We have to admit our suspicions about the potential for a legitimate impeachment of President Joe Biden were raised last week when the White House said it planned to send a letter to top United States news executives urging them to raise their scrutiny on House Republicans after House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-California, launched an impeachment inquiry into the president's actions.
Think about that.
A White House already fully protected by left-leaning national news agencies ready to take the president's side in any crisis or dismiss any potential wrongdoing feels strongly enough about McCarthy's move that it must ask its protectorates to be even more wary.
"Covering impeachment as a process story ... is a disservice to the American public who relies on the independent press to hold those in power accountable," the letter from the spokesman for the White House Counsel's Office read.
Who does that if their man has nothing to hide? So there's that.
But we have warned previously about the folly of a political impeachment — as tit for tat for the impeachments of former President Donald Trump, which were seen as tit for tat for the impeachment of former President Bill Clinton as well as resentment for defeating the favored Hillary Clinton in the 2016 race. Where does it end?
Without firm evidence of wrongdoing by Biden (though there is clearly smoke that could lead to a fire), House Republicans will be walking into a hornet's nest of problems:
› An impeachment inquiry that leads nowhere leaves them with egg on their face just in time for the 2024 presidential election, when they will need independents and unhappy Democrats to vote for their nominee.
› Even without the aforementioned White House letter, national news agencies will take Biden's side throughout the process, regardless how many times the hypocrisy that they did just the opposite during the impeachment inquiries of Trump is pointed out. The national media is already pitching the narrative that McCarthy's action is a sop to those on the right fringe of his party who he'll need in arguments over government spending by the end of the month.
› The inquiry will be seen by many — the national media, certainly — as a distraction to the legal troubles of Trump, the favorite for the 2024 GOP nomination despite mounting legal troubles. That could redound to sympathy for Biden, already seen as a weak and aging president, even by members of his own party.
› If House members were to find irrefutable evidence of Biden benefiting from business deals involving his son while he was vice president and voted to impeach him, Senate Democrats — with whom he served for nearly 34 years — aren't likely to convict him. They don't have the same backbone that Senate Republicans did during the Watergate scandal that brought down President Richard Nixon.
› If an impeachment inquiry were to reach the end of its string, it would be 2024, already a presidential year. Many voters in both parties are likely to wonder by then why the problem couldn't be solved at the ballot box.
Does that mean House Republicans should do nothing? Not necessarily.
Near as we can tell, the worst that has turned up that can be substantiated during a Republican probe of Biden over the last nine months is that he lied when he said he had "never spoken to my son (Hunter) about his overseas business dealings." Clearly, he did, as well as joining his son's business dinners, using pseudonyms in communications with his son's business partners and talking to his son's clients on the phone.
The bigger allegations — that he accepted a $5 million bribe from a Ukrainian energy firm and that he and his family raked in at least $20 million from overseas individuals and entities during his vice presidency — are based on confidential informants and nonpublic bank records.
But if nine months have not been able to turn up more smoking guns, will two months of an impeachment investigation? Three? Six? What about the regular business of Congress? Shouldn't it get a little attention?
The point is that House Republicans shouldn't waste their time on an impeachment probe unless they have reason to believe all that has been alleged, rumored, whispered about is 100% true and provable. No half measures. No let's investigate and find out. No let's see where the evidence leads us. It's too late in the game for fishing expeditions.
Allegations of abuse of power, obstruction and corruption — said to be potential charges for Biden — are serious matters, and impeachments used to be. A probe without turning up anything serious looks to be as damaging to our political system as the fruitless three-year investigation into Trump was over collusion with Russia.
Such actions weaken our faith in the checks and balances of government and lead to the rise of conspiracy theories. We hope that won't be the endgame for this precarious action by House Republicans.