“While many in corporate media will attempt to pretend otherwise, the first phase of impeachment did not go well for Democrats. It needed to be their strongest phase.”
The Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway penned a phenomenal piece last week in which she analyzed the first phase of the Democrat’s partisan clown show impeachment circus.
Hemingway’s piece is rather long but is well worth the read.
The goal for Democrats was to build support for President Trump’s impeachment and eventual conviction in the Senate, ideally including removal from office. Hemingway notes that they failed spectacularly in this regard.
Democrats ideally would have started their inquiry with credible bipartisan support and run things in such a way that public opinion developed in their favor. Public opinion would build pressure on Republican members toward an impeachment vote that had even stronger bipartisan credibility.
That did not come even close to happening. To begin with, not only was the vote to begin proceedings not bipartisan, there was bipartisan opposition to it. Polling initially looked promising for impeachment, with media outlets attempting to claim significant bipartisan support for inquiry and removal, but then the polling moved in the wrong direction for Democrats.
So what happened, what went wrong for Democrats? Hemingway lays it out and points in turn to the shaky foundation of the “impeachment inquiry,” the loss of credibility of both Democrats on impeachment and of the leftstream media more generally, and to the effectiveness of Republicans throughout the public hearings stage.
Ultimately, of course, there has yet to be any evidence of any crime whatsoever being committed by the president. Shifting goals and goalposts have seriously undermined Democrats and their media cheerleaders.
Before we get to the politics and how they were played by Republicans and Democrats, it should be noted that President Donald Trump has not been credibly accused of committing any crime, much less a high crime or misdemeanor. It’s almost shocking that Trump, of all people, keeps managing to do well on this score. Yet, as with the Russia collusion hoax, in which he was accused of being a traitor to his country, the lack of evidence for the charges against him is his ultimate saving grace.
What the charge is keeps changing, of course. The whistleblower initially suggested a campaign finance violation arising from a call Trump had with the president of Ukraine. That morphed into a quid pro quo for military aid to Ukraine, then extortion, then bribery, then obstruction of justice, then back to a quid pro quo, but this time only a quid pro quo for a White House meeting. The lack of certainty among even Trump’s critics certainly worked in his favor.
. . . . While the argument for impeachment was difficult to understand, Democrats’ own witnesses kept making Trump’s case against “the swamp” for him. There is no question that these bureaucrats, sometimes using third-hand information, were deeply opposed to Trump, his policies, and his behavior. Their problem was that they were not elected president. In fact, they weren’t elected anything. Some of them were political appointees — a testament to the awful job Trump has done at finding personnel who can accomplish his policy goals — and other times they were career bureaucrats.
The Resistance has generally had a difficult time with this issue, but the proper way to litigate political differences is not with the 25th Amendment, threats to the Electoral College, leak campaigns, spying operations, or impeachment proceedings, but at the ballot box. At no time did any witness make an effective case for anything other than, at best, a trip to the ballot box.
The anti-Trump media’s lack of credibility played a large part in their inability to collude with Democrats to build a viable (i.e. bipartisan) case against Trump that would shift public opinion.
Media outlets did all they could to bolster Schiff’s show and ran the impeachment hearings non-stop, as if Schiff’s inquiry had a legitimacy it never quite managed to earn on the merits. But instead of viewership increasing over time, it decreased.
Reporters kept deleting their tweets because they were getting facts about the hearings wrong. If reporters who were paid to follow the hearings weren’t able to keep details straight, what hope was there for normal people who have real lives and better things to do than watch hearings all day?
. . . . The lack of daylight between Democrats and many in the media was difficult to ignore. They seemed to march in lockstep with the day’s messaging from Schiff, as well as the overall legitimacy of the proceedings.
Here, too, the media seemed to underestimate the significant toll their participation in the Russia hoax had on their credibility. Where the public previously may have been willing to trust them when they claimed they had done their homework before claiming some evidence of wrongdoing by Trump, that trust no longer exists.
Schiff’s secret hearings, scandalous leaks, and perception of general shadiness also undermined the public portion of the hearings.
Schiff had run the Democrats’ efforts in the Russia collusion conspiracy they peddled for several years. During that time, his team leaked like sieves to compliant media outlets such as CNN and falsely claimed for years to have secret knowledge of Trump being a traitor who had colluded with Russia to steal the 2016 election. With compliant media outlets, again, he tore down Republican members on his committee and their efforts to get at the bottom of the Russia collusion theory.
When it came time for impeachment, he followed the same pattern, leaking to the compliant media selected excerpts of transcripts to paint a false narrative. But this time, it didn’t work nearly so well. For one thing, the complexity that he weaponized so successfully in the Russia hoax didn’t work with the public. The public had been willing to at least consider an elaborate tale of Trump being a traitor who had colluded with Russia to steal the 2016 election.
But when it turned out that Schiff, other Democrats, and the media had been completely wrong about their elaborate theory, it had consequences. They weren’t nearly so willing to fall for the old song and dance a second time, particularly on a story that conveniently began precisely the day after Mueller’s failed testimony.
Even worse for Schiff, he had destroyed the goodwill and comity that had once existed on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. While the compliant media were willing to spoon up whatever he gave them, Republican members knew not to trust him at all. They had also learned from the Russia collusion hoax that they had spent years painstakingly evaluating. Their report outlining Russian meddling as well as a report on some of the concerning behavior of government officials investigating the Trump campaign holds up infinitely better than the Democrats’ report on the same.
Republicans, by contrast, were immensely effective.
In part because Schiff and his team seemed confused about what case they were prosecuting, questions to witnesses were almost always leading, but never focused on a particular or consistent goal. Conversely, Republicans kept focused during their questions, always pointing out that the witnesses didn’t actually have first-hand information, or were basing their views on their own conjecture, a shaky basis for impeachment.
In general, Republican members did a surprisingly good job on cross examining witnesses. The Democrats kept rolling out new star witnesses, and some, such as Gordon Sondland and Lt. Col. Alex Vindman had opening statements that were quite strong for Democrats. Their opening statements withered under strong GOP questioning.
. . . . While many in corporate media will attempt to pretend otherwise, the first phase of impeachment did not go well for Democrats. It needed to be their strongest phase. It needed to be a time when support for the inquiry and impeachment grew. Instead, it shrank. Partly that’s due to Democrats’ failed strategy.
But GOP members also played a significant role. They stood strong against both the media and Democrats, showed very little weakness, sent signals early on that they weren’t going to sit back and cower during the proceedings, and generally learned a great deal from the previous few years’ efforts to undo the 2016 election.
Orange Man Bad is not grounds for (bipartisan, public-supported) impeachment, much less for removal from office less than a year out from the next presidential election. Democrats flubbed the whole thing, but they are hoping that they managed to damage the president enough that he will lose in 2020.DONATE
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