Well, that was interesting. The “opening night” of the impeachment hearings is in the can, so I’ve turned off the boob tube, sat back, and contemplated something other than my belly button for a few minutes. There was a lot that went down today, but while I’ll point out a few anecdotes from the testimony, I ain’t the village scribe, and this won’t be an instant replay. Instead, I’m going to give my personal impressions of day one, and what I think it means to the future proceedings.
Leading off. The Republicans are in a bad way here, and it’s not a situation totally of their own making. In the Mueller investigation, and associated hearings, due to the nature of the subject of the investigation, most of the participants were of a political nature. This was in the GOP’s “sweet spot.” They could portray the proceedings as purely partisan politics, and smear the witnesses as purely political hacks. This played nicely into Trump’s WITCH HUNT! narrative. The two witnesses today, as well as almost if not all future witnesses, are non political, non partisan career diplomatic and national security employees, who have served presidents of both parties for decades. They come across as calm, obviously capable, and earnest in their testimony. This makes it much harder, if not impossible for the GOP attack dogs to portray them as “Never Trumper’s” with a partisan “axe to grind.” Which is bad news for His Lowness, since it’s all he can offer.
Second, the Democrats seriously have their shit together on this whole thing. Both Schiff as well as Democratic staff lawyer Daniel Goldman were devastatingly effective. Their questioning was crisp and to the point, and tended to be “open ended,” allowing the witnesses to be expansive with their answers. The Democrats also threw in a few leading questions, which I believe was intentional, in order to allow the witnesses to demure on answering “opinion” questions, proving their non partisan bona fides. They were also unified in their approach to the GOP’s bait and switch tactics. As I’ll go into below, when the GOP tried a purely deceitful or misleading line of attack, the next Democrat up to bat immediately yielded their time back to Schiff, who totally demolished the GOP’s attacks. On day one at least, they ran a textbook hearing.
On the other hand, the GOP’s line of defense is a hot mess. In most cases,especially criminal cases, the defense settles on a single, cohesive line of defense. One of the most popular is the SODDI (Some Other Dude Did It) defense. But there are also ones like the alibi defense, as well as alternative evidence and others. But the point is that a defense normally pics a strategy, and sticks with it.
To say that the Republicans are using a “scattershot” defense is generous at best. Not only are their defenses all over the place, they are often not only not complimentary to each other, they’re contradictory to each other. Here are just a few of their attempted cop outs, with the Democrats subsequent demolition of them;
- Jim Jordan spent an extended rant on quoting multiple interviews that Ukrainian President Zelensky gave to various outlets, in each case claiming that the phone call went perfectly, and that the Ukrainians felt no pressure from Trump on any issue. To which in turn, Schiff replied that the Ukrainian president was totally dependent on Trump’s good graces, and asked Ambassador what the likely outcome would be if Zelensky publicly stated that Trump was trying to extort dirt on the Biden’s in return for the military aid. To which Taylor wryl responded, “In my opinion, that would basically be suicidal.”
- Jordan again spent a considerable rant on clearing Trump by stating that the 55 day delay was due to Trump wanting to pause to “check out the new guy” and his administration to see if they were legit. After that 55 days, on September 11th, Trump released the aid with no announcement from Zelensky about any investigations. In his turn, Schiff walked Kent through the timeline that in early September, the whistle blowers complaint surfaced. By September 9th, the White House was aware of the complaint, and also learned that the congress would soon be aware of it. Magically, on September 11th, the funds were released. Another conspiracy theory shot to shit.
- Yet again, Jim “He groped me Coach!” Jordan (noticing a pattern here?) spent a considerable amount of time relating how there was one person that the American people would never hear from, the “one who started it all,” the whistle blower. He would never raise his right hand, swear to tell the truth, and be examined and cross examined. How could this “sham” be taken seriously when we never hear from the “one who started it all?” This time it was Democratic representative Peter Welch who gleefully did the honors, saying that he personally would love to hear testimony from “the one who started it all,” and as “the one who started it all” was in fact President Donald Trump, he had a standing invitation to appear. BOOM!
The Democrats know they have a good thing with these quiet, professional, non partisan witnesses, and they’re using them perfectly, to personalize them, and to use those interactions to demolish the GOP. Eric Swalwell came right out and asked both Kent and Taylor if they were “Never Trumper’s,” taking the GOP accusations head on, and getting indignant denials. Rep Raja Krishnamoorthi was spectacular, taking Ambassador Taylor through his service and record in Vietnam, his command position, and his awards, and then asked him, “If you were a battlefield commander, and you withheld support from your troops until you got a personal concession, would that be a violation of your oath?” “Yes.” “And if you did that, and it was found out, would you be subject to disciplinary action>” “Yes.” “Would you in fact be likely to be court martialed?” “Yes.” You can’t draw the inferences and conclusions any better than that.
The Republicans are killing themselves. Because their line of defense is being scripted by Trump, with no basis in fact, logic, or reality, they’re trying like hell to make the facts fit their theories. And they’re failing miserably. Time and again, they have constructed complicated conceits, only to have the witnesses demolish them with fact based responses, often containing information that was already public knowledge. Also, the GOP’s attitude in questioning the witnesses is just awful. They come across as loud, arrogant, aggressive, and snide. They come off looking like total assholes when the witnesses respond in quiet, dignified, measured words. I’m waiting to see if this continues on Friday, because if it does, it will be fascinating to see how the public views their ogreish browbeating of the quiet, demure, professional female Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch.
That about covers it for now. Those are most of the things that stood out for me, as well as what effect I think it could have going forward. You can take to the bank that I’ll be sitting glued to the television on Friday for round two. Waddeva ya do, don’t touch that dial!
To know the future, look to the past. before the insanity of the 2020 election, relive the insanity of the 2016 GOP primary campaign, and the general election, to see how we got to where we are. Copies of President Evil, and the sequel, President Evil II, A Clodwork Orange are available as e-books on Amazon, at the links above. Catch up before the upcoming release of the third book in the trilogy, President Evil III: All The Presidents Fen