On Friday, the arguable climax of Rep. Adam Schiff’s Senate trial of Donald Trump, The New York Times and The Washington Post published barely anything regarding impeachment. CNN published not one but two editorials suggesting it was time to move on.
Milbank seems to have forgotten there’s an election in just a few months. The Democratic Party will soon have the opportunity to legally unseat the president. Milbank apparently hoped to skip a competitive election to award the presidency to his political ally. The Constitution can be so inconvenient to those seeking permanent power.
Milbank, like so many others in the left, argued that president’s Senate acquittal will be illegitimate. He argues, in the same article, no less, that “Once…prospects faded that [John] Bolton would be called as a witness. The trial degenerated into farce,” but that, “House managers tried their case too well. Evidence piled up on the Senate floor over the past 10 days that the president withheld military aid to force Ukraine to announce probes of his political foes. And former national security adviser John Bolton’s firsthand account leaked about the quid pro quo.”
Just to recap, he’s arguing the House managers proved their case so well that they were denied a fair opportunity to prove their case.
As the president’s attorney pointed out, if the House proved its case, then why would it need more witnesses? The Democrat argument for more witnesses collapsed for two reasons. First, it would have lengthened an already tortuous process to the detriment of key Democrat senators, including three running for president.
It must have been agony to listen to the untalented Schiff prance around for 24 hours during the debate. A Denver radio host, Mark Griffith, noted that Schiff sabotaged his case by speaking for so long. Had the Democrats kept their presentation short and concise, the media would have gladly carried the focused message to the public.
Instead, Schiff tortured senators with a repetitive loop of melodrama. At the end of his presentation, a few Democratic senators even considered acquitting. That would be a sublime act of patriotism in defense of the autonomy of the great institution of the Senate. We can only hope.
Second, Democrats took the position that “fairness” dictated that only their witnesses would be approved. Republican requests for Joe and Hunter Biden, Schiff, and the whistleblower were rejected. As reported by The Hill, Democrats said, “Trump allies are demanding an irrelevant witness in exchange for one with firsthand knowledge of Trump’s actions.” Yeah, that’s not going to fly.
As I noted here, the impeachment accusations depend on two key assumptions: (1) that the prosecutor Biden had gotten fired was “corrupt,” and (2) that Trump’s inquiry into why Biden had the prosecutor fired was “baseless.” Schiff never proved Trump’s suspicions were baseless, and the president would have been completely justified to call Biden to ask whether he was indeed motivated to protect his son’s company.
So Democrats irrationally screamed foul because they were not allowed the same one-sided witness selection Schiff imposed in the House impeachment inquiry. That kind of argument may be received with bobblehead nods on MSNBC, but the public tuned it out as more Get-Trump politics. As of Jan. 31, Trump’s approval remains at around 43 percent, roughly identical to before the impeachment and similar to President Obama’s approval at roughly the same point in his presidency.
What should we conclude about public confidence in the media when coverage of Trump during impeachment was 100 percent negative for Trump’s defense team and 95 percent positive for Democrats? We can conclude that the public sees the media for what it is, a never-ending propaganda machine. It will take years of conscientious professionalism to repair the damage to journalism.
Why didn’t The New York Times bombshell leaking Bolton’s tell-all have the devastating effect that revelations about Christine Blasey Ford did in the 2018 Brett Kavanaugh confirmation? You may remember that Democrats held back Ford’s testimony until after the regular confirmation hearing for maximum ambush effect.
Then, like now, the Democrats sought to delay the process to allow for new witnesses to come out of the woodwork and then re-investigate Kavanaugh using the FBI. The impeachment senators are the same senators, by and large, who fell for the dirty tricks in the Kavanaugh hearings. Dirty tricks are like dirty jokes. They don’t work when repeated too often.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Schiff should be concerned about reprisals. Not from President Trump, but by Democrats in both the House and the Senate, who were over-promised and under-delivered. The precious five months of legislative time Schiff wasted on this mess can never be recovered for a House that operates on two-year cycles. The damage to the country, the Democratic Party, and the media has yet to be assessed.
All of the fawning media pundits got it exactly wrong. Schiff’s speeches were dishonest, overdramatic, factually vague, and an exercise in unbearable vanity. He made the decision not to work up a proper factual record in the inquiry process, hoping hatred of Trump would midwife his fragile case to conviction. That’s not how the Senate works.
James Madison described the Senate as a “necessary fence” against the “fickleness and passion” that tended to influence the attitudes of the general public and members of the House of Representatives. George Washington is said to have told Jefferson that the framers had created the Senate to “cool” the passions of the House just as a saucer was used to cool hot tea.
Once cooled, Schiff’s tea was found too weak to drink. He was a terrible prosecutor with a terrible case, and that’s why he lost.