WASHINGTON — Sen. Tom Coburn's comments in Muskogee this week regarding the potential impeachment of President Barack Obama drew heavy criticism on Friday from a former top aide to the president, who called the remarks “plainly absurd” and “way out of bounds.”
David Axelrod, who served as a campaign and White House adviser to Obama, said on MSNBC's “Morning Joe” program that there obviously was not going to be an impeachment and that comments like Coburn's “were a kind of virus that's infected our politics.”
Coburn, R-Muskogee, said at a town hall meeting on Wednesday that some unspecified actions by the president were “perilously close” to high crimes and misdemeanors that qualify for impeachment under the U.S. Constitution.
He said Obama had put himself in a difficult position.
If it continues, “I think we're going to see another constitutional crisis in our country in terms of the presidency.”
Coburn's comments came at the end of a 70-minute town hall meeting in which he debated some participants about the effort to defund Obamacare; Coburn is opposed to the strategy by some Republicans to deny funding for the health care law as a condition for funding the rest of government.
Most of those asking questions clearly objected to the president's policies and actions.
Coburn's comments about impeachment came after a questioner asked who was responsible for holding the president accountable to his “constitutional requirements and responsibilities.”
“What you have to do is establish the criteria that would qualify for proceedings against the president — and that's called impeachment,” Coburn said. “But that's not something you take lightly, and you have to use a historical precedent of what that means.”
Coburn said he believes the administration has intentionally violated the law, but that it is also guilty of incompetence.
Axelrod said Republicans were playing to a shrinking base of aged, southern evangelicals and trying to disqualify the president rather than debate him.
He noted that Coburn had referred to Obama as a personal friend and said, “Can you imagine how he treats people who aren't his friends?”
Coburn was not available for comment on Friday.