Frank Pignanelli & LaVarr Webb: Impeachment, the border crisis and other issues creating political crazy talk

Published: Monday, Aug. 11 2014 9:30 a.m. MDT

Doug Bearden, Jonathan Branyon and Christine Reno, from left, wave flags and hold an "Impeach Obama" sign Friday Oct. 11, 2013 on the Shallowford Road overpass at I-75.

Angela Lewis, Associated Press

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The high temperatures across the country seem to be frazzling many political brains. In other words, we’re hearing lots of crazy talk. But what seems crazy to some people is a heartfelt passion to others. Here are a few examples.

A current focus of fanatical obsession surrounds Gov. Gary Herbert's appointment of State Sen. John Valentine as chairman of the Utah Tax Commission. Why was it offered and why was it accepted?

Pignanelli & Webb: “Sincerity and competence is a strong combination. In politics, it is everything.” — Peggy Noonan

Valentine is one of the brightest individuals to have served in the Utah Legislature since statehood. He is well-liked across the political spectrum for his intelligent, insightful, bipartisan approach to solving problems. Valentine is a logical choice for statewide office or the Utah Supreme Court, so politicos are wondering why he settled for the Tax Commission — an important entity but with limited influence (apologies to Tax Commissioner D'Arcy Dixon Pignanelli).

The answer may be that Herbert has been seeking greater "gubernatorial discretion" when making political appointments, especially to key policy positions like the Tax Commission. In response, several high-profile legislators expanded qualifications to serve on the commission, in order to keep in place the current commission chairman, Bruce Johnson. Herbert's sly move ensures he gets “his guy” because Valentine exceeds all qualifications and won’t be rejected by the Senate.

Another rumor is that Valentine, with his deep knowledge of tax law, will utilize the commission to modernize the tax code, making it conform with 21st-century economic realities.

There will be a lot of crazy buzz until Valentine's confirmation in mid-September.

Anger toward President Obama has fostered talk of impeaching and suing. Who is this hurting or helping?

Pignanelli: I frequently compare Washington, D.C., politics to the Ebola virus (which is unfair … to this pestilence). Now that this disease is in the country, the reference is especially appropriate. By a margin of 20 percentage points, Americans have more concerns about the federal government than the horrible African plague.

Federal legislators are elected to fulfill several roles but none of them include suing the executive branch or scaring the public with nonexistent threats of presidential impeachment. Americans readily see through this political maneuvering and are frustrated. Therefore, both parties are suffering in credibility and respect.

Webb: Certainly, talk of impeaching the president is nutty — but Democrats are the ones exploiting the issue. A review by The Hill newspaper showed that congressional Democrats talk about impeachment 20 times more than Republicans on the House and Senate floors. Democrats have raised the issue 86 times, while Republicans have used the word “impeach” or “impeachment” only four times. Democrats are trying to raise money and excite their apathetic base. Republican leaders have made it absolutely clear no attempt will be made to impeach the president.

As for a lawsuit to clarify presidential authority, Republicans should absolutely proceed. Obama routinely ignores or “adjusts” laws passed by Congress, and Congress should challenge him on it.

Some out-of-state senators are asking President Obama to designate a massive national monument in the Greater Canyonlands area. Is this nutty or a serious proposal?

Pignanelli: As suggested in prior columns, President Obama may perform the designation as a bone to environmentalists if he approves the Keystone pipeline. The monument potential is serious and Utah's congressional delegation has launched an aggressive opposition, asking for consultation before designation. Conversely, local environmentalists and some officials want presidential action. Both sides view the other as crazy, diminishing the hope for compromise.

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