Posted by Curt on 26 November, 2019 at 12:06 pm. 3 comments already!


Prior to this past week, for days Adam Schiff had concocted a pretty effective fix. He conducted secret impeachment inquiries in the House basement. Schiff kept quiet about his rigged rules. He orchestrated selective media leaks from the opening statements of favorable witnesses and then more or less threatened with ethical violations any Republican member who copied his tactics and leaked their own often effective cross-examinations.

The result was that the public heard only from Schiff about Schiff’s damning slam-dunk hearings. A drip-by-drip melting of both Trump’s polls and resistance to impeachment followed.

Schiff emerged for brief soundbites, bit his lip, and for a minute or two regretted the tragedy of having to hear damaging testimony about his own president.

But then I suppose Schiff’s Hubris finally lured in Nemesis.

Schiff’s overweening ambition and ego drove him into a full-fledged, prime-daytime soap opera. Previously washed and rinsed witnesses returned for televised cross-examinations with Schiff in the star inquisitor role. He apparently thought he could outperform his own Republican colleagues on camera — people he had blatantly misrepresented for weeks.

But television allowed the country to conclude that seeing and hearing Schiff all day long was a different experience from catching minute- or two-minute glimpses of him. The TV version was entirely toxic.

In person, some of the House civil-servant witnesses were haughty. They were certainly obsessed with their positions, titles, and résumés, and eager to talk down to others while talking themselves up. But mostly they sounded incoherent in decrying a brief hold on military assistance to Ukraine by a president who in fact has armed Ukrainians in a way his predecessor never dared. Most of the public came away with several general takeaways — all harmful to the Democrats.

One, the more viewers learned of the corrupt, wily Ukrainians (who were constantly shifting alliances to bet on the anticipated 2016 front-runner), the more they thought that Trump might have been circumspect to have held up, if only for a few weeks, U.S. military assistance in the first place, at least until he learned the nature of the new Ukrainian president. The more one learned about the baffling array of freelancing and often duplicitous Ukrainian ambassadors, prosecutors, foreign ministers, presidents, and gas directors, the more one concluded it might be better to let them get their house in order first.

Two, why blast a president who armed the Ukrainians while staying silent about a prior president who refused military aid and even used non-military aid as a lever to adjudicate Ukraine prosecutions?

Three, the House Republican interrogators, previously mostly unknown, turned out to be far more effective cross-examiners than their Democratic counterparts, in part because the latter were trying to remove a president on the basis of hearsay.

While Democrats talked of Fiona Hill’s pigtails as an eleven-year-old and raincoat metaphors, Republicans Conaway, Jordan, Nunes, Ratcliffe, Stefanik, Stewart, Turner, and Wenstrup drew out contradictions, hearsay, fuzzy memories, and mostly anemic “I suppose,” “I heard,” “I assumed,” and “I presumed,” rather than documents, tapes, and proofs from the witnesses.

Schiff had no White House tape of Trump channeling Richard Nixon’s obscenity-ridden machinations, a Ken Starr or a Leon Jaworski report, or Monica’s stained dress.

By Thursday night, a pale Schiff was reduced to mock outrage and lecturing a purportedly dense nation — on the admissibility of hearsay. When the last remarks of the chairman were to rail into the microphone, one knew he had lost control of his star chamber.

So, after that boondoggle, where do the Democrats go now? Remember, Adam Schiff hijacked the impeachment inquiry from its proper place in Gerald Nadler’s House Judiciary Committee. Speaker Pelosi’s apparent gamble was that the off-putting Schiff would be nonetheless more telegenic and charismatic than the buffoonish Nadler. The latter had disastrously introduced in person and at length an embarrassingly addled Robert Mueller. If Nadler now copies Schiff’s methods, the pro-impeachment polls will collapse altogether. Nadler is as duplicitous as Schiff but lacks the Californian’s cunning. We should expect Nadler to get the inquiry over as fast as possible on the theory that he will have higher negatives even than Schiff.

All this is the mere microlevel of impeachment.

At the macrolevel over the next six months, it is difficult to see how impeachment might become a winning Democratic strategy. The Democrats’ witness list is mostly shot; the Republicans’ is still full of new narratives: Who is the whistleblower, and what is his background? What were the geneses and nature of the whistleblower-Schiff connection, and the Vindman-whistleblower relationship? Who, probably illegally, leaked classified transcripts of multiple presidential conversations? What is the full story of Joe Biden’s interventions into Ukrainian jurisprudence, the role of Ukrainians in past U.S. electoral affairs, or the tenure of Hunter Biden in Ukraine? Would Hunter Biden be able to clear up misimpressions? Mitch McConnell is not likely to repay Nancy Pelosi’s strong-arm tactics by turning the other cheek.

We are already seeing a few embarrassing leaks from Michael Horowitz’s IG report about an FBI lawyer who is alleged to have criminally altered documents — apparently the same Peter Strzok subordinate Kevin Clinesmith who was kicked off the Mueller team for texting lots of anti-Trump antipathy, including “Viva le [sic] Resistance!” Some additional leaks may follow in the next two weeks. John Durham’s looming conclusions may at some point become a force multiplier of the IG’s findings. Impeachment, not Trump, may bleed out from a thousand cuts.

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