one Psychology Today article, ‘By denying feelings of anger, withdrawing from direct communication, casting themselves in the role of victim, and sabotaging others’ success, passive aggressive persons create feelings in others of being on an emotional roller coaster. Through intentional inefficiency, procrastination, allowing problems to escalate, … makes the passive aggressive person feel powerful. He/she becomes the puppeteer—the master of someone else’s universe and the controller of their behavior.’”

Ishtook may be suggesting that Obama may be or will become incapable of performing the office of the presidency. Section 4 of the 25th Amendment provides a remedy for that situation.

“Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.”

The question arises, under what circumstances would Vice President Joe Biden be moved to make such an initiative?

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