Alan Zendell, November 23, 2019
Twelve witnesses, dozens of hours, and a few surprising revelations by witnesses who were, on the whole, professional and nonpolitical have left us precisely where we were six months ago in terms of the likelihood that the Congress would remove President Trump from office.
The main difference between the hearings conducted by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff and the ones that resulted in President Nixon’s resignation wasn’t the “smoking gun tape,” in which Nixon was heard ordering CIA Director Richard Helms to get FBI Director L. Patrick Gray to terminate his investigation of the Watergate burglary of Democratic National Committee headquarters. That tape convinced Nixon’s Republican supporters that he had indeed committed a crime worthy of impeachment. Schiff’s most notable accomplishment may have been to elevate the legacies of the Barry Goldwater-led Republicans who ultimately chose country over party loyalty.
We don’t need a smoking gun tape to prove what Trump did. He told us with his own mouth. He not only admitted trying to get Ukraine to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden, he openly suggested that China do the same. The testimony of eleven of Schiff’s twelve witnesses simply corroborated what Trump and his acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney brazenly bragged about, and supplied some rather chilling details about the way the president went about undermining the norms of diplomacy and his own State Department.
That is the “crime” which should upset most Americans, because the rules of diplomacy and the committed professionals in all nations who abide by them are probably what has kept us from obliterating life on this planet. It was failures in those diplomatic norms that led to the Cuban Missile Crisis and Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, which triggered the first Gulf War. That Trump lumps traditional diplomacy into what he regards as the Washington Swamp is yet another indication of his ignorance and by itself is enough to demonstrate how dangerous his narcissism-driven willfulness is to the nation.
The partisan divide we suffer from today existed in 1974, too. What’s different today is the almost unfathomable willingness of Trump’s partisan supporters to invent lies and conspiracy theories that persist well after Trump’s own administration debunks them. Therein lies the most insidious danger of Trump-style politics.
The president learned from his mentor Roy Cohn that the best defense against facts is muddying the waters and obscuring the lines between truth and fantasy. The evidence against Trump is every bit as clear as the evidence against Nixon. But Trump’s four-year-long attacks on the media and the courts, and a campaign described by senior advisor Kellianne Conway as propagating alternate facts (what the hell does that mean, anyway?) have given his allies the cover they need to defend him at any cost.
Republican attack dogs Devin Nunes and Jim Jordan continue to shamelessly spout nonsense that Trump’s entire security apparatus long ago disproved. Jordan was a professional wrestler before he became a politician, and it shows. He acts like a thug, and he’s as phony as the profession that nurtured him for years. Jordan and Nunes exemplify what the Trump presidency has wrought. Reality TV in place of reality. Crafted screenplays supplanting hard news and facts.
There’s still a possibility that people like former Trump National Security Director John Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Vice President Mike Pence will suffer epiphanies and come forward to tell the truth. There’s even a small probability that hearing them could awaken a sense of duty in enough Republican Senators that they act to remove this president.
But here’s the thing – we hear ad nauseum that impeachment, like the twenty-fifth amendment is a political process. It was designed by our founders, albeit imperfectly, to give the rest of the government a peaceful means of removing a president who clearly acts against the interests of the nation he was sworn to defend. Forget the semantics about crimes and misdemeanors – the real issue is whether the country can tolerate a president who behaves as Trump does.
As I and many others have said for months, impeachment is almost surely a losing battle. The Democrats let themselves be suckered into launching a formal impeachment review when they could have conducted the same investigations without ever uttering the I-word, the same way the Watergate investigation that caught Nixon started. It was a worthwhile goal to gather evidence and make it public before the 2020 election, but doing it the way the Democrats did simply gives the Republican Senate the opportunity to acquit the president, which will allow him to claim he was exonerated.
That’s the way Vladimir Putin stays in power. Are Americans dumb enough to buy it or will they remember all this next November?