But impeachment is just so complicated!

In these crazy times, it’s satire for the win (again).  McSweeney’s: “I don’t know who to believe in this impeachment hearing”

This impeachment is so confusing. Both sides are making contradictory claims and it’s almost impossible to know who to trust.

On the one hand, you have George Kent, a career Foreign Service officer whose entire family served in the armed forces, including an uncle who was at Pearl Harbor and survived the Bataan Death March, and on the other hand, you have a bone spurs draft dodger whose dad got arrested at a KKK riot.

There’s this fellow Bill Taylor who served as a Captain and company commander in Vietnam and who was awarded a Bronze Star, but then again, Donald Trump’s first wife Ivana and numerous other women have said that he sexually assaulted them.

If only American politics weren’t so partisan, I might be able to make sense of it all, but I can’t.

At the hearing, I saw two serious, professional men who both served under Republican and Democrat administrations. Yet just last week, President Trump was ordered to pay two million dollars for using charity funds to pay off his business debts and promote himself. How can a voter like me be expected to know who is more credible?

These men testified under oath that the president tried to withhold military aid to a crucial ally unless the Ukranian president made a phony and defamatory speech about Joe Biden, and I admit that does sound slightly damning. At the same time, there’s a white supremacist working closely with Donald Trump who orchestrated the immigration policy which separated thousands of children, including babies, from their parents. Politics are so complicated!

What sounds more believable? That career diplomats with everything to lose would make up a story implicating the most powerful man in America? Or that the president’s butt-dialling, criminal-loving lawyer was involved in something nefarious? I wish this would be easier!

I’m no political scientist, but it seems to me that a man who has told 13,435 lies and has equated Nazis with people protesting Nazis, and who publicly stated he’d date his own daughter, and who tried and failed to buy Greenland is at least as honest as the many people, both Republican and Democrat, who have testified against him in this impeachment hearing.

 

Democratic goals in the Impeachment hearings

I must say, Jonathan Bernstein has been indispensable reading when it comes to impeachment.  With the public hearings starting today, he makes some great points:

If Democrats want to actually remove Trump from office, then pushing down his public approval is key. So far, the Ukraine scandal hasn’t really done that. According to the FiveThirtyEight estimate, the president’s approval rating is now at 41.1%, down about a percentage point from when the story broke in September. That’s a very weak number, to be sure; Trump ranks 10th of 11 polling-era presidents after 1,027 days in office, and his disapproval number is now up to 54.6%.

But bad as that is, it’s probably not enough to make the party abandon Trump out of electoral self-interest. At 41%, he’s still not a lost cause. Perhaps the polls are off, or maybe he’ll still improve a bit before the election. He might even win without getting 50% support. But if Trump were to slip back to match the lowest point of his presidency, when only about 37% of the public approved of how he was doing his job? Then Republicans might start to wonder if the risks of sticking with him outweighed the risks of removing him.

That suggests Democrats will want to do two things in these hearings: Make them interesting enough that the news media continues to cover the story, and focus on what Trump did and why it was bad, rather than on impeachment as the remedy…

The first part is obvious: The only way any story affects public opinion is if the media covers it, and saturation coverage is what signals to voters that this is a really important story. As for the second part, simply establishing the facts and why they tell a story of malfeasance should be a much easier sell to the public and to the president’s own party. We’ve already seen Republican politicians express discomfort or even outright criticism of Trump’s conduct in this scandal. But none of them has yet said that Trump should be impeached and removed for it, and House Republicans voted unanimously against even setting up the impeachment inquiry.

In other words, saying that Trump did something wrong splits the Republican Party, while saying he should be impeached and removed for it unites them in opposition (at least for now). The way to change that dynamic isn’t by making a logical argument from the facts to impeachment; it’s to push for agreement that Trump’s behavior was appalling, which would then lead to worse numbers in the polls, which would in turn make Republicans in Congress more willing to remove him.

Among other things, this means the media needs to get things right.  Alas, that doesn’t give me a lot of confidence.

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