Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst has ramped up his criticism of President Barack Obama by suggesting that the 44th chief executive should be impeached, raising the anti-government rhetoric in a GOP primary campaign that has increasingly focused on Washington and the federal government.
In an appearance at a Northeast Tarrant Tea Party candidate forum, Dewhurst said late Monday that Obama should be impeached for overreaching in his positions on immigration and health care and for lapses in the 2012 terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
Dewhurst, a former CIA officer who has served as the No. 2 state official since 2003, has previously criticized the Obama administration over the consulate attack.
Dewhurst is facing three GOP rivals in his bid for re-election, and all the candidates have blasted the Obama administration in recent months on a variety of issues as each tries to draw support from the conservative wing of the Republican Party.
Dewhurst, especially, is trying to shore up his tea party bona fides after losing the U.S. Senate race last year to tea party favorite Ted Cruz. Dewhurst had been favored to win that race, but he emerged from the campaign branded as a moderate and quickly drew three opponents to his re-election bid. No Democrats have filed for the lieutenant governor.
"This election is about protecting you and your freedoms, which are given to you by God, but which are being trampled on by Barack Obama right now," Dewhurst said at the tea party forum, according to a report by a Texas Observer reporter who covered the event. "I don't know about you, but Barack Obama ought to be impeached -- not only for trampling on our liberties, but what he did in Benghazi is just a crime."
"I think this president, Barack Obama, has disregarded federal law. He's tried to do things which are not authorized under federal law, such as with immigration, such as not following our federal drug laws," Dewhurst told the Observer after the forum. "He's created winners and losers out of Obamacare where he has no authority, such as allowing for the unions and big businesses to postpone their mandates for a year."
Whether any of that rises to the level of impeachment remains uncertain.
Over the past month, Dewhurst and his challengers, state Sen. Dan Patrick of Houston, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples have attended a string of tea party forums where they have competed for the title of most conservative on a range of tea party issues, from repealing the 17th Amendment's popular election of U.S. senators so that the job could be returned to state legislatures; to supporting states' right to nullify federal laws they don't like, to who most strongly opposes a state law that allows undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition at public colleges and universities if they are Texas residents.
"The tea party in Texas is different things to different people, as you can see here," said Marlene Bransman, a member of the Texas Federation of Republican Women, explaining the diversity of the crowd at a Clear Lake Tea Party forum earlier this month.
The crowd included senior citizens wearing National Rifle Association caps, bikers with "Boot Obama" buttons, clean-cut, Bible-carrying Christian activists lobbying for charter school reform, doctors and lawyers who oppose Obama's signature health care reform law, even a group of Texas nationalists -- several of whom insisted Texas should have remained a separate nation, rather than becoming a state in 1845.
"The only thing that brings us together is the 'tea' -- taxed enough already. We think government has gotten too big, too much," Bransman said.
For state candidates, the bigness of Washington's federal bureaucracy is an easy and frequent target. But Monday night, Dewhurst took it a step further, calling for Obama's ouster.
On Tuesday, Patterson said he also supports giving Obama the boot.
"I'm for any lawful means to remove Obama from office," Patterson said. "However, it's just political talk until we have the votes in the Senate (to remove a president). David successfully got a headline out of this. That's about it."
Staples' campaign manager, Cody McGregor, said Dewhurst's comments were predictable, but McGregor gave no hint of Staples' position on impeachment. "If I was responsible for making (Democrat and gubernatorial candidate) Wendy Davis a rock star, I'd change the subject and pick on President Obama, as well," he said.
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