The Democrats promised the public hearings into the impeachment of President Donald Trump would produce bombshells proving he should be removed from office. Thus far, they’ve failed, making it hard to take the whole thing seriously.
After weeks of closed-door hearings, allegations that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff coaches witnesses and multiple “key witnesses” trotted out before the cameras in the past few days, the best they seem to be able to come up with is “Heard it from a friend who… Heard it from a friend who… Heard it from another Trump’s been messin’ around.”
They sound like a bad REO Speedwagon cover band, not serious attesters to presidential malfeasance.
In fact, as numerous Republican critics of the process have pointed out, the whole thing stinks. The impeachment train has been warming up since January 20, 2017. The first story in The Washington Post on the possibility appeared online just about 20 minutes after he’d finished taking the oath of office. All the train needed was a destination and, with the allegation that the president withheld crucial military aid to Ukraine until it agreed to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter for corruption, it finally found one.
The problem, as is becoming clear for the Democrats, is the lack of proof there was ever a quid, let alone a pro quo. Which is probably why they’ve stopped talking about things in those terms and are instead throwing around words like “bribery,” saying “hearsay can be much better” than direct evidence and musing about whether the president exceeded his authority by firing the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine (spoiler alert: he didn’t). They’re adding to the sense of wrongdoing without offering, as of yet anyway, definitive proof it occurred because it’s more important, for political purposes, to make the president look guilty than to prove he is.
What we’re witnessing is the extension of politics by other—some might say illegitimate—means. Even if they cannot engineer his removal from office, the Democrats who lead the resistance have been working overtime for the entire length of his presidency to lessen his chances in 2020. They’re using official government resources in Washington and in the states to do opposition research, to blacken his reputation, to create narratives that will remain in the mind of the public and influence their vote the next time around. It’s unseemly—and one does not have to be a supporter of the president to admit that.
What Schiff has done up to this point reminds me of the old cooking shows my grandmother used to watch. They’d show the chef prepare some elaborate dish, put it in the oven and then—after cutting away to commercial—serve it up. The magic of TV made you overlook the fact there wasn’t enough time during the break for the dish to cook. What was served had already been prepared, just like what we’re seeing in the testimony before the House Intelligence Committee. The whole business has been baked in advance.
From Schiff’s committee, the investigation will move, at least according to the rules as we now understand them, to the House Judiciary Committee. There, the grounds for removing the president from office will be established and the actual articles of impeachment will be thrashed out. Hopefully, the institution of the presidency will be treated with more respect than Schiff is showing it, but that’s unlikely. The Democrats are on a mission and intend to see it through.
It’s unfortunate the current president is seen by so many Americans as unlikable. It makes it hard to see the line between his personal interests and the nation’s institutional—a division he has admittedly done much to blur all on his own. The precedents being set now by Schiff and company will give future congressional majorities a much bigger club to swing against the president and the presidency unless, as is all too often the case, the people who write about such things with a supposedly critical eye will allow for double-standards to rule the day.
We’ve seen it before. A cover-up without an underlying crime was still a crime when it involved Richard Nixon. When it involved Bill or Hillary Clinton, not such much—at least as far as the majority of the punditocracy was willing to state. The fact they liked they Clintons and didn’t like Nixon had a lot to do with it, just as what is going on now has so very much to do with how many of the media’s elite guard simply cannot stand Trump.